Having always been a fan of reading, I navigated my way through my teenage years by devouring as much gay fiction as I could. It made me feel affirmed and like I belonged. It’s always good to know it’s not just you.
Here are my top ten “coming out” novels:
Maurice by E.M. Forster: This is one of the original classic gay novels. Written around the time of War World I, it’s never going to be smooth sailing when Maurice discovers that he’s gay in a world where homosexuality is illegal and considered a perversion. It’s a beautiful story, though, with some gripping moments.
A Boy’s Own Story
A Boy’s Own Story by Edmund White: This literary masterpiece from 1986 outlines the coming of age of a young gay man in a tender and well-written account. The writing is lyrical and moving with an evocative and fascinating story.
Running With Scissors
Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs: This is a coming-out story with a difference. Burroughs’ childhood was far from usual. He grew up with an alcoholic father and a mentally ill mother, ended up being adopted by his mother’s psychiatrist and his eccentric family and had a relationship with a 33-year man whilst in his early teens. Memoirs don’t get much more compelling, brutal or funnier than this one, thanks to Burroughs’ comical take on his life
Sucking Sherbet Lemons
Sucking Sherbet Lemons: by Michael Carson: Young Martin Benson is a teenage boy who’s gradually coming to terms with being gay in a predominately Irish Catholic community in the late 1950s and early 1960s. It’s a humorous and touching book about a boy’s dilemma between the joys of discovering gay sex and the guilt instilled in him by a religion that labels him as sinful. It is also the first of a trilogy which goes on to follow Benson as he navigates his way through life.
Fifty Ways Of Saying Fabulous
Fifty Ways of Saying Fabulous: by Graeme Aitken: Billy is a young boy living on a farm in New Zealand. He’s not quite cut out for farm life and spends his time imagining he’s Judy from “Lost in Space”, fumbling with a friend and lusting after the 19-year-old farmhand. It’s a very funny and entertaining read.
Someday This Pain Will Be Useful To YOu
Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You by Peter Cameron: James is a misfit and in discord with his surroundings and fractured family. Caught in limbo between leaving school and starting university he feels adrift. His psychiatrist is driving him more insane and his crush on a co-worker is getting more than he can manage. This is an above-average account of the pain and confusion that sometimes accompanies being a teenager.
Mysterious Skin by Scott Heim: This is a dark and at times disturbing read. It’s a coming-of-age novel but with a twist. Brian is a guileless innocent and forges an unlikely friendship with a savvy cynic and part-time male prostitute, Neil. The novel is fast-paced and at times shocking as the two move towards a conclusion which causes Brian and Neil to re-evaluate their shared past. Mysterious Skin has also been made into a movie which TheGayUK has reviewed
A Home At The End Of The World
A Home at the End of the World by Michael Cunningham: Pulitzer Prize winner Cunningham has created a moving account of the extraordinary situation in which Bobby, Claire and Jonathan, three friends and lovers find themselves in. The book explores how people manage to find a place for themselves and is an accomplished piece of work.
How I Paid For College
How I Paid for College by Marc Acito: This camp tale is reminiscent of a 1980s teen movie but with a musical theatre-loving cast of misfits and a gay main character. It’s a light and funny book with lots of tongue-in-cheek moments and an amusing storyline.
Terre Haute by Will Aitken: Jared is the son of a wealthy family growing up in Indiana who happens to fancy boys. He’s sly, manipulative and cunning and has a predatory nature. When he enters into a relationship with an older man he quickly gains the upper hand. This is a moody, erotic tale which is really compelling to read but also makes the reader wince a little. Jared is definitely an anti-hero with a difference.
Happy reading people.
This article was first published in September 2012.