April Showers Bring Queer Flowers: Your Curated Queer TBR For Spring
Spring is on its way! It’s time to start jumping up and down about daffodils and crocuses, warm evenings, short sleeves, and the return of green. I am a staunch lover of winter, and so, for me, spring has always felt a little bittersweet. I love it, yes. But it also means the end of my favorite season and the imminent return of my least favorite season: summer. So, to help get myself in the celebratory spring spirit, I like to create TBRs that reflect just how much there is to get excited for in April and May, the heart of spring. April is National Poetry Month! May is AAPI Heritage month! Passover (my favorite holiday) is coming up! Spring means starting seeds and getting to read outside again! We have so many queer books to enjoy! What are we waiting for!?
It is in this excited state that I present: your curated queer TBR for spring! Are you hoping to read a bunch of new queer books coming out this month? I’ve got you covered. Did you know queer ancestors Harvey Milk and Adrienne Rich have spring birthdays? Well, they do, and I’ve got some books for you that celebrate their legacies. Ramadan starts in April, so I’ve added some fantastic queer Muslim books to the list. Are you a mood reader who likes to read books set in the current season? Never fear, I’ve got some lovely, garden-centric spring books for you, too.
This is an electric list of queer books across many genres. Whether you read them all or only one, I hope they fill your spring season with a whole lot of queer book joy.
Get Excited About New Releases
The Town of Babylon by Alejandro Varela (March 22)
This brilliant novel came out at the end of March, but the first day of spring is technically March 21, so it made the cutoff, right? Anyway, what a wonderful debut! Andrés is a gay Latinx professor who returns to his suburban hometown for his 20th high school reunion, and to help take care of his sick father. He reconnects with his first love and best friend from high school — and faces his past for the first time in a long time. It’s a funny, thoughtful, beautifully human and deeply queer story about friendship, race, immigration, queerness, marriage, suburbia, and so much more.
Fine by Rhea Ewing (April 5)
During their final year of college, Rhea Ewing became obsessed with trying to answer one impossible question: what is gender? Spoiler alert: they don’t find an answer! But they do conduct a series of fascinating interviews with people of many genders, ages, sexualities, and abilities about what gender means to them. This beautiful comic contains all of those interviews, as well as Ewing’s own story about coming to more deeply understand their own gender. It’s such a thoughtful and nuanced celebration of the diversity of gender and gender expression.
The Other Mother by Rachel M. Harper (May 3)
Books about messy queer families are my absolute favorite, and this one is nothing short of perfection. Jenry Castillo arrives at Brown University determined to learn more about his dead father. Instead, he discovers that his mother had a lover, Juliet, who she never told him about. But this is not a sensational secret baby/secret lover novel. It’s a rich, big-hearted, multigenerational story about silence and secrets, homophobia and queer love, parenthood and grief, art and friendship, forgiveness and anger, and all the messy mistakes people make with the people they love.
Ma and Me by Putsata Reang (May 17)
Putsata Reang was only a baby when her family fled Cambodia and settled in the Philippines. Reang, who almost died on the boat, grew up striving to make her mother proud. In this intimate and vulnerable memoir, she writes about her childhood, her family’s history, coming out as queer, and her complicated relationship with her mother.
You Made a Fool of Death With Your Beauty by Akwaeke Emezi (May 24)
Emezi has been messing with genre since their 2018 debut, and their first foray into romance is no different. Fiercely queer, overflowing with joy, and full of surprises, this romance turns classic tropes on their heads. It’s the kind of playful, moving, and completely unique story that I’ve come to expect from them.
Get in the Mood for Spring With Books That Celebrate Plants and Growing Things
Madder by Marco Wilkinson
To me, spring will always represent humid greenhouses, trays and trays of tiny seedlings, and long days of planting. (I used to be a farmer.) And while this book is about a lot more than gardening, seeds and plants play a major role. Wilkinson writes about the family stories that have shaped his life, his Uruguayan heritage, immigration and migration, gardening and foraging, queerness, ghosts, fathers and sons, the cost of silence, and a whole lot more. It’s a poetic, experimental memoir that is deeply rooted in the natural world.
A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers
I honestly have no idea if this book takes place in the spring or not, but it feels like spring, okay? It’s a quiet sci-fi novel about Dex, a tea monk who lives in a utopian world, but feels increasingly unfulfilled by their life. They decide to wander into the wilderness, in search of answers and meaning, and stumble upon Mosscap, the first robot any human has spoken to in centuries. It’s a balm of a book, full of the beauty of growing things, the splendor of the natural world, the soothing calm of ritual, and the power of thoughtful conversation.
Read Queer Poets to Celebrate National Poetry Month
You could read two collections a day for all of National Poetry Month and still not come close to all the wonderful queer poetry books out there! If you’re looking for more, check out these must-read poetry collections by queer female poets, and this list of queer poetry collections.
All the Flowers Kneeling by Paul Tran
Tran’s debut collection explores the legacies of intergenerational trauma, the aftermath of sexual violence, and the possibilities of queer love and queer language. It’s an ode to survival, both painful and playful. The sheer beauty of the language in these poems left me breathless and stunned. This is definitely a collection I’ll return to again and again.
The Renunciations by Donika Kelly
Donika Kelly is one of my favorite poets working today; she writes especially breathtaking love poems. This collection is about trauma, resilience, healing, and ghosts. It’s brutal and heartbreaking at times, but it’s also a celebration of queer love and selfhood.
Honor Ramadan With These Queer Muslim Books
Ramadan this year began on April 1. While neither of these books is explicitly about Ramadan, this month is a great time to read lots of books by Muslim authors! You might also want to check out this amazing list of 30 Books for 30 Days of Ramadan, these books by Muslims to read during Ramadan, and these memoirs by Muslim women.
Life as a Unicorn by Amrou Al-Kadhi
If outrageously funny and beautifully heartfelt is your jam, you’re going to want to run to this book. Al-Kadhi grew up in an Iraqi Muslim family in Bahrain and the UK. In this memoir, they write about coming of age as a queer person, their complicated relationship with their mother, their struggles to fit in with white British society, falling in love with drag in college, and their eventual path to self-love and reconnection with their faith. Al-Kadhi’s writing is warm, funny, and inviting — it’s silly and celebratory and thoughtful all at once.
The Henna Wars by Adiba Jaigirdar
Book Riot contributor Adiba Jaigirdar’s debut novel is thoughtful coming-of-age story about friendship, sisterhood, family, and first love. After coming out to her family, Nishat is desperate for her life to feel normal again; instead, she’s dealing with homophobia from her family and racism from her classmates. When she and her crush Flávia pick the same business idea — henna — for a school competition, it seems like things will only get worse. But it turns out Nishat’s life is full of surprises.
Read a Very Jewish Book for Passover
Milk Fed by Melissa Border
This is not a Passover book, but it is a very Jewish book, and a very queer book. It’s an intense and often deeply painful story about Rachel, an unhappy twentysomething with an eating disorder and a lot of unresolved trauma. When she falls for Orthodox Miriam — her opposite in just about every way — it forces her to confront the things about her life she doesn’t want to look at. My Jewish identity is very different from Rachel’s, but so much of this novel felt deeply familiar to me, and it reminds me how much I appreciate queer Jewish literature. Huge content warning for disordered eating.
Two Books by Queer Asian Authors for AAPI Heritage Month
There are way more books by queer AAPI authors than I could ever include here! These two are just a taste. For lots more options to add to your TBR for AAPI heritage month, check out this list of contemporary queer fiction by Asian authors, these LGBTQ+ books by South Asian authors, and these queer Asian YA books.
Tell Me How to Be by Neel Patel
This novel is definitely on my Best of 2021 list, so if you missed it, you’re in for a treat. It’s a beautiful family epic about two generations of an Indian American family in suburban Illinois. Twentysomething Akash is miserable, drinking too much, and not out to his family. His mother Renu is preparing to sell the family house and move back to London. Both of them are preoccupied with unresolved relationships from their pasts. When Akash arrives home to help Renu pack up the house, everything they’ve never said to each other begins to spill out.
A History of Scars by Laura Lee
In this gorgeous memoir-in-essays, Laura Lee writes about mental illness, inherited trauma, caring for her sick mother, and childhood wounds. She also writes about the joy she finds in rock climbing, about her complicated relationship to food and cultural food legacies, about queerness and romantic entanglements, about writing and art, and so much more. It’s a slim book, but a powerful one.
A Mother’s Day Read
The Spectacular by Zoe Whittall
Mother’s Day is a joyful celebration for some people, but for plenty of others it’s complicated, lonely, and stressful. So instead of a breezy, feel-good read for Mother’s Day, why not a book that honors the difficulties and challenges of being a mother? This dual POV novel is about Missy, a successful rock musician, and her mother Carola, who left the family when Missy was a child to pursue her own life. It’s a messy book about tumultuous mother-daughter relationships, the fluidity of identity, aging, music, and more.
Celebrate the Birthdays of Two Queer Ancestors
Diving into the Wreck by Adrienne Rich
Queer poet Adrienne Rich’s birthday falls on May 16. She wrote dozens of poetry collections, as well as several works of memoir and nonfiction, so picking just one was a challenge. This one happens to be a personal favorite of mine. It’s full of the themes that make Rich’s work so good and so accessible: womanhood, motherhood, queerness, feminism, desire, the work of making art. While you’re at it, check out these Adrienne Rich quotes to celebrate her birthday.
Harvey Milk: His Lives and Death by Lillian Faderman
Harvey Milk was born on May 30, 1930. There are quite a few books about his life, but I’m partial to this biography, written by queer historian Lillian Faderman. Harvey Milk was the first openly gay man elected to public office when he became a San Francisco City Supervisor in 1977. Faderman writes about his Milk’s life before he became a politician, his time in San Francisco, his assassination, and the legacy of LGBTQ+ rights he left behind.
Tackle a Queer Classic (With a Happy Ending)!
Maurice by E.M. Forster
Spring is the season of new growth, blossoming greenery, and sunshine returning — so why not tackle a queer classic that, shockingly, does not have a tragic ending? This novel is a love story between Maurice, a British aristocrat, and Alec, a working-class gardener. It’s also the story of Maurice’s life, more broadly, which Forster recounts with a lot of nuance and complexity. It was written in 1914, but not published until 1971, shortly after Forster’s death.
If you simply can’t get enough queer reading, and you’re in need of even more wonderful books for your spring TBR, check out this list of must-read LGBTQ books that just came out in March. There are also quite a few spring releases on this fantastic round-up of 2022 queer retellings. Why not add a few queer photo books to your TBR? Or some Black queer romance! The possibilities are endless.