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Giovanni's Room, The Color Purple & The Price of Salt : The 25 Best LGBT Novels of All Time

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1. Giovanni's Room, by James Baldwin
Author Chavisa Woods is far from alone when calling Giovanni’s Room “masterfully written, heartbreaking.” It’s a book that has resonated with so many queer people since first being published in 1956, speaking to issues of identity even now. Woods, a Lambda :Literary Award nominee for her novel Things to Do When You’re Goth in the Country, says Baldwin succeeded at “blurring the lines of hero and villain and bringing the complexity of human nature into horrifying focus.” Maybe that’s because Baldwin said the book isn’t actually about being gay. “Giovanni’s Room is not really about homosexuality,” said Baldwin in a 1980 interview about queer life. “It’s the vehicle through which the book moves. Go Tell It on the Mountain, for example, is not about a church, and Giovanni is not really about homosexuality. It’s about what happens to you if you’re afraid to love anybody.”

2. The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
A revelation when it was published in 1982, Alice Walker’s novel delves into the intersections of race, gender, family, and sexuality in Georgia circa 1930.

For all of the painful physical and sexual abuse and heartache Walker’s protagonist Celie endures at the hands of Mister, the man she’s forced to marry as an adolescent, and the violent, institutionalized racism she faces as a woman of color, the novel teems with hope and light. Epic in scope, the novel is, in part, a story of love between women —Celie’s love for her long-lost sister Nettie and for Shug Avery, the blues singer and former lover of Mister’s Celie falls for and with whom she eventually makes a home.

"An epic tale of perseverance and empowerment as well as a celebration of love in all its forms," Tailor-Made author Yolanda Wallac, said of the novel.

Of Walker's masterpiece, Long Shadows author Kate Sherwood said, "I loved how the characters found hope (and love) despite everything standing in their way."

Steven Spielberg directed the 1985 adaptation of the film that starred Whoopi Goldberg, Danny Glover, and Oprah Winfrey and earned several Oscar nominations. 

3. The Price of Salt, by Patricia Highsmith
On the heels of her successful debut novel Strangers on a Train (with its own intimations of queerness), an encounter Patricia Highsmith had with a New Jersey socialite while working at a shopgirl at a department store became the seed for 1952’s The Price of Salt. The result, which Highsmith’s publisher forced her to publish under the pseudonym Claire Morgan at a time when a bold depiction of desire between women that eschewed the requisite tragic ending for those who transgressed could have tanked her career, would become that rare example of a lesbian-themed novel with what would prove to be a radically hopeful ending.

"A novel that is simultaneously of its time and timeless, and it holds the distinction of being the first of its kind to have a happy ending," Yolanda Wallace said of the novel.  SJ Sindu, author of Marriage of a Thousand Lies, called it, "One of the first Anglophone works to challenge the trope of the sad/suicidal gays who die at the end, this book gave us a blueprint of what queer fiction could look like."

The Price of Salt's dizzyingly erotically charged prose also telegraphed her signature sense of an ominous "menace" (in this case, the threat of being caught or found out just as the Red Scare hit the United States). Highsmith went on to write more queer-tinged fiction, including The Talented Mr. Ripley and all of the Ripley novels to follow.

The Price of Salt, of course, became the critically acclaimed Todd Haynes-helmed 2015 film Carol ,starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara. 

advocate.com

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