The Evolution Of Queer Literature: 6 LGBTQIA Books Spanning From The 1800s To The Modern Day


Looking for a good book to curl up on a Sunday, post the pride-party hangover? Or perhaps your ideal pride celebration is book shopping with a loved one to expand your home library. Maybe you’re looking for a good gift for a friend this Pride Month. Whether you’re part of the queer community or an ally, read on to acquaint yourself with these page-turners through the ages.

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But first, here’s a gist of queer history. From the Victorian era to the turn of the twentieth century, queer stories were almost always narrated with extreme subtlety, with tragic endings, perhaps because authors could get away with telling a tale of “moral caution” if accused of not being aligned with societal norms. This trend continued into the mid-century, where stories that had more visibly queer characters often ended in death or regret well into the ’60s. Modern queer literature got more optimistic toward the end of the 20th century.

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However, the AIDs crisis which was a huge loss of lives was a big part of queer stories in the ’80s and ’90s. But hope has always been a constant theme in queer literature and we have now entered an era where such stories are duly celebrated more than ever in the media, portrayed with joy and acceptance.

So here’s a curated list of 6 books spanning from the 1800s to the modern day. Happy Pride!

Dorian Gray, 1890

The Picture of Dorian Gray is a cautionary tale about a life of vileness and deception, as well as a portrait of aesthetic impulse. Basil Hallward paints a portrait of a young man, Dorian Gray, who wishes that he remain eternally youthful. Dorian’s picture grows aged and corrupt, but he remains fresh and innocent. After killing a young woman, Dorian finds no difference in his vision or surroundings.

Using Wildean paradoxes, his buddy Lord Henry Wotton supports him in his sensory exploration. But the plot isn’t ideal; the moral message of the novel contradicts many of Wilde’s supposed aims, such as the belief that no artist has ethical sympathies. Despite this, Dorian gets his just deserts, and Wilde defends him by saying that all excess and renunciation bring their own punishment. 

Where to buy: Bookscape

Giovannis Room, 1956

The story, which takes place in 1950s Paris and features American expats, relationships and violence, centres around a young man who is torn between morals and passion. James Baldwin’s now-classic novel explores the riddle of love with a keen, inquisitive imagination. It is a powerful, contentious story of death and desire that exposes the hidden depths of the human heart. A more visibly queer tale than many of its predecessors, Baldwin explicitly criticised gender roles as being artificial, restrictive and depressing—an issue that, in Baldwin’s opinion, compromises people’s ability to love and be loved.

Where to buy: Amazon

The Colour Purple, 1982

This captivating novel by Alice Walker narrates the story of Celie, a young black girl from the South who is raised in an abusive family and forced into an unpleasant marriage. She meets Shug Avery, a magician and singer, who controls her fate, allowing her to find inner strength and happiness. The novel celebrates the essence of being a black female, highlighting honesty, combativeness and redemptive honesty. Unlike a plethora of queer stories in the past that end in tragedy, the story champions queer joy and redemption. It transcends colour, politics, history, personal, emotional, and spiritual levels, and is filled with hope and optimism. Walker is the first black woman to win a Pulitzer Prize for her work, showcasing the resilience of women of colour who find liberation through community. A haunting, moving, and exciting saga filled with joy, pain, humour, and bitterness, it is a must-read this Pride month.

Where to buy: Flipkart

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe (Aristotle and Dante, #1), 2012

The multi-award-winning novel that took Tumblr by storm examines identity by using poetic truths about friendship and family. The story is simple with profound themes and stunning characterisation. Dante, a passionate poet, resonates with the reader, while Aristotle’s emotions, including confusion, longing, and hate, resonate with the reader. The book’s portrayal of friendship is breathtaking. They discover the most significant facts about who they are and the sort of people they aspire to be via their relationship. The book explores identity and family issues sensitively and sincerely.  

Where to buy:  Amazon

Red, White And Royal Blue, 2019


A successful 2023 movie adaptation begs a re-read of this breezy yet entertaining book. The White House presents Alex Claremont-Diaz, the son of President Henry Claremont-Diaz, as a young prince. But he has a rivalry with Henry, the real prince, which makes things more tense between the two countries. Family, state, and other controllers pause the conflict between the rivals to maintain control over the situation. But the bond becomes more intimate and perilous than anticipated. A covert relationship between Alex and Henry develops, which has the potential to ruin the campaign and upend both countries. The narrative poses issues of bravery, love, and the ability to be who we are supposed to be while also demonstrating our actual selves. 

Where to buy: Amazon

Kings, Queens, and In-Betweens, 2019


The story centres around Nima Kumara-Clark, a woman struggling with her mother’s sudden departure, and grappling with unrequited love, enticed into the drag culture after an encounter at a small festival. Through the art of drag, she is brought closer to a kind of herself she never imagined, embracing and expressing love with confidence. Tanya Boteju’s debut novel is a moving yet joyful story about grief, acceptance, self-expression, and the vibrant worlds we can discover if we dare to look. The well-rounded characters make the book an eye-opening experience for the LGBTQ+ community. 

Where to buy: Flipkart

Contributing Digital Writer

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