Coming-of-age story authors deliver some of the most profound books, devoting their words to those who at a crossroads within their young lives. I've found my experiences reflected in stories told by Esmeralda Santiago and Julia Alvarez, describing the struggle of grappling with both American and Latin traditions because that is who we are — both American and Latina. As readers, we come across complex characters who are also dealing with similar circumstances, and it's through their lenses that we figure out how to apply the lessons of these books in our lives. For the month of June, we are recognizing LGBTQ+ novels written by people of color — stories that fill in the gap between fear and confidence, stories that nourish our thirst for knowledge and acceptance.
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe
Benjamin Alier Saenz presents a story about two young boys, each with a unique perspective of the world based on their personal experiences. Aristotle and Dante meet and develop a close bond over the course of two years, enduring life-threatening moments and letting distance determine their fate. They learn how to navigate these difficult moments and in the end, each character understands their capacity for love. Whether it is through friendship or romance, love will always remain the most powerful and purest entity.
We all have guilty secrets, but author Misa Sugeria questions why we keep them: Is it so only we can relish in their glory or that we're fearful of the outcome if others find out? Sana Kiyohara is faced with this obstacle, especially when she realizes that her love for her bestfriend, Jamie, is stronger than just a friendship. Race and culture also play a big role in this novel, revealing the multiple dynamics POC endure while figuring out their identities.
Gabby Rivera gave us a story about a young queer Boricua from the Bronx with a thirst to learn more about feminism. Juliet Milagros Palante takes up an internship in Portland, working under Harlow Brisbane, author of Raging Flower: Empowering Your Pussy by Empowering Your Mind. Juliet learns more about the structures of feminism, exploring elements of her race and identity while discovering the key to revealing her truest self to her family, friends, the world and herself.
Sabina Khan gives life to an unapologetic character who is absolutely certain of her identity. Rukhsana Ali knows who she aspires to be, but when her parents discover Rukhsana and her girlfriend together, she is sent away to their homeland of Bangladesh, faced with centuries of cultural and religious traditions that challenge Rukhsana’s perspective of the world around her. Although a bumpy road, Rukhsana learns valuable lessons along the way that lead her to take control of her future.
Author Chinelo Okparanta integrates Nigeria’s folktales and historical context with the challenges the LGBTQ+ community faces. After the Nigeria-Biafra war breaks out, Ijeoma experiences tremendous loss and suffering, but her spirit prevails, especially when meeting Amina. The two fall in love despite what tradition perceives love to be, leading Ijeoma to explore sources of enlightenment on love, family, war and forgiveness.