Curated by Chellie Bowman (she/her)
Part of pop culture is reimagining now some of our most cherished literary figures of the past. In recent years I’ve come to find that many of the beloved novelists and poets I was introduced to in my youth were actually queer! Here are a few authors I’ve been rereading through an LGBTQ lens.
Walt Whitman. Last year I learned that arguably one of the most famous and well-known poets of all time was gay. How did I not know this? Brian Selznick (2019) has published a beautiful book entitled “Live Oak, with Moss” that features twelve of Whitman’s poems that more openly explore same-sex love. I highly recommend checking it out in addition to Whitman’s own collections.
Lorraine Hansberry. Perhaps one of the most famous American playwrights. We all had to read “A Raisin in the Sun” in school, right? But did you know that Hansberry was a radical activist for gay rights in addition to being a civil rights advocate and is widely assumed to be family? I plan to find and devour a good biography on her.
Willa Cather. On my latest trek down to Violet Valley Bookstore in Mississippi, I learned about Cather’s relationships with women and snatched up a few of her books I didn’t already own. I’ll be revisiting these classic stories—admired for carving out a nuanced space for those considered “other” in the American ordinary—in a whole new light.
See also: Evelyn Waugh, Margaret Wise Brown, James Baldwin, Langston Hughes, Virginia Woolf, Oscar Wilde, Alain Locke, Frederico García Lorca, Tennessee Williams, E. M. Forster, Emily Dickinson, Edna St. Vincent Millay, and many, many more!