LGBTQ reading list: What Chalkbeat readers recommend

How can educators make classrooms more inclusive for LGBTQ youth? One small way, Chalkbeat readers said, is to incorporate stories that are reflective of the student body throughout the school year. 

We asked parents, students, and teachers for their book list suggestions — and you responded with titles ranging from young adult literature to picture books. 

Stories with diverse characters and themes help adolescents feel seen, but some educators have reported feeling more wary about what they can incorporate into their classrooms, as conservative lawmakers across the country have proposed hundreds of bills this year targeting LGBTQ people and transgender teens.  

Incorporating diverse stories into your curriculum can help create more inclusive classrooms. (Dan Lyon / Chalkbeat)

Despite these efforts, educators and students wrote in with suggestions on how to create an inclusive classroom and curriculum.

“What does an LGBTQ inclusive curriculum look like?” asked Rick Joseph, a fifth and sixth grade language arts teacher in Detroit.  

“Well, fundamentally, it all comes down to stories. It all comes down to the narrative voice. It all comes down to honoring people’s lived experiences and people’s lived realities. And when you honor someone’s story, you’re basically giving people the opportunity to tell you who they are.”

Want to make your school or classroom library more inclusive for LGBTQ students? Here is a list of books recommended by students, teachers, librarians, and parents.

“Song of Achilles” by Madeline Miller (Dan Lyon / Chalkbeat)

“Song of Achilles” by Madeline Miller

“It’s really beautiful to rethink history with a queer lens, with an LGBTQ lens. It allows you to think like these are all just myths. These are all epic stories that someone told and retold and retold and retold,” said Julia Cohen, a high school teacher at NEST+M in New York City. 

“Who’s to say that these relationships…that other main characters throughout history, whether it be fiction or nonfiction, myth or reality, who’s to say that those relationships couldn’t have been queer, couldn’t have been LGBTQ in whatever sense.”

Similar titles: 

  • “Aristotle & Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe” by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
  • “Clap When You Land” by Elizabeth Acevedo
  • “Love in the Time of Global Warming” by Francesca Lia Block
  • “Wain” by Rachel Plummer
“All Boys Aren’t Blue” by George M. Johnson (Dan Lyon / Chalkbeat)

“All the Boys Aren’t Blue” by George M. Johnson

“[This book] continually pushes you as a reader to question ideas that you’ve been fed your whole life, that you never thought to question,” said Kade Friedman, a teacher at New York University who advises other educators on how to create and implement inclusive curriculums in public schools. 

“It really struck me as one of the most accessible texts that I’ve read that talks about race and socioeconomic status and gender and religion and sexuality all in a way that everyone can find something to identify with and you can really understand his story. And there’s also just this implicitness of how intersectional all of our identities are.”

Similar titles:

  • “Red at the Bone” by Jacqueline Woodson
  • “Giovanni’s Room” by James Baldwin
  • “A High Five for Glenn Burke” by Phil Bildner
  • “Birthday” by Meredith Russo
“I am Jazz” by Jazz Jennings (Dan Lyon / Chalkbeat)

“I am Jazz” by Jazz Jennings and Jessica Herthel

“There are people who feel nostalgic for a past, a mythical past, that never really existed, or certainly never existed for everybody, you know. But in order to make school a place that works for everybody,” language arts teacher Joseph said. 

“We need to figure out ways to honor people’s identity in a way that gives all people a place at the table, you know, gives everyone the opportunity to belong.”

Similar titles: 

  • “Tango Makes Three” by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell
  • “When Aidan Became a Brother” by Kyle Lukoff
  • “The Miseducation of Cameron Post” by Emily M. Danforth
“The Heartbreak Bakery” by Amy Rose Capetta (Dan Lyon / Chalkbeat)

“The Heartbreak Bakery” by Amy Rose Capetta

“It was just a really sweet book that didn’t make identity the main part of it, but was also a huge element within it. It wasn’t just a book about a struggle. It was a book about figuring out who you are,” said Lindsay Klemas, a high school librarian at Forest Hills High School in Queens, New York.

“It’s important to have books that are diverse, not only for students who identify with the characters they’re reading about, but also for people to be able to read and open their own lives to new perspectives. That’s another way of building empathy and seeing how other people might be struggling.”

Similar titles:

  • “Pet” by Akwaeke Emezi
  • “The House in the Cerulean Sea” by TJ Klune
  • “Hurricane Child” by Kacen Callender
  • “Open Mic Night At Westminster Cemetery” by Mary Amato
“Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe” by Fannie Flagg (Dan Lyon / Chalkbeat)

“Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe” by Fannie Flagg

“I grabbed the book from the library and I read it and I was just like, whoa. And so that, for me, was just a huge thing as a high school student trying to figure out my own sexuality and to see that in a book. And then, to see it in a movie was everything,” said Stephanie Citron, a parent of a student in Royal Oak Public Schools in Michigan, as they reflected on their first time reading this book when they were a student.

Similar titles:

  • “Boys Run the Riot” by Keito Gaku
  • “One Last Stop” by Casey McQuiston
  • “Wandering Son” by Takako Shimura
Ocean Vuong is the author of “On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous. (Dan Lyon / Chalkbeat)

“On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous” by Ocean Vuong

“If you want to be an ally and want to understand the experiences of your queer and trans kids, if that’s not your identity or if it is, Ocean V’s book is really, it’s really powerful,” Friedman said.

Similar titles:

  • “A Little Life” by Hanya Yanagihara
  • “Born Both” by Hida Viloria
  • “I Think Our Son is Gay” by Okura

Elena Johnson is a community listening and engagement intern at Chalkbeat.