For this year’s LGBT+ History Month in the UK, author Niven Govinden picks some of his favourite reads by queer writers of colour for our Books We Love…that You Need to Read blog. Niven is the award-winning author of five novels. His latest, The Diary of a Film has just been published to rave reviews.
Tell Me How Long The Train's Been Gone, James Baldwin
This is the Baldwin novel I always return to, and think the most about. It's overshadowed by the greater weight of “Another Country” and “Giovanni's Room”, but to my mind it's quintessential Jimmy, in its telling of a creative life discovered and then thriving across New York, segregated America, and latterly the freedom of Europe. In Leo Proudhammer, Baldwin gives us a complex lead narrator: honest, egotistical, dramatic, bisexual, loving; one whose passion on and off stage looms large. Scenes of police brutality in childhood New York could have been written yesterday - ditto the emotive passages on travelling as a man of colour around Europe. What a book.
The Ministry of Guidance and Other Stories, Golnoosh Nour
I was blown away by the stories in this collection, that presents Iran and Persian queer life (and the diapora) in always engaging and multi-layered ways. These are stories that continue to linger long after reading: "Spoilt", with its childhood lesson of disappointment, "Transit", a story of in-flight queer possibility, and "Acid", with its brutal takedown of the hipster culture in London and a mis-matched emotionally destructive relationship. I finished this collection wanting to read everything that had Nour's name on it. So excited to see what comes next.
Slingshot, Cyree Jarelle Johnson
There's a breadth, dynamism and energy coming from queer PoC poets that I totally NEED. I’m so excited about the work that poetry presses and journals do in nurturing and giving a platform to that work. Johnson is based in the U.S, but I would also mention Keith Jarret, whose collection Selah though different, electrifies me in the same way. In many ways, UK publishers have yet to match this in fiction - but we’re seeing signs of change. Slingshot takes ownership of sex work, disability, and the black body in language that speaks of depth, power, defeat, victory, autonomy. It's everything.
Gay Bar: Why We Went Out, Jeremy Atherton Lin
It’s no exaggeration to say that this is the book that had the most impact on me as a lockdown reader last year. Lin’s non-fiction debut is a (social) history of queer nightlife, across London, San Francisco and Los Angeles, weaved with personal memoir from the 90s to present day. It’s intersectional, fluid, lucid, moving, and hot AF. We’ve never needed to go out dancing and cruising more – and until we can, we can live through Lin’s glorious book. It’s a triumph.