Queer Books Saved My Life

September 2, 2009  |  miscellany

I have a new piece on Carnal Nation called Queer Books Saved My Life. An excerpt:

I have always been a reader. I don’t remember learning to read: I was three, my mother says Sesame Street taught me. Books have always been my go-to when I don’t understand something. Even now, in this digital age, though I do utilize Google faster than you can say “you should Google that,” my second go-to is nypl.org/books and finding a title to put on hold, to pick up at my nearby Mid-Manhattan library.

I don’t remember a time when that wasn’t my answer to any given question plaguing me.

Before I was out, and before I was an “adult” with one of those “real” jobs, I worked in independent bookstores. My specialty and sections were always social sciences. When the shelving had been done, when the desks were tidy and the isles were mostly empty of customers, I would sneak into the slightly secluded corner with psychology, eastern religion, relationships, sex, and gay & lesbian studies, and pull the queer books off the shelves.

Read the piece in its entirety over at Carnal Nation.

The piece is basically the story of my coming to a queer identity, and the ways that books influenced that process. During that time I was living in Fort Collins, Colorado, working at an independent bookstore, and with my high school boyfriend of four years. We split after we both moved to Seattle and I left him, and came out. Meanwhile, I bought the biggest bookshelf I could afford and read everything I could on queer culture and lesbian fiction, and finally felt like I fit in, like I belonged, like I made sense.

I’ll be writing a column for Carnal Nation monthly in the future on Radical Masculinity, which I’m really excited about! If you’ve got topic suggestions or comments, I’m compiling my first few in the next few weeks, please let me know.

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3 Comments


  1. I'm very much the same, and read every queer book I could get my hands on once I came out. I still go to my library and search category: "gay and lesbian", just to see what they've got.

    Also, I love the word "carnal". It's very sexy and primal and unrestrained-sounding to me. Like rough sex and steak. Which is not at all subtle, but still interesting in a vaguely disturbing way. I think I would click over to Carnal Nation just for that, article or no.

  2. Love this! I'm coming out late in life compared to you, and I was so astonished when I started reading lesbian fiction. I expected to learn lots, but what I found instead was that somebody actually understood my brain. I always thought I was broken. Reading showed me I'm not. Yes yes yes to all you said.

  3. Goodness, when I was figuring this whole mess out I had all the books. Every single one that was stocked in all the local bookshops, queer studies, queer fiction, the naughties, you name it. I lost so many somehow along the way — probably a combination of ex-girlfriends and my temporary foolish stint back in the closet — and my collection is a shelf, now, rather than a bookcase. Sad.

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