10 books to empower your LGBTQ+ child or teen

Discover a realm of Black LGBTQ+ stories and authors guaranteed to make the young reader in your life laugh, cry, cheer, and reflect.

As battles continue to be waged over issues of representation and equal rights, one space that provides safe haven and visibility to young people currently merits vigilant protection: literature. Regardless of race, gender, and sexual orientation, books have long served as a sanctuary for marginalized communities, providing a refuge where voices that were once silenced can rise and be heard. 

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Black LGBTQ+ books that are guaranteed to make you laugh, cry, cheer and reflect (Photo: Ton.l)

In recent years, a plethora of Black and queer authors’ literary works have increasingly been banned from schools. Reviving the long shadow of censorship, book bans and campaigns like “Don’t Say Gay” send harmful messages to LGBTQ+ youth that their identities and experiences are invalid or inappropriate. Book bans strip readers of the chance to see themselves represented positively in literature, robbing them of the opportunity to develop empathy, broaden their horizons, and find a sense of belonging. 

For young Black LGBTQ+ readers, literature is an emancipatory realm where their intersectional identities can bloom and thrive. Literature becomes a much-needed refuge in a world that often seeks to confine them within narrow boxes, offering solace, empowerment, and a vibrant celebration of their multifaceted existences. Only through unrestricted access to diverse literature can we empower and uplift LGBTQ+ youth, fostering a more inclusive and accepting society. From heartwarming stories of self-discovery to tales of resilience and triumph, these books serve as windows and mirrors for young readers.

In support of a realm of literature where love is limitless, this Pride-themes book list for young readers features Black authors and stories that will stir the soul, challenge perceptions, and perhaps even change lives. 

All Boys Ain’t Blue by George M. Johnson (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2020) 

Journalist and LGBTQ+ activist George M. Johnson reflects on their childhood, adolescence, and college years in “All Boys Aren’t Blue.” This series of personal essays geared toward young adults explore gender identity, family, toxic masculinity, brotherhood, and ultimately, Black joy. Johnson shared more on their work and fight against book bans with theGrio’s “You Can’t Ban Black” series.  

I Am Perfectly Designed by Karamo Brown, Jason ‘Rachel’ Brown (Henry Holt & Company, 2019).

An empowering ode to modern families, “ I am Perfectly Designed” tells a story that celebrates “loving who you are, exactly as you are.” 

The Stars and the Blackness Between Them by Junauda Petrus (Dutton Books for Young Readers, 2019)

This young adult novel tells the tale of two vastly different Black girls who find love and joy despite societal barriers and prejudice.

Umi and Uma: The Story of Two Mommies and a Baby by Nyesha and Samantha Davis-Williams (Wooden Roses Publishing, 2018)

Written by two mothers raising a baby, this children’s book tells the story of Umi and Uma, two women who decide to start a family in a fictional land of acceptance. 

When Aidan Became a Brother by Kyle Lukoff and Kaylani Juanita (Lee & Low Books, 2019)

This heartwarming children’s book celebrates a transgender boy’s journey from discovering his identity to becoming a big brother. 

Why Do I Have Two Mommies?: A Journey in Self-Discovery by Janai Akerele (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2017)

Determined to understand her family structure, Angel’s curiosity leads her on an unexpected journey of self-discovery as she investigates why she has two mommies.

Leaders Like Us: Bayard Rustin by J. P. Miller  (Discovery Library, 2020) 

This nonfiction picture book tells the story of gay civil rights leader Bayard Rustin, in a format digestible for children. 

Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender (Balzer + Bray, 2020)

In this young adult novel, readers follow Felix Love, a transgender teen navigating identity, falling in love, and self-love.

My Rainbow by DeShanna and Trinity Neal (Kokila, 2020)

Written by a mother-daughter duo, “My Rainbow” tells the story of a dedicated mom creating a rainbow-colored wig for her transgender daughter

The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta (Balzer + Bray, 2020)

This coming-of-age novel explores identity and the fierce power of drag through the lens of Michael, a mixed-race gay teen.

Haniyah Philogene is a multimedia storyteller and Lifestyle reporter covering all things culture. With a passion for digital media, she goes above and beyond to find new ways to tell and share stories.

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