Because my new novel The Nowhere proudly features a gay protagonist, whose coming to terms with his sexuality is a focal point to the coming-of-age narrative, I decided to take a look at six must-read novels with gay protagonists that have each been influential in their own way. Time to get reading!
Holding the Man by Timothy Conigrave
At an all-boys Catholic school in 1970s Melbourne, Timothy falls for the captain of the football team. It turns out to be a love affair that lasts 15 years. One that weathered disapproval, distance and, tragically, death. With integrity and insight, Holding the Man explores the ups and downs of any relationship: intimacy, constraints, temptations.
When both men test positive to HIV, the strength of heart they show is as inspirational as it is moving. A refreshingly uplifting take on an ultimately tragic story; Timothy Conigrave’s novel is funny, sad and a celebratory account of growing up gay.
Barracuda by Christos Tsiolkas
Daniel Kelly is a promising swimmer and has a chance to escape his working-class upbringing. His astonishing ability in the pool landed him a scholarship at an élite Melbourne private school and should drive him to fame and fortune. Everything Danny has ever done has been in pursuit of this dream, but when he melts down and comes only fifth at his first big championship, he starts to destroy everything he has fought for and turn on everyone around him, including his gay love interest.
Writer Christos Tsiolkas’s sometimes startling dialogue makes the book stick with you. Explicit descriptions of urination and ejaculation together with confronting dialogue set down the texture of how people really live and speak. His characters are visceral – often a rarity in fiction.
The Lost Language of Cranes by David Leavitt
Set against the backdrop of a gentrifying 1980s Manhattan, The Lost Language of Cranes tells the story of twenty-five-year-old Philip Benjamin, who falls in love with a man. Phillip realises the love is real and that he needs to come out to his parents, who are facing their own problems with developers pushing them out of their family home.
But developers aren’t the only threat to the family. Philip’s father has his own struggle with suppressed homosexuality, satisfied only by visits to gay porn theatres on Sunday afternoons. Philip’s revelation to his parents leads his father to a point of crisis and provokes changes that forever alter the landscape of the family’s lives.
Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
Now for a novel with a gay protagonist that’s more lighthearted, we have Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda. The coming-of-age novel is centred around not-so-openly gay Simon Spier, a sixteen-year-old who prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email from his gay penpal Blue falls into the hands of a blackmailer, he is at risk of being outed to the whole school. What’s more, the privacy of Blue could be compromised – scaring off the chance of love.
Simon’s challenge is to find a way to navigate his junior year without breaking up his close-knit group of friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.
Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan
New York Times bestselling author David Levithan tells the based-on-true-events story of Harry and Craig, two 17-year-olds who are about to take part in a 32-hour marathon of kissing to set a new Guinness World Record – all of which is narrated by a Greek Chorus of the generation of gay men lost to AIDS.
While the two increasingly dehydrated and sleep-deprived boys are locking lips, they become a focal point in the lives of other teen boys dealing with languishing long-term relationships, coming out, navigating gender identity, and falling deeper into the digital rabbit hole of gay hookup sites – all while the kissing former couple tries to figure out their own feelings for each other.
Brokeback Mountain by Annie Proulx
This list wouldn’t be complete without Brokeback Mountain. Annie Proulx has written some of the most original and brilliant short stories in contemporary literature, and Brokeback Mountain is widely considered her opus magnum. Ranch hands Ennis del Mar and Jack Twist come together when they’re working one summer on a range above in outback America. At first, sharing an isolated tent, the attraction is hot yet casual, but over the summer, something like true love sets in.
Later, both men marry and have kids – because that’s what cowboys do. But over the course of many years and frequent separations, this relationship becomes the most important thing in their lives. In hauntingly more-ish prose, Proulx tells the difficult and dangerous affair between two cowboys that survives everything but the world’s violent intolerance.
The Nowhere by Chris Gill is coming out 4th June 2019. Sign up to the mailing list below.