Given that there hasn't been a huge emphasis on LGBTQ+ representation in literature until very recently, you wouldn't be faulted in thinking that it's a relatively new occurrence. This couldn't be further from the truth! LGBTQ+ authors have had a significant impact on classic literature, and our culture wouldn't be what it is without these amazing trailblazers.
Looking for some great LGBTQ+ classic authors? Here are 5 LGBTQ+ authors and books everyone needs to read.
1. Patricia Highsmith
The Texas-born mistress of suspense refused to hide her attraction to women during her at-times turbulent life and career. She had multiple same-sex love affairs and was very proud of her powers of seduction. She even wrote a novel, The Price of Salt, based on a love affair she had with a wealthy socialite. Highsmith's book created quite a stir because it was the first lesbian novel to have a happy ending.
Recommended read: The Price of Salt
2. James Baldwin
Not only was James Baldwin a prominent civil rights activist, but he was also openly gay. He penned one of the most important LGBTQ+ novels ever written, Giovanni's Room. But Baldwin didn't just talk freely about homosexuality, bisexuality, and homophobia in his books, he wrote many essays on the topics as well.
Recommended read: Giovanni's Room
3. Oscar Wilde
No list of LGBTQ+ classic authors would be complete without mention of the venerable Oscar Wilde. In 1895, Wilde was arrested and convicted of 'gross indecency'. He would end up spending two years in jail for the crime of being an openly gay man. At the trial, Wilde defended the 'love that dare not speak its name' saying:
"It is beautiful, it is fine, it is the noblest form of affection."
Recommended read: The Picture of Dorian Gray
4. Virginia Woolf
Virginia Woolf was a woman far ahead of her time. In the early 1900s, she was a part of a group of intellectuals who believed in, and encouraged, a liberal approach to sexuality. She also entered into an open and long-term relationship with a woman named Vita Sackville-West. Her lover was the inspiration behind Woolf's feminist classic novel, Orlando–a tale in which the titular character lives through three centuries as both a man and a woman.
Recommended read: Orlando
5. Truman Capote
Not only did Truman Capote revolutionize crime writing with his masterpiece In Cold Blood, but he had a significant influence on the gay rights movement of the 1960s. Although he wasn't an active participant, Capote's level of celebrity and the fact that he lived as an openly gay man helped to legitimize the LGBTQ+ movement at the time.
Recommended read: Breakfast at Tiffany's
Interested in other non-traditional authors and books from classic literature? You'll enjoy these blog posts featuring 5 strong female characters from classic books and strange facts about Mary Shelley.