The history of Pride marches and events stretches back now nearly half a century. Books and audiobooks for young listeners continue to grow in both number and depth of treatment, where LGBTQI characters have moved from props to tropes to engaging people who happen to identify along the diverse orientation spectrum. It’s a little—well, a lot—harder to find such an audiobook presence for adult listeners seeking books, authors, and narrators with whom to celebrate Pride.
However, they do exist, and there are a number that adult listeners may want to hear this month especially.
Earlier this month, the Lambda Literary Awards for 2018 were announced, including Carmen Maria Machado’s winning in the Lesbian Fiction category for her short story collection HER BODY AND OTHER PARTIES. Narrator Amy Landon’s performance allows listeners to hear the richly nuanced characters inhabiting these stories. Just as in life, there’s sadness, joy, humor, and the expectation that story events and character interactions will be both novel enough to hook interest and familiar enough for empathy to be realized effortlessly.
Back in 1976, and just over a decade before his death, James Baldwin’s essay THE DEVIL FINDS WORK was published in print. Now it’s available in audiobook format as well, narrated by Dion Graham, who captures both the author’s anger and his softer, more personal passages with resonant tones and pacing. Some years ago Graham also narrated Baldwin’s GOING TO MEET THE MAN, winning the Earphones Award for bringing this essay collection from the mid-20th century into the 21st, where many of the issues of marginalized peoples continue with only some abatement.
Ballet dancer David Hallberg’s memoir is also available for listeners, narrated by Vikas Adam. A BODY OF WORK details the dancer’s experiences with rigorous training, performance, the reality of working in Russia as an American, and most of all, injury and recovery. Born more than a decade after the Stonewall Riots, Hallberg’s life included the tortures of childhood bullying as well as the pain of dancing; however, his generation, gender, and race, as well as his luck to be gifted with unwavering family acceptance of his sexual orientation, illustrate how LGBTQI activism calls for voices from those who may live lives less stressed by perceptions of their gender and orientation identities as well as those speaking from points of intersectionality. Adam is a good choice for the narration here, not only because he can lead readers through some of a dancer’s necessarily technical intricacies but also because he brings a warmth of tone that demonstrates the essentially shared humanity of author, narrator, and listener as well.
Pride has a lot of faces, including that of activism, remembrance, and also celebration of chosen families. As audiobook readers, we are glad to see more places set at the table for queer listening options.