As novelists, poets, dramatists, and publishers, LGBTQ people have been central to the story of modern and contemporary literature.
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Walt Whitman published the first edition of Leaves of Grass, a pioneering book of poetry that contained homoerotic imagery.
Bayard Taylor published Joseph and His Friend: A Story of Pennsylvania, which is sometimes called the first gay American novel.
Henry James published The Portrait of the Lady, one of his most celebrated novels.
British writer Oscar Wilde, who would go on to write The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890), traveled to America for a legendary lecture tour.
Willa Cather published O Pioneers!, the first novel of her Great Plains trilogy.
Edna St. Vincent Millay was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for her poetry collection, The Ballad of the Harp-Weaver.
Langston Hughes published his landmark essay “The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain,” a key text regarding the Harlem Renaissance.
Poet Hart Crane’s romantic poem “Voyages” appeared in his debut collection White Buildings. It was inspired by his relationship with a Danish sailor, Emil Opffer.
To much controversy, John Radclyffe Hall’s lesbian novel The Well of Loneliness was published in the US, prompting fiery debates on homosexuality in literature.
Lincoln Kirstein published Flesh is Heir: An Historical Romance.
In The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, Gertrude Stein presented an unforgettable portrait of her real-life lover.
The diaries of Alice James, the sister of Henry and William James, were published posthumously for the first time.
Nightwood by Djuna Barnes became one of the first novels to depict lesbianism.
Carson McCullers published her debut novel, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, at age 23.
Truman Capote’s semi-autobiographical novel Other Voices, Other Rooms was met with critical acclaim.
Gore Vidal published The City and the Pillar, portraying homosexuality in positive terms.
James Fugaté wrote Quartrefoil: A Modern Novel, which represented homosexuality in a positive light.
Under the pseudonym of Vin Packer, Marijane Meaker published Spring Fire, the first lesbian paperback novel, and in so doing, launched the genre of lesbian pulp fiction.
Using the pen name of Claire Morgan, Patricia Highsmith published The Price of Salt, a lesbian novel with a predominantly happy ending.
Allen Ginsberg wrote “Howl,” an epic sexually explicit poem that reflected the countercultural anxieties of the era.
James Baldwin’s novel Giovanni’s Room broke ground with its nuanced portrayal of homosexuality and bisexuality.
John Rechy’s City of the Night depicted a vivid world of gay hustling.
Frank O’Hara’s celebrated book Lunch Poems featured poems written during his lunch hour at the Museum of Modern Art.
June Jordan published her first book of poetry, Who Look at Me, which investigated paintings of African American life.
Naiad Press, one of the first publishing companies committed to furthering the project of lesbian literature, was founded.
Rita Mae Brown published Rubyfruit Jungle, a coming-of-age lesbian novel.
Patricia Nell Warren’s The Front Runner, a novel about a gay love affair, became a bestseller.
Christopher Isherwood, an Anglo-American writer living in California, published his memoir Christopher and His Kind, which embellished his 1939 book Goodbye to Berlin (the basis of the musical and film Cabaret) with its fuller and freer details of his gay life during the 1930s.
Armistead Maupin commenced his Tales of the City series, which amounted to nine novels and culminated in 2014.
Larry Kramer’s Faggots, a satirical novel about gay culture and promiscuity, sparked a debate on the representation of contemporary gay life.
In the novel Dancer from the Dance, Andrew Holleran captured the zeitgeist of gay liberation.
Alyson Publications was founded to develop the field of LGBT literature.
Poet and scholar Adrienne Rich published her essay “Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Experience.”
In Zami: A New Spelling of My Name, Audre Lorde drew on her life experience as a “black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet” to write a pioneering “biomythography.”
Edmund White’s A Boy’s Own Story started off his trilogy of acclaimed semi-autobiographical novels.
Alice Walker won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award for her novel The Color Purple.
Barbara Smith, Audre Lorde, and Cherríe Moraga founded Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press.
Michelle Cliff published her first novel, Abeng.
Though written in the early 1950s, Queer by William S. Burroughs was finally published.
Felice Picano’s semi-autobiographical novel Ambidextrous: The Secret Lives of Children charted his experience of growing up gay in the 1950s.
Joseph Beam published his collection of writings, In the Life: A Black Gay Anthology.
Drawing on her personal experience as a Chicana on the Mexico-Texas border, Gloria Anzaldúa’s Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza became an essential text of cultural theory.
Dorothy Allison’s short story collection Trash received critical acclaim.
Sarah Schulman published After Dolores, a novel about lesbian subcultures on the Lower East Side.
Paul Monette’s memoir Borrowed Time chronicled his experience of living with HIV/AIDS.
Samuel R. Delany’s memoir The Motion of Light in Water: Sex and Science Fiction Writing in the East Village detailed his experience as an gay African American man in an open marriage with fellow writer Marilyn Hacker.
Randall Kenan’s first novel, A Visitation of the Spirits, explored the gay black experience in the American South.
Kevin Killian published his first novel, Shy.
Cookie Mueller’s short story collection Walking Through Clear Water in a Pool Painted Black was published a year after her AIDS-related death.
Ibis Gómez-Vega’s novel Send My Roots Rain foregrounded a Latina lesbian narrative.
Eileen Myles published their book, Not Me, which contained their famous poem, “An American Poem.”
Tackling themes of identity, race, sexuality, and HIV/AIDS, Essex Hemphill’s first full-length collection, Ceremonies: Prose and Poetry, became a touchstone in queer literature.
Leslie Feinberg’s novel Stone Butch Blues instantly became a classic of genderqueer literature.
Dodie Bellamy’s novel The Letters of Mina Harker depicted the AIDS crisis in 1980s San Francisco.
Michael Cunningham received the Pulitzer Prize and the PEN/Faulkner Award for his novel The Hours—a retelling of Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway (1925).
Alison Bechdel’s graphic memoir Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic became a popular and critical success, as well as the inspiration for a hit Broadway musical.
Julia Serano’s Whipping Girl offered a transfeminist manifesto.
Hanya Yanagihara wrote her best- selling novel A Little Life.
Danez Smith’s poetry book Don’t Call Us Dead became a finalist for the National Book Award.
Jordy Rosenberg’s novel Confessions of the Fox brought to life a trans-centered historical fictional narrative.
Poet and novelist Ocean Vuong was named a MacArthur Fellow.
Carmen Maria Machado’s In the Dreamhouse poignantly navigated the topic of queer domestic abuse.