By Casey Stepaniuk
Some people might insist LGBTQ+ books are only for LGBTQ+ readers, to which I would reply, no way! It’s not that I don’t love LGBTQ+ books that are written with LGBTQ+ readers in mind, but that certainly doesn’t mean others won’t enjoy them. With that in mind, here are some solid holiday book gift options for the people on your list, LGBTQ+ or not.
For your grandma: Memory Board by Jane Rule.
This novel by the legendary Canadian lesbian writer is a trip down memory lane, set in Vancouver in the mid 80s. It’s essentially the story of the reconciliation of sixty-year old twins, David and Diana, who have spent their adult lives apart because of homophobia. It’s a wonderful, intricate character study and a look at different generational understandings of lesbian and gay identity. It’s a great gift for an older person, with people their age to identify with in the book, and a gentle yet complex introduction to gay/lesbian identity for someone who doesn’t know much.
For the family weirdo: Hopeful Monsters by Hiromi Goto.
When I say weirdo, I mean that in a good way! (If it’s you who’s the weirdo in the family, maybe you should buy this for yourself!) Hopeful Monsters is a deliciously strange collection of short stories that revel in the surreal but are set in the ‘real world,’ often focused on domestic life and family dynamics. Sometimes they’re dark, sometimes they’re funny, and sometimes they’re heart-wrenching. The stories feature oddities like children born with tails and kappas (mischievous Japanese demons) and are beautifully, vividly written.
For a friend or family member with an aging or sick (grand)parent: Tangles by Sarah Leavitt.
There’s no doubt this honest, generous graphic memoir about Leavitt and her mother who is diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s is heartbreaking. But it’s also sure to show any (grand)child and/or caregiver that they’re not alone. If the person on your list is a word lover, they’ll especially like this book, as Leavitt focuses on her family’s love of words and how her parents taught her, “that language, words, and books … were exciting and powerful, and that being smart and good with words was one of the most important things to strive for.”
For the history buff: Paper Shadows by Wayson Choy.
This extraordinary memoir is one of those stories that must be true because, well, the truth is stranger than fiction. The catalyst for this memoir was Choy discovering at age 57 that he was adopted, leading him to re-examine his past. If you’ve got someone on your list who’d be interested in the history of Vancouver’s Chinatown rooted in personal context, this book is a perfect choice. It’s also a great pick for someone who normally reads “fact” books; Paper Shadows will stretch them a bit beyond their comfort zone.
For the (middle-aged) person going through an existential crisis: Weekend by Jane Eaton Hamilton.
You certainly don’t have to be approaching mid-life to appreciate Weekend, a beautifully written novel, but a healthy dose of interest in questions like “what is love, really?” and in the dynamics of long-term relationships is essential. Following two queer couples—one new and one who’s been together for 16 years—on weekend getaways in side-by-side cottages, Weekend is a queer, disabled re-imagining of some age-old questions about love and relationships. Anxieties, desires, and vulnerabilities are laid bare as one couple grapples with the stress of a newborn and the other with one partner’s life-threatening disability.
Casey Stepaniuk is a writer and librarian-in-training who runs the website Casey the Canadian Lesbrarian, where you can find LGBTQ+ Canadian book reviews and a queer book advice column. She also writes for Book Riot. Find her on Twitter: @canlesbrarian
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