Synopses of the Books
The Price of Salt (novel, 1952) by Patricia Highsmith (republished as Carol, 2015)
Originally published after the author had earned early success as a writer of thrillers, Highsmith released this novel under a pseudonym because she feared public condemnation for her very positive depiction of adult lesbian love. The writing in this story of Therese and Carol’s courtship is bracingly modern, and the novel’s historical settings and time are exquisitely detailed. Unlike many books of its era, which portrayed gay people as social outlaws with miserable lives, Highsmith was able to show both obstacles to love and the exhilaration of love achieved.
On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous (novel, 2019), by Ocean Vuong
This is the debut work of fiction by a Vietnam-born poet who came to the US as a child, and who grew up in an all-female household in urban New England. The title’s inclusion of the word “gorgeous” is entirely apt, as this is an unusually beautiful book, though the experiences encountered by protagonist Little Dog can be harrowing. Composed as an epistolary novel, Vuong’s story takes the form of a letter from a poetically eloquent son to his illiterate mother.
The Minus-One Club (novel, 2023), by Kekla Magoon
Set in a high school among a group of friends who are each mourning the death of someone close, this Young Adult novel is likely to be welcomed by readers of varied ages, including parents or grandparents of teens. Vermont author Magoon has devised an unusual, absorbing structure for a book about grief that also celebrates resilience through friendship. In addition to exploring the pleasures and complications of same-sex intimacy, the novel considers substance abuse with particular sensitivity.
Becoming Nicole: The Transformation of an American Family (nonfiction, 2015), by Amy Ellis Nutt
A nonfiction chronicle by a Washington Post reporter about actress, writer, and activist Nicole Maines and her gender transition, vividly including the perspectives of her mother, father, and brother. Maines was victor in the Maine Supreme Court case Doe v. Regional School Unit 26, which affirmed the rights of transgender students to use restrooms that correspond to their identity. Angry public disputes about gender have obscured the human subtleties, which this book explores in an especially accessible way.