Cameron is a gay man studying and writing in Sydney, Australia. He reads a bunch, watches a lot of film, and reviews local work for the student magazine he’s an editor on. Cameron also writes a fair bit of fiction. You can find him on Twitter at @Cameron___c.
Keep reading to hear about Australian queer books, seeing something of yourself in the past when reading older books, looking for a broader range of experiences in fiction, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, how fruitless searching “gay” on Goodreads is, and more!
What was the first LGBTQ2IA+ book(s) you remember reading? How did you end up reading it (i.e., were you searching for queer books or did you just happen across it?)
Perks of Being a Wallflower, which is like, the heterosexual’s queer book. I found it at thirteen because one of my friends was really into it, and I loved that there was a queer character. In retrospect, I was very pleased with a pretty minor part of the story.
What is/are your favourite LGBTQ2IA+ books, and why?
Oh, jeez: I really love Barracuda, by Christos Tsiolkas. It’s definitely informed by queerness and how it impacts the protagonist’s masculinity, and there’s a lot that’s very familiar. But I think that’s got more to do with its Australian setting, than anything. There’s also Patricia Highsmith’s The Price of Salt, which is an extraordinarily moving classic. If we’re allowed to choose non-fiction, I’d go with Boy Erased by Garrard Conley. It’s a really detailed reflection not just on conversion therapy, but on how masculinity informs homophobia. Also Virginia Woolf’s Orlando, because, like, duh, it’s Virginia Woolf.
Which LGBTQ2IA+ book have you read that best reflects your experiences as an LGBTQ2IA+ person?
I don’t really think I have one that stands out as being particularly representative of my experience. There’s another Australian book, Fairyland, by Sumner Locke Elliott, that was published in the 90s, a year before he died. He was a fairly well-known author but he hadn’t come out before he published it. It was reprinted in 2013, and I’ve had it for a while but I only read it recently. It’s about Sydney, where I grew up, and there’s also something very resonant about the alienation and loneliness faced by the protagonist, even though it’s set in the 30s and 40s. It’s nice to see something of yourself in the past, because the mainstream understanding of queer history is that we emerged out of the aether sometime in the ‘60s or ‘70s. Even if we don’t really believe that in those particular terms, that’s the view we come back to, so evidence about how wrong that idea is is nice.
Which LGBTQ2IA+ book do you wish you could read but can’t because it doesn’t exist yet?
I don’t know. My view on representation is that people shouldn’t be looking for the one story that perfectly validates their life or experience, or whatever, but we should have a broader range of experiences to read about. I guess I’d like a really sort of literary set of short stories all about queer people. I used to really love really cishet coming-of-age short stories that were really grungy but really moving and intense, and I guess if I’m really self-indulgent, I’d like some queer variation on that.
How do you find LGBTQ2IA+ books? How easy or hard is it in your experience finding the ones that you want to read?
It’s incredibly difficult, so I guess I seek them out whenever I’m looking through what’s coming out. Searching for ‘gay’ books on Goodreads, or whatever, tends to end up with a bunch of really eroticised or flat, boring narratives. In film I tend to try and get myself review tickets to screenings of queer stuff, but I can’t really do the equivalent with books, and I think that’s because publishers are more conservative in both the practical and the political sense, because there’s less money to invest into what’s assumedly ‘niche’ art that’s automatically irrelevant to cishet people.
Do you know other LGBTQ2IA+ readers or participate in any LGBTQ2IA+ reading communities (in person or on the Internet)? What’s it like? Why or why not?
I know a bunch of other queer readers, because I have Twitter and go to something called National Young Writer’s Festival, and queers are just naturally magnetised to each other in those settings. Which is good, but I do wish I had something more formal. I tried to set up a queer book club through my university once, but it fell flat due to lack of interest.
Thanks for being our first Australian queer reader Cameron! If any gay men have any tips for searching online for gay books, comment here to help Cameron out. It’s requests like this that make me sad there’s no queer men’s version of Autostraddle.