10 books we’d give to…Vladimir Putin

10 books we’d give to…Vladimir Putin

So, Sir Elton John is on his way to meet Vladimir Putin to discuss the Russian president’s ‘ridiculous’ attitude to gay rights. We’ve got 10 books we’d love to give Mr Putin.







1. The Life of a Silkworm by Olga Bakich – a biography of Valerii Pereleshin

This book follows the brilliant, turbulent life of the Russian poet (yes, Russian, Mr Putin) Valerii Pereleshin. His verse memoirs Poem without an Object describe his gay love affairs. For many years Perelshin struggled to accept and express his own identity as a gay man within a frequently homophobic émigré community.

2. Luna by Julie Ann Peters 

Regan is a 16 year-old girl who tries to keep secret the fact that her older brother, Liam, is transgender. When Liam announces that he is ready to ‘transition’ into Luna permanently, Regan is not sure she can handle the consequences. A sensitive and poignant portrayal of a young man’s determination to live her true identity.

3. Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin 

Focused on the life of, David, an American man living in Paris, this novel explores his relationships with other men, particularly an Italian bartender named Giovanni. But David’s girlfriend’s return to Paris destroys everything. Unable to admit to the truth, David pretends the liaison never happened – while Giovanni’s life descends into tragedy.

4. Orlando by Virginia Woolf

Once described as the ‘longest and most charming love-letter in literature’, Orlando is a playful mock ‘biography’ of a chameleonic historical figure who changes sex and identity on a whim. First masculine, then feminine, Orlando begins life as a young sixteenth-century nobleman, then gallops through three centuries to end up as a woman writer in Virginia Woolf’s own time. A wry commentary on gender roles and modes of history.

5. Middlesex by Jeoffrey Eugenides

This Pulitzer Prize-winning novel tells the story of Calliope Stephanides and her truly unique family secret. Growing up in 70s Michigan, Calliope’s special inheritance will turn her into Cal, the narrator of this intersex, inter-generational epic of immigrant life in 20th century America. Some scholars believed the novel should be considered for the title of Great American Novel.

6. Rubyfruit Jungle by Rita Mae Brown 

Notable for being an early literary lesbian novel, Rubyfruit Jungle is a coming-of-age autobiographical account of Brown’s youth and emergence as a lesbian author. In bawdy, moving prose, it tells the story of Molly Bolt, the adoptive daughter of a dirt-poor Southern couple who finds that women are drawn to her wherever she goes – and she refuses to apologize for loving them back.

7. Confessions of a Mask by Yukio Mishima

This autobiographical novel, regarded as Mishima’s finest book, is the story of a Japanese boy Kochan, and his development toward a homosexual identity during and after the Second World War. Detailing his progress from an isolated childhood through adolescence to manhood, it launched him to national fame. The word ‘mask’ refers to how Kochan develops a false personality to present to the world and grows to believe that everyone around his is participating in a ‘reluctant masquerade’.

8. Our Lady of the Flowers by Jean Genet 

First published in 1943, and famously hailed by Sartre as an ‘epic of masturbation’, Our Lady of the Flowers is a largely autobiographical account of a man’s joinery through the Parisian underworld. Written on brown paper in a French prison, a guard who uncovered this unapproved activity confiscated Genet’s manuscript and burned it. Undaunted, Genet wrote it afresh.

9. Paradiso by José Lezama Lima 

Written in an elaborately baroque style with extraordinarily erotic verbal tapestries, the narrative follows the childhood and youth of José Cemí and explores his homosexuality and literary sensibilities in the world of pre-Castro Havana. Because of the graphic homosexual scenes and the novel’s ambivalence towards the political situation of the day, Paradiso encountered controversy and publication problems.

10. Nightwood by Djuna Barnes

Published in 1936, Nightwood is one of the earliest prominent novels to portray explicit homosexuality. It follows the character of Robin Vote, the married American expatriate who engages in a series of affairs with women and is regarded as a landmark of feminist and lesbian literature. It was described by William Burroughs as ‘one of the greatest books of the twentieth century’.

We’ll get these posted off to the Kremlin ASAP. Do let us know if there are any others you’d like us to add.

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  1. “A sensitive and poignant portrayal of a young man’s determination to live his true identity.” Um, if we’re discussing Sensitivity, I’d check your gender pronouns.

    • alex

      Very good point. Thanks for calling our attention to this. We have amended!

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