11 LGBTQIA+ Audiobooks to Carry You Through Pride 2022 (and Beyond)

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11 LGBTQIA+ Audiobooks to Carry You Through Pride 2022 (and Beyond)

The last time I curated a Pride-themed audiobook list here in Paste’s digital pages I opened by underscoring the fact that “Reading, at its best, is an act of compassion. And audiobooks, spoken [as they are] directly into your brain, lace that compassion with an intimacy that’s hard to match in any other medium.”

This is true of all audiobooks, of course, and is pretty much the main reason why I recommend audio over paper whenever the book in question captures a voice or lived experience that diverges wildly from that of the person receiving the recommendation. But while the compassion-building intimacy inherent to the audiobook format is valuable across the board, it’s arguably never been more important for those of us consuming pop culture today to make space for the voices—and I mean the literal, recorded voices—of our queer and trans siblings than it is right now, entering this year’s Pride season as we did tacking through increasingly vicious, gleefully genocidal anti-LGBTQ+ political winds.

Not the most uplifting note to kick off this genuinely fun audiobook list, I know! And for the many queer listeners who clicked through to this list, not news, either. But for all readers who are coming to this struggle as allies from outside the LGBTQIA+ community, it’s critical to remember that none of us can defend against what we refuse to acknowledge.

And in that fight, there are worse places to start than with cultivating all the compassion we can.

To that end, please enjoy this list of some of the best Pride-appropriate listens I’ve recently queued up (with a couple of throwbacks from the last few years, for good measure). I will admit outright that, in limiting the collection to just eleven titles, there are dozens and dozens that I’ve had, by necessity, to leave out. Thankfully, though, where I’ve had to stop myself short, our favorite indie-supporting audiobook platform, Libro.fm, has been able to go long.

As always, happy listening!

Note: While I generally arrange these lists in order of length, this one is arranged instead by target listener age. That said, all adult listeners are deeply encouraged to take on the whole list, if for no other reason than to introduce the amazing, seeking kid you once were to the equally amazing queer kids who live in the world today.

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Kapaemahu by Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu, Dean Hamer and Joe Wilson

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Narrated by: Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu
Run time: 23 minutes
Audible | Libro.fm | OverDrive | Kapaemahu film

Come for Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu’s beautifully structured retelling of a Hawaiian legend about a quartet of mahu (dual-spirit) healers that was nearly lost to historical bigotry, stay for the dynamically produced soundscape that so effectively layers Wonkingg-Kalu’s bilingual narration with traditional drumming, dramatized ritual chanting, and the sound of the ocean that, should you go sit in the sunshine and close your eyes while listening, you’ll be hard-pressed not to believe you’ve been transported through both time and space.

What’s more, this audiobook doesn’t stop when Wong-Kalu’s tale ends, going on instead to include brief-but-rich endnotes on the writing process behind the multimedia project, the history of the real healer stones, and the context behind the text’s use of ??lelo Ni?ihau as the specific Hawaiian dialect in which to tell this iteration of the Kapaemahu story.

Different Kinds of Fruit by Kyle Lukoff

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Narrated by: Cassandra Morriss and Kyle Lukoff
Run time: 9 hours 10 minutes
Audible | Libro.fm | OverDrive

It’s difficult to articulate how immediately sweet and engaging the audio version of Kyle Lukoff’s most recent middle grade novel, Different Kinds of Fruit, is.

Ecstatically narrated by kids’ audio veteran Cassandra Morriss, the story drops listeners into the curious, compassionate, zim-zooming perspective of rising sixth-grader Annabelle Blake, whose blossoming friendship (and possibly more) with a very cute non-binary new kid on the first day of her last year of elementary school sends her spiraling into a journey not just of self-discovery, but also of deeper parental understanding.

Set in the Seattle exurbs and populated with a whole cast of unique and believably awkward kids (and adults!), Different Kinds of Fruit is the shot of joyful, Pacific Northwest pre-teen pride both kids and parents across the country should spend their summer falling in love with.

Kings of B’More by R. Eric Thomas

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Narrated by: Torian Brackett
Run time: 9 hours 58 minutes
Audible | Libro.fm | OverDrive

Speaking of shots of joy, playwright R. Eric Thomas’ first foray into YA fiction, the Baltimore-set queer Ferris Bueller pastiche, Kings of B’More, is a hell of a chaser.

Explicitly about the importance of deep male friendship, Kings of B’More is as tender and sharp and hilarious as any longtime reader of Harris’ inimitable pop culture newsletter “Here for It” will have come to expect—a balance which shines through narrator Torian Brackett’s deeply felt but smartly modulated performance.

Felix Ever After by Kacen Callendar

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Narrated by: Logan Rozos
Run time: 8 hours 24 minutes
Audible | Libro.fm | OverDrive

For a joyful YA chaser of a different sort, there’s Kacen Callendar’s Felix Ever After, a Brooklyn-set summer romp starring an artsy trans seventeen-year-old that also centers intimate male friendship, but which turns explicitly, freeingly romantic as the minutes tick by.

Narrated with equal parts drama and tenderness by Logan Rozos (of Paste’s beloved David Makes Man), Felix Ever After is the kind of audiobook that will live with listeners for years to come, and Felix the kind of self-knowing romantic protagonist worth all of us, young and old, taking lessons from.

High School by Tegan Quin and Sara Quin

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Narrated by: Tegan Quin and Sara Quin
Run time: 9 hours 25 minutes
Audible | Libro.fm | OverDrive | Paste’s Best Nonfiction Books of 2019

You don’t need to be a fan of Tegan and Sara, the band, for the twin sisters’ joint memoir, High School, to be a dream reading experience. Written like a game of hormonal hot potato and structured like a nuanced, dynamic YA novel, High School is peppered throughout not only with the genre’s typical treasure trove of archival photos, but also with lyrics from the duo’s earliest forays into making music as searching, disaffected queer teens in 1990s Calgary.

In the audio version, these recordings show up whole cloth, which turns the listening experience into something almost disorientingly four dimensional, but even without those tracks splicing Tegan and Sara’s story, both Quins are such smart, self-reflective writers that reading their ricocheting accounts of their mostly symbiotic high school experiences is like being punched back in time, over and over again. Your mileage may vary, but when it comes to punk-adjacent rock memoirs, that’s a feeling that’s hard to capture, and even harder to beat.

Hola Papi: How to Come Out in a Walmart Parking Lot and Other Life Lessons by John Paul Brammer

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Narrated by: John Paul Brammer
Run time: 4 hours 55 minutes
Audible | Libro.fm | OverDrive

Pop artist and modern agony aunt John Paul Brammer is, officially, An Adult—a context which seems to genuinely astonish him from minute one of his short, recently released memoir Hola Papi—but the real life lessons he uses his “Hola Papi” advice letter format to investigate flow organically from the fictional ones learned by Felix and his friends in Felix Ever After. Brammer, who narrates the book, brings an easy flow to his reading that makes for a perfect listen.

Sarahland: Stories by Sam Cohen

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Narrated by: Suehyla El-Attar
Run time: 5 hours 57 minutes
Audible | Libro | OverDrive | Paste’s Best Surreal Short Story Collections (2022)

Spun from the premise of “what if Sarah, but everyone?” Sam Cohen’s debut short story collection is big and rangy and weird and very, very queer.

Save for one or two stories in the middle, each Sarah outing runs long (most close to an hour) but that just adds to the trippy, identity-displacing experience—as does the addition of Suehyla El-Attar as narrator, her warm voice warm and savvy pacing drawing sharp distinctions between each story’s characters and vibe just as the collection itself is pressing you to fold them together. Wild.

The Chosen and the Beautiful by Nghi Vo

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Narrated by: Natalie Naudus
Run time: 8 hours 52 minutes
Audible | Libro.fm | OverDrive

Nghi Vo’s The Chosen and the Beautiful takes that towering indictment of the 20th-century American Dream, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, and reimagines it as a fantasy (and not just of New Money power) from the perspective of Daisy Buchanan’s childhood friend, Jordan Baker, who in Vo’s West Egg is a queer Vietnamese immigrant with a mysterious command over cut-paper magic.

Plenty absorbing on its own, narrator Natalie Naudus brings a honeyed jadedness to Jordan’s story that will keep you hooked from the minute you click Play.

Crossfire: A Litany for Survival by Staceyann Chin

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Narrated by: Staceyann Chin
Run time: 3 hours 35 minutes
Audible | Libro.fm | OverDrive | Paste’s Best Poetry Audiobooks (2022)

As Jamaican poet Staceyann Chin underscores in the illuminating introduction to Crossfire, the first official collection of poems she’s published in her twenty-plus-year career, neither the Caribbean culture she grew up in nor the American poetic institution she came to after “what felt like a self-imposed exile” from Jamaica have been particularly welcoming to explicitly feminist, explicitly corporeal, explicitly lesbian themes. As anyone who queues up this audio collection will quickly realize, though: their loss.

Performed with unapologetic intensity by Chin herself, her voice at times reaching its literal breaking point, the poems in this collection absolutely blaze through the speakers. So drop your inhibitions, crank up the volume, and get ready to feel every well-measured word Chin has to share.

Light From Uncommon Stars by Ryka Aoki

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Narrated by: Cindy Kay
Run time: 13 hours 13 minutes
Audible | Libro.fm | OverDrive

With a potent mix of science fiction, infernal curses, elite violin competition, queer romance, donuts and the supernatural, Ryka Aoki’s Light From Uncommon Stars is the kind of epic listen that has the capacity to level up everyone’s summer vacation. With one protagonist a runaway trans violin prodigy and the other the proverbial “Devil in a red dress” out to cash in one last violinist’s soul to break her own demonic curse, the stakes are high and the emotional engagement even higher.

Thankfully, narrator Cindy Kay—whose ability to combine earnestness and deadpan irony in a dozen unique ways is something like a superpower—is more than prepared to take on every challenge a book this ambitious wants to throw her way.

The Secret Life of Albert Entwistle by Matt Cain

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Narrated by: Simon Vance
Run time: 10 hours 49 minutes
Audible | Libro.fm | OverDrive

There are few micro-genres I love more than “kindly introverted elder is shaken out of their lifelong rut and finds the joy they thought they lost”—bonus points if said elder is British, and double-bonus points if their shake-up comes with an unexpected intergenerational friendship. On that note, enter Matt Cain’s The Secret Life of Albert Entwistle, which takes as its subject a 64-year-old “postie” and lifelong bachelor named Albert Entwistle, whose held his job at the post office since the age of sixteen and whose secret teenage romance with a boy named George ended in such a traumatically decisive way that Albert’s shut himself off from any meaningful human connection for nearly fifty years—a fact whose tragedy only becomes more apparent after he’s 1) notified shortly before the holidays that he’ll be backed into mandatory retirement at age 65, and then 2) has to say goodbye to his beloved cat (and only remaining family) on Christmas Day.

While that set-up may sound more than a little bit dire (and is genuinely hard to get through if you’re in any kind of personal funk), you can rest assured that happy endings in this micro-genre are as dependable as in any traditional romance. Meaning, by the end of things, everything will not only turn up in Albert’s favor, but the lots of everyone else in his community will also be better off as a result. And with audiobook legend Simon Vance behind the mic, lending his usual tender charm and stable of distinct voices to the proceedings, the journey there is well worth your time.



Alexis Gunderson is a TV critic and audiobibliophile. She
can be found @AlexisKG.