50 States of Gay: Ohio to Wyoming (+DC)

Welcome to our final installment of 50 States of Gay, a blog series of book recommendations in celebration of October being LGBTQ+ History Month. We'll be touring the country with a book title (or two or six) set in each state. Some will be Young Adult titles, while others will be biographies, memoirs, or adult fiction titles that have crossover appeal for teen readers.

If you're concerned about potential harmful or triggering content, we recommend checking out a book's listing on Goodreads or DoesTheDogDie.com, both of which often include content warnings provided by other readers.

Previous: Alabama to KentuckyLouisiana to North Dakota

 

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A map of the United States. The pieces are unconnected puzzle pieces on a burlap fabric background. Each state has been replaced with a book cover that corresponds to that state

 

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Me Myself & Him by Chris Tebbetts

Ohio: Me Myself & Him by Christopher Tebbetts [2019]

In two parallel universes, eighteen-year-old Chris navigates the summer before college—in one universe he is forced to spend three months with his emotionally distant father in California, and in the other he remains home and deals with a swiftly changing friendship.

 

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Elysium Girls by Kate Pentacost

Oklahoma: Elysium Girls by Kate Pentecost [2020]

When the town of Elysium, Oklahoma, discovers that the world is under the control of two vengeful sister gods—Life and Death—a witch community leader and a trickster join forces to prevent an apocalypse.

 

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Out of Salem by Hal Schrieve

Oregon: Out of Salem by Hal Schrieve [2019]

Genderqueer fourteen-year-old Z Chilworth has to adjust quickly to their new status as a zombie after waking from death from a car crash that killed their parents and sisters. Always a talented witch, Z now can barely perform magic and is rapidly decaying. Faced with rejection from their remaining family members and old friends, Z moves in with Mrs. Dunnigan, an elderly witch and befriends Aysel, a loud would-be-goth classmate who is, like Z, a loner. As Z struggles to find a way to repair the broken magical seal holding their body together, Aysel fears that her classmates will discover her status as an unregistered werewolf. When a local psychiatrist is murdered by what seems to be werewolves, the town of Salem, Oregon, becomes even more hostile to "monsters," and Z and Aysel are driven together in an attempt to survive a place where most people wish that neither of them existed.

Also set in Oregon: Juliet Takes a Breath  —  Darius the Great Deserves Better

 

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The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

Pennsylvania: The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky [1999]

A coming of age novel about Charlie, a freshman in high school who is a wallflower, shy and introspective, and very intelligent. He deals with the usual teen problems, but also with the suicide of his best friend.

Also set in Pennsylvania: Fun Home

 

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The Art of Escaping by Erin Callahan

Rhode Island: The Art of Escaping by Erin Callahan [2018]

When Mattie, seventeen, seeks out the reclusive Miyu, daughter of a famed escapologist, to indulge her secret desire to learn the craft, it leads to a friendship with classmate Will, who bears a huge secret of his own.

 

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Social Intercourse - Greg Howard

South Carolina: Social Intercourse by Greg Howard [2018]

When Beck’s emotionally fragile dad starts dating the recently single (and supposedly lesbian) mom of former bully, Jaxon Parker, Beck is not having it. Jax isn’t happy about the situation either, holding out hope that his moms will reunite and restore the only stable home he’s ever known. Putting aside past differences, the boys plot to derail the budding romance between their parents at their conservative hometown’s first-ever Rainbow Prom. Hearts will be broken, new romance will bloom, but nothing will go down the way Beck and Jax have planned.

Also set in South Carolina: The House You Pass on the Way

 

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Little and Often by Trent Preszler

South Dakota: Little and Often by Trent Preszler [2021]

The founder of Preszler Woodshop discusses his long-time estrangement from his father and how he overcame the grief and loss of his father's death through a carpentry project completed with inherited tools.

 

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If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo

Tennessee: If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo [2016]

Amanda Hardy only wants to fit in at her new school, but she is keeping a big secret, so when she falls for Grant, guarded Amanda finds herself yearning to share with him everything about herself, including her previous life as Andrew.

Also set in Tennessee: Girl Made of Stars

 

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Elatsoe by Darcy Little Badger

Texas: Elatsoe by Darcy Little Badger [2020]

Imagine an America very similar to our own. It's got homework, best friends, and pistachio ice cream. There are some differences. This America has been shaped dramatically by the magic, monsters, knowledge, and legends of its peoples, those Indigenous and those not. Seventeen-year-old Elatsoe ("Ellie" for short) lives in this slightly stranger America. She can raise the ghosts of dead animals, a skill passed down through generations of her Lipan Apache family. Her beloved cousin has just been murdered, in a town that wants no prying eyes. But she is going to do more than pry. The picture-perfect façade of Willowbee masks gruesome secrets, and she will rely on her wits, skills, and friends to tear off the mask and protect her family.

Also set in Texas: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Universe  —  Stay Gold  —  Fifteen Hundred Miles from the Sun

 

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Autoboyography by Christina Lauren

Utah: Autoboyography by Christina Lauren [2017]

High school senior Tanner Scott has hidden his bisexuality since his family moved to Utah, but he falls hard for Sebastian, a Mormon mentoring students in a writing seminar Tanner's best friend convinced him to take.

 

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True Letters from a Fictional Life by Kenneth Logan

Vermont: True Letters from a Fictional Life by Kenneth Logan [2016]

"If you asked anyone in his small Vermont town, they'd tell you the facts: James Liddell, star athlete, decent student, and sort-of boyfriend to cute, peppy Theresa, is a happy, funny, carefree guy. But whenever James sits down at his desk to write, he tells a different story. As he fills his drawers with letters to the people in his world—letters he never intends to send—he spills the truth: he's trying hard, but he just isn't into Theresa. It's his friend, a boy, who lingers in his thoughts. James's secret letters are his safe space—but his truth can't stay hidden for long.

Also set in Vermont: Aesop Lake

 

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Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley

Virginia: Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley [2014]

In 1959 Virginia, Sarah, a black student who is one of the first to attend a newly integrated school, forces Linda, a white integration opponent's daughter, to confront harsh truths when they work together on a school project.

Also set in Virginia: Nothing Pink

 

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Jay's Gay Agenda by Jason June

Washington: Jay's Gay Agenda by Jason June [2021]

Growing up in rural Washington as the only out gay kid means Jay is constantly bombarded with reminders that everyone around him can hook up and have relationships, but his list of love-related to-do's—his own gay agenda—is indefinitely, frustratingly, on hold. His parents suddenly move the family to Seattle right before his senior year, however, and the thriving LGBTQ+ community means he can finally begin checking things off his list! Will he be able to bring himself to choose between his head and his hormones when it finally counts?

 

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LGBTQ Fiction and Poetry from Appalachia edited by Jeff Mann & Julia Watts

West Virginia: LGBTQ Fiction and Poetry from Appalachia edited by Jeff Mann [2019]

This collection, the first of its kind, gathers fiction and poetry from lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer authors from Appalachia. Like much Appalachian literature, these works are pervaded with an attachment to family and the mountain landscape, yet balancing queer and Appalachian identities is an undertaking fraught with conflict. This collection confronts the problematic and complex intersections of place, family, sexuality, gender, and religion with which LGBTQ Appalachians often grapple.

Note: While not set entirely in West Virginia, the queer Appalachian experience is one that is often overlooked. It's very encouraging to see books like this being published!

 

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The Sin-Eater's Confession by Ilsa J. Bick

Wisconsin: The Sin-Eater's Confession by Ilsa J. Bick [2013]

While serving in Afghanistan, Ben writes about incidents from his senior year in a small-town Wisconsin high school, when a neighbor he was trying to help out becomes the victim of an apparent hate crime and Ben falls under suspicion.

Also set in Wisconsin: Tomboyland: Essays

 

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The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later by Moisés Kaufman

Wyoming: The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later by Moisés Kaufman [2014]

On October 7, 1998, a young gay man was discovered bound to a fence outside Laramie, Wyoming, savagely beaten and left to die in a shocking act of hate ... In the aftermath, Moisés Kaufman and members of the Tectonic Theater Project went to Laramie and conducted more than 200 interviews with its people. From the transcripts, the playwrights constructed an extraordinary chronicle of life there after the murder ... Now, in this expanded edition, The Laramie Project : ten years later adds an essential coda to the original work, revisiting the town a decade after the tragedy to find a community grappling with its legacy and place in history.

 

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Every Body Looking by Candice Iloh

Washington, D.C.: Every Body Looking by Candice Iloh [2020]

A mixed-heritage dancer's coming of age within the African diaspora is shaped by abuse at the hands of a cousin, her mother's descent into addiction, and her father's efforts to create a Nigerian-inspired home in America.

Also set in D.C.: The Upside of Unrequited  —  Red White & Royal Blue  —  Pulp

 

Thanks for joining us on our tour of all 50 states! We hope you've found at least one title that resonates with you. And if you know of any great queer books for teens that we didn't cover here—reach out to us on social media! Just tell us the title and the state and we'll do our best to add it to the list.

Descriptions adapted from the publisher.

By MercedesG on October 23, 2021