An Independent School • Grades 5-12

Literary explorations: A quest for queer literature

July 2020

By Lindsay Aegerter, Upper School English teacher
Illustration by Fred Birchman

The elective “Q4Q,” as I’ve dubbed it, was in­spired by an independent study with two students in the Class of 2016, Lulu Klebanoff and Meg Ruppel. The course seeks to fill the absences of LGBTQ+ literature in our regular English courses and electives. I intentionally designed the course so that LGBTQ+ students could see themselves clearly reflected in our curriculum and in our departmental priority to ensure that all students here feel valued and validated. Members of the class research and present papers on the works in our reading list or use the list as a jumping-off point — continuing the quest to find boundary-breaking LGBTQ+ novels, stories, plays, poems, and essays that, as students have said, provide both maps and models.

Readings in the course have included James Baldwin’s “Giovanni’s Room,” “Tony Kushner’s Angels in America,” Michael Cunningham’s “The Hours,” Daisy Hernandez’s “A Cup of Water Under My Bed,” Larry Kramer’s “The Normal Heart,” Alice Walker’s “The Color Purple,” Jeanette Winter­son’s “Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal,” Virginia Woolf’s “Mrs. Dalloway,” and “Blues Divine,” a powerful po­etry collection by Lakeside alum Storme Webber ’77.

Future iterations of the course might bring in Alexan­der Chee’s “How to Write an Autobiographical Novel,” Ivan Coyote’s “Tomboy Survival Guide,” Patricia Highsmith’s “The Price of Salt,” Jamie O’Neill’s “At Swim, Two Boys,” Ocean Vuong’s “On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous,” the novel and film version of André Aciman’s “Call Me By Your Name,” and Barry Jenkins’ film “Moonlight.”

The titles in this course are eclectic and wide-ranging, drawn from diverse eras and traditions. Some of the authors will be familiar to Lakeside students; most will be new. Beyond the themes of gender, sexuality, and identity, the works share one important quality: distinct literary merit.