Over the summer of 2021, W Hotels and them.—the LGBTQ+ platform from Condé Nast—are partnering on a new venture: We’ve started a book club centered around queer literature.
In total, we’ve selected three publications, while three influential members of the queer community have been chosen as Book Club Ambassadors. They have shared (and will continue to share) their personal interpretations of these powerful, essential manuscripts.
We linked up with them. on this endeavor to celebrate Pride in a quieter, more reflective way. With smaller gatherings and an ongoing consciousness of the global health climate, we thought: What better way to champion queer communities than with something so connective, intimate and personal as storytelling? The hope is to bring further attention to LGBTQ+ authors and audiences by shining a joint spotlight on three extraordinary literary titles—for Summer 2021, and beyond.
“I’ve definitely been impacted by queer literature because it’s proof that we exist.”
Book one? Real Queer America by Samantha Allen, a transgender reporter’s written road trip across the country that highlights vibrant and thriving LGBTQ+ individuals and groups in conservative areas. The Book Club Ambassador for this title is B. Hawk Snipes, a social activist, model and entertainer (they appeared as Bebe Pendavis on the hit FX show Pose). They are also on the board of BTFA Collective, which helps Black Trans Femme Artists succeed in the arts.
“I’ve definitely been impacted by queer literature because it’s proof that we exist,” says B. Hawk Snipes. “Queer people rarely get to see themselves [portrayed in media] and we definitely don’t read about how we’ve impacted the world in school history books. It’s important to share queer literature because we almost never get to hear our stories told by us.” They add a sobering reminder of just how important it is to continue to push for LGBTQ+ representation and acceptance: “I honestly don’t read a lot when I’m traveling because I’m always in my head and have to pay close attention to my surroundings as a black, queer and trans person.”
“Reading queer stories really helped me feel validated in some of the things that I thought isolated me from others.”
The second book is Patsy by Nicole Dennis-Benn. Dennis-Benn’s story follows its eponymous character—a mother leaving Jamaica for the United States, to reconnect with (and rekindle her love with) a childhood friend named Cicely—over a span of decades. This book hones in on discovering oneself, the challenges of immigration, womanhood and acceptance, and it is profoundly moving.
Patsy’s ambassador Jess Guilbeaux—a Black lesbian activist, model, and public speaker who addresses such topics as mental health and self-compassion—says: “I read my first queer book when I was in college. I began with Young Adult fiction stories and one summer I went from ‘trying it out’ to reading book after book. Reading queer stories really helped me feel validated in some of the things that I thought isolated me from others. I loved being able to root for other queer folks finding happiness in these books. One of the most impactful ways to call people to action is by speaking our truth and telling the world of the issues we face as a community. It also helps to normalize queer lives and queer stories.”
“Great writing fills us with the words we don’t have, so it’s life changing when an author is queer just like you.”
The third and final title will be decided by vote, with polling launching on them.’s Instagram channel on August 6, 2021 and concluding on August 13, 2021. (When a winner is declared, this article will be updated.) That book’s ambassador will be Yana Perrault, a Detroit-born actor and musician living in New York. She is set to join the national tour of the history-making play Hamilton this fall, appearing as Peggy Schuyler/Maggie Reynolds.
“As a queer artist, it is important for me to hear the words and perspectives of those queer voices before me and those still with us—as reassurance and affirmation that I am not alone. Great writing fills us with the words we don’t have, so it’s life changing when an author is queer just like you. It amplifies your own voice and lived experience. Queer voices, especially Black queer voices, have been challenging us to question the status quo and social norms since the beginning of history. In my opinion, that is exactly what the world needs more of today.”
Learn more about each title from them. x W Hotels Summer Book Club by following along on Instagram at @whotels and @them. Participants are invited to purchase paper or electronic editions of the books, and copies are available at all North American W locations.