Despite India having a population of 1.3 billion people, many of whom do not lead traditional heteronormative lives, and having a rich tradition of homosexuality and gender fluidity, people from the LGBTQIA+ community are still marginalised and mistreated in India. Even though Ismat Chughtai tackled the subject of lesbianism in Lihaaf nearly 80 years ago, there is still not a lot of literature that tells tales of people from the LGBTQIA+ community. However, this is changing and we are seeing Indian authors tackle this subject creatively and sensitively. In this list, we have 10 LGBTQIA+ books that will help you understand, relate to or empathise with ‘queer’ life in India, and they range from fiction and graphic novels to autobiographies.


The Ministry Of Utmost Happiness

Arundhati Roy

How can one go wrong with Arundhati Roy? And when she writes about an Intersex character coming to terms with their own sexuality, you know it’s going to be a beautiful read. In The Ministry Of Utmost Happiness, Aftab, born a male, transitions to Anjum, an intersex Muslim woman who strives to protect her community after witnessing communal riots. Not only is this book a commentary on current day India, but it also tackles the complex subject of gender identification. 

Buy it here.



Amruta Patil

What better way to understand society than to see a glimpse of it in a beautifully depicted stunning graphic novel? In Kari, two young lesbian lovers are driven to attempt suicide. They survive, but are forced to go their separate ways, and this graphic novel focuses on the story of the eponymous Kari. It tells of her struggles establishing her own identity in a typical modern city, primarily inhabited by heterosexuals and where lesbianism is still considered abnormal. This book is a great way to understand the issues with heteronormativity. 

Buy it here.


A Life Apart

Neel Mukherjee

Neel Mukherjee’s Man Booker Prize Shortlisting and Crossword Award-winning work is a lot more than just a ‘queer story’. It is layered, complex, and transverses across sections of societies as well as of time. A young Ritwik goes to Oxford to study, but spends more time ‘cruising’ in public men’s toilets, Mrs. Gilby lives in an India that is transitioning from Colonial rule to independence and Mrs. Cameron deals with the death of her gay son. Combining multiple storylines into one stunning novel, A Life Apart, deals with issues of Colonial India, the violence faced by homosexuals as well as the problems of gay sex work in current times, amongst other topics.

Buy it here.


The Truth About Me: A Hijra Life Story

A. Revathi & V. Geetha (Tr.)

The autobiography of A. Revathi, a transsexual woman who is a leading activist and a strong voice for the hijra community, is a must-read to understand the issues faced by transsexuals and intersexes in India. Assigned the male gender at birth and named Doriasamy, Revathi was bullied mercilessly for her feminine ways growing up. It ultimately drove her to run away from home, start living with the hijra community, undergo a painful sex-change operation and resort to sex work to make ends meet. She finally becomes a famous activist and this book tells of the pitiable conditions in which hijras have to live, the sexual abuse they face by policemen, the lack of earning opportunities and the prejudice, scorn and even fear afforded to them by society.

Buy it here.


A Married Woman

Manju Kapur

This book is the story of Astha, a woman who has had a traditional arranged marriage with a loving and caring but conservative man. She has two children and is happy enough with her life, but realises that she is attracted to women when she encounters a younger woman who is a social activist. Astha struggles to come to terms with her sexuality but ultimately realises she can only be truly happy when she is with the woman she loves, even if it means defying societal and familial expectations. Given we live in a country where many people live their lives without even realising their sexual preferences and needs, this is an important read.

Buy it here.


The Man Who Would Be Queen

Hoshang Merchant

This autobiographical fiction, written in the form of lyric essays, tells the story of Hoshang Merchant, an out and proud gay man, who has had to deal with dysfunctional parents, unaccepting sisters and rejection from lovers because they were scared to come out of the closet. Vividly describing his sexual encounters, Merchant doesn’t shy away from telling it how it is- be it the issues related with being out in a society that is primarily heterosexual or the need for clandestine affairs for fear of societal backlash. This book paints an accurate but yet beautifully written picture of what it is to grow up gay in India.

Buy it here.


Same-Sex Love In India: A Literary History

Ruth Vanita (Ed.) & Saleem Kidwai (Ed.)

It is foolish to think that ‘gay literature’ is a construct of modern times. As far back as 2,000 years ago, writings that deal with homosexuality and gender fluidity have been found. In Same-Sex Love In India, Vanita and Kidwai collate and edit literary works from ancient Indian epics such as the Mahabharata, religious texts such as the Rig Veda, and even present-day literary fiction. The works range from memoirs, biographies, short stories, excerpts from novels and even letters, and all contain homosexual themes. This book will prove that ‘queerness’ is a part of Indian tradition and the taboo associated with it is a relatively modern phenomenon. 

Buy it here.


My Magical Palace

Kunal Mukherjee

In My Magical Palace, Rahul and Andrew are leading a content life as a couple in San Francisco, but Rahul suddenly becomes withdrawn and pensive. Andrew discovers that Rahul is being forced to ‘interview’ girls for an arranged marriage at the behest of his parents. Andrew asks Rahul to choose between him and a closeted life once and for all, but it is not an easy decision. Rahul then proceeds to tell Andrew about his growing up years, about his struggles with accepting his own sexuality, and the difficulty of growing up gay in 1970s India. Not only will this coming-of-age story touch your heart, but you will also appreciate how far India has come from being a completely homophobic society to decriminalising homosexuality.

Buy it here.


Close, Too Close: The Tranquebar Book of Queer Erotica

Meenu (Ed.) & Shruti (Ed.)

In a first of its kind, Close, Too Close, is an anthology of erotic Indian LGBTQIA+ literature. Erotic literature in India is hard enough to find, but when given an LGBTQIA+ angle, this collection becomes all the more intriguing. Set in locations across the country- from metros such as Delhi and Mumbai to smaller towns such as Vishakapatnam, these short stories will paint a picture of queer sexual attraction and desire. LGBTQIA+ rights activist Vikram Doctor has written the foreword, and this book will make you realise homosexuality and queerness is not restricted only to big cities and ‘modern’ India.

Buy it here.


Hostel Room 131

R. Raj Rao

This book is the love story of two young men as they battle society and rampant homophobia to stay together and make a case for the freedom of love. A young outspoken gay man, Siddharth, falls in love with Sudhir, who lives in his hostel, and they become a couple. Divided into four sections, each part covers a different timeline of their story from when they meet and fall in love to when Siddharth faces harassment at the hands of an ‘anti-Siddharth’ homophobic group from Sudhir’s hometown. Comical and poignant at the same time, this novel is a good way to understand issues facing young gay men in present-day India.

Buy it here.