18 Classics of LGBTQ Literature

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Scene from Angels in America (Image via Theatre Scenes New Zealand)

9. Angels in America

So far, many of the works discussed here were created long before or after the AIDS epidemic that raged throughout the United States starting in the 1980s and beyond. Angels in America faces the effects of HIV/AIDS on the gay community.

Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes is actually a play rather than a novel. However, it’s just as important that you find a copy of the script or even a performance as you would track down any other book mentioned here. It was written by playwright Tony Kushner, who now writes for film (including scripts for Munich and Lincoln). Angels in America is considered his magnum opus, and has won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, a Tony Award for Best Play, and the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Play.

The truth is, it’s a little difficult to encapsulate Angels in America in such a short space of time. It’s a highly lyrical, dreamlike play that follows the lives of numerous closeted and out gay men. One man, Prior Walter, has AIDS and is abandoned by his partner as the illness progresses. He begins to see angels and has intense vision.

At the end of Act One, an angel visits him and proclaims Prior to being a prophet, telling him that “the Great Work” has begun. What that “Great Work” is and what it means for each of the myriad characters in Angels in America is something that must be read and, ideally, experienced in a live performance.