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13 Soothing Books To Read When Everything Hurts

It's hard to care for yourself in a world that insists your life doesn't matter. These books might help.

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1. Night Sky With Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong

Ocean Vuong is a brilliant poet whose words cut deep but gently. His debut collection marries meditations on immigrant life, "classic" American literary references, and a pastoral elegance as it touches on everything from sex to loss to war. Read his poem for BuzzFeed READER, "Trevor".

2. Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches by Audre Lorde

It was Audre Lorde who first said, "Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” The visionary black lesbian feminist author most often wrote poetry, but her prose also cut to the core of difficult, profoundly necessary social problems. Sister Outsider is an almost boundless treasure of her insights.

3. Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin

Almost 30 years after his death, James Baldwin still shapes the fabric of American literature and politics alike. Read his 1956 novel, Giovanni's Room, a tender and devastating account of love.

4. [insert] boy by Danez Smith

Danez Smith writes poetry with graceful urgency. [insert] boy, his newest collection, does not speak directly to white readers, and is every bit stronger for it. Read his poetry for BuzzFeed here and here.


5. Some of Us Did Not Die: New and Selected Essays by June Jordan

June Jordan, the child of West Indian immigrants, was a bisexual poet, activist, journalist, essayist, and teacher. Her work meditates on freedom, harmony, love, and more. Some of Us Did Not Die is just one example of her profound compassion for–and insight into–the human condition.

6. Mundo Cruel by Luis Negrón

Luis Negrón is a writer living in Puerto Rico. His breathtaking story collection, Mundo Cruel, traces the lives of multiple characters navigating queerness in his home country. It was translated into English by 2012 PEN Center USA Literary Award winner Suzanne Jill Levine.

7. Octavia's Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements, edited by Adrienne Maree Brown & Walidah Imarisha

Adrienne Maree Brown and Walidah Imarisha conceived of their project with the fundamental belief that organizing–or, the work of envisioning and attempting to build a more just world–is its own kind of speculative fiction. After all, we have never experienced a world without prisons, poverty, or war. Octavia's Brood, named for legendary black science fiction writer Octavia Butler, features stories from an impressive range of visionary authors and activists.


9. Butterfly Boy: Memories of a Chicano Mariposa (Writing in Latinidad) by Rigoberto González

Butterfly Boy is one of Rigoberto González's most personal works. The Chicano author tells the story of growing up among poor Mexican migrant farmworkers, coming into his identity as a gay man, and finding home. Read his essay for BuzzFeed READER on gay clubs like Orlando's Pulse, one of the many kinds of places he found home.

11. Ties That Bind: Familial Homophobia and Its Consequences by Sarah Schulman

Schulman address homophobia not just as a institutional form of discrimination, but as a deeply personal one.The Ties That Bind explores the impact of homophobia in its most intimate of presentations–and suggests that home is neither safe nor separate from the hatred that can swirl around "the outside world."

12. We the Animals by Justin Torres

We the Animals, the debut novel from Justin Torres, tells the story of three mixed race brothers from upstate New York. The novel is short but impactful; Torres' storytelling is powerful and his characters robust in their feeling and growth.

13. Bright Dead Things by Ada Limón

Bright Dead Things gives life and cautious redemption to Limón's pain upon losing her stepmother. It is a vivid, impeccably visual book of poems that shines as a reminder of how to find beauty in the most mundane or morose moments.