“This Book Is Gay” Book Review

Banned Book Week: Juno Dawson’s updated novel-slash-guidebook is a beacon of light for LGBTQ+ youth.

After the success of her 2015 novel slash instructional guide, “This Book is Gay,” Juno Dawson returns with a new, updated edition by the same name. “This Book Is Gay” (2021) is a funny, lighthearted, yet detailed work that masterfully fulfills its purpose: to educate readers on LGBTQ+ topics.

This Book Is Gay is a manual written with comedy and young readers in mind. It gives basic overviews of gender, sexuality, labeling and life as a queer person before diving into more complex topics, such as stereotypes and biology (fact: though studies have been done, there is no biological difference between a gay person and a straight person).

I’ve known that I was on the LGTBQ+ spectrum since I was 11-years-old. Since then, I’ve delved deep into the topic—I read books with gay main characters, I watch shows and videos that discuss the topic of our rights and how they’re constantly changing around the world, I write any essay I can frame as a call to action for us—so I went into this book expecting to know a lot of the contents already. I didn’t. While there were some more basic ideas I already knew about, this book was genuinely helpful for me, as it is for so many young queer people.

And for a guidebook, it’s ridiculously funny. Chapters titled “Welcome to the Members Club” and, even better, “Hats” make me want to read, especially when they contain lines like “the closest thing I personally have to a prophet is Madonna.” Dawson, as a transgender woman who also identified as gay before her transition, has experience, research and a brilliant voice that touches the people who read this book.

Honestly, just reading this book makes me happy. There’s so much negativity out there surrounding LGTBQ+ people. Though we live in a generally progressive place, there are other locations, even close to us, that spread negative views about LGBTQ+ people. And everywhere, the constant discourse and confusion and stereotyping is exhausting to keep up with. It feels like there’s a new problem every day. Contrastingly, Dawson brings light to issues in a supportive, interesting way without emphasizing hatred towards anyone else. Beyond just homophobia, Dawson tackles seemingly harmless stereotypes, the rapid growth of LGBTQ+ people in our generation, sexualization—especially of bisexual, transgender, and lesbian people—and many more issues.

Dawson’s voice is also refreshingly direct. She doesn’t dance around societally deemed ‘sensitive’ topics like sex, religious trauma, and toxic family relationships. Topics to be expected when the book itself is called This Book Is Gay. Her directness is also what got the book onto the top ten banned books list in 2021, which didn’t stop me from re-reading it over and over and recommending it to my friends who were having identity confusion of their own.

“This Book Is Gay” is a personal story, despite being formatted as a guidebook. It contains stories of LGBTQ+ people of all ages—some blurbs and some full length stories—providing readers with real life experiences of other people who have that in common. The coming out stories made me laugh. The advice on how to make new friends and live as a gay person was actually relevant and useful, unlike the usual “come out when you’re ready but also before that you have to live in constant fear, sorry, there’s nothing we can do, live with it.”

Ironically, the biggest point I took from a book called “This Book Is Gay” was this: you are not first and foremost a gay person; you are first and foremost a person who deserves to live and love as everyone does.