We Can’t Fly, But We Can Read: Escape Quarantine Through These Queer Travel Books

Picking up a novel is a wonderful way to escape into the great unknown.

While coronavirus has us locked in and locked down, picking up a novel is a wonderful way to escape into the great unknown. We can be taken to far off lands, mysterious journeys, epic adventures in the sun — all from the confines of our own living room. Reading is — especially now — a transformative experience.

Bibliotherapy is the ancient process of using books and reading for therapeutic purposes. Books are often recommended via bibliotherapists to address internalized issues, strengthen resilience, or deepen understanding. It’s been touted as an effective as a tool for the LGBTQ community in the coming out process.

Yet, reading isn’t always about processing things. At times, we can read books simply for escapism and pleasure.  When I miss New York, I find myself searching for new titles set in New York, or I’ll reach for an old favorite of mine: Here is New York by E.B. White. I lose myself in the world of the characters, and for a moment, I never left. 

Many of us are currently longing for escapes and memories of the freedom traveling brings. And while world borders remain shut, our minds can wander where our feet cannot. 

Bibliotherpaist and author of “30-Second Literature: The 50 Most Important Forms, Genres and Styles, Each Explained in Half a Minute” Ella Berthoud is aware just how important reading is, especially in times of crisis. 

“Fiction is important,” she says. “When you read fiction, you inhabit the characters psyche. You take on their characteristics, their emotions, and life changes; you live through their experiences.”

Similar to catharsis, at times, readers can experience emotion in an incidental way. 

 “You are enriched by [characters’] experience without actually going through it,” says Berthoud. 

And to cap it off, reading can help reduce stress by up to 68 percent, according to a 2009 study at the University of Sussex. 

“The very act of reading itself is anxiety reducing,” concurs Berthoud, who says reading can be as calming a device for your brain as meditation. 

Feeling down about cancelling a trip to Pride in Iceland? Craving the Mediterranean salt on your skin, or longing for a sangria in the Spanish sun? Perhaps, you’re simply dreaming of escaping to your favorite domestic city to travel such as catching cherry blossom season in D.C

No matter what you’re longing for, reading can help you take you there with the right recommendation. Here’s a list of top ten queer authors that can help transport you all around the world from the comfort of your very own reading nook: 

“Tipping the Velvet” by Sarah Waters 

History buffs rejoice! Set in historical England, this book is both popular and very erotic, according to reviews. This coming of age tells the story of a young woman named Nan, who falls in love with a male impersonator and follows her to London.

“White Houses” by Amy Bloom

Political enthusiasts can get excited, while White House tours remain currently suspended, with Amy Bloom’s re-imagining of history, will still take you there. This critically acclaimed novel includes a lesbian love affair with the lead character and former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt, as well as many D.C references that will keep you on the edge of your seat. 

“The Spanish Pearl” by Catherine Friend 

Dreaming of sipping sangria underneath the Spanish sun? Catherine Friend takes you on a romantic adventure through time with her heroine Kate and her partner seeing Spain in a different light when they are propelled backward in time.  

 “Here Comes the Sun” by Nicole Y. Dennis-Benn

Summer holidays are not always about cocktails and swimsuits, and this novel is proof to that. Set in the idyllic setting of Jamaica at the Palm Star Resort, Nicole Y. Dennis-Benn portrays the harsh realities and complexities of life in Jamaica.  

“Dancer from the Dance” by Andrew Holleran  

When you live somewhere as wonderful as New York City, sometimes all you want to do is go on holiday in your own city. “Dancer from the Dance” captures the nostalgia for New York life in the 1970s perfectly.

“The Color Purple” by Alice Walker

Dreaming of iced tea and the warmth of both the Southern hospitality and hot weather? Award-winning classic “The Color Purple” is a coming of age period book. Sometimes, in times of intense stress, re-reading an old classic is an easy way to resubmerge into reading. 

“Understory” by Inga Simpson

Down under is currently as inaccessible as your ex, considering Australia’s international borders are closed. But just close your eyes and imagine; Inga Simpson’s novel “Understory” captures life in the Australian bush via the lens of the sub-tropical forest of the Sunshine Coast hinterland with vivid detail.

 “Under the Udala Trees” by Chinelo Okparanta 

Whether it’s a safari you were hoping for this year or you wished to visit the blossoming arts scene in Lagos, Chinelo Okparanta’s tale of coming out in the harsh light of 1960s Nigeria will transport you to with a story that is sad, beautiful, and full of promise. 

“The Salt Roads” by Nalo Hopkinson

Can’t decide where to holiday, even during the best of times? Well, Nalo Hopkinson’s “The Salt Roads” takes you on a journey to Paris, Haiti, and Egypt, so no need to choose. Just sit back, read, and be transported around the world.

“Everything Leads to You” by Nina Lacour

“Everything leads to You” promises everything that is Hollywood: love, mystery, and the silver screen. When you can’t visit the West Coast, this is the read for you.

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