All The Books in the T**get Pr*de C*ll*cti*n

Pride products in a shopping basket at Target in Napa, California.
Pride products at Target in Napa, California. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

by A. C. Howard

I have a love-hate relationship with the Target Pride Collection. On the one hand, I don’t want to say anything about it because Target is a multinational corporation and mega-brand. A cool punk anarchist wouldn’t even care about the TPC. In reality, I’m pretty interested in what Target Pride Collection access provides, especially for people in more rural or isolated parts of the country. That’s why in the last few years, the part of the TPC that I really follow is the books.


The curation of queer stories and the possibilities made available through this special collection is interesting to me. People who might not otherwise know where to begin—whether they’re questioning their own identity, looking for representation, or trying to understand someone in their life—could find these easily. It’s unlikely Target is going to include anything sufficiently radical to call for its own demise as an institution, but queer stories have a lot of radical potential; so what might slip through the cracks? What has enough literary, celebrity, or critical clout to merit inclusion? Why is Trixie and Katya’s Guide to Modern Womanhood the thumbnail image for "LGBTQIA+ Family Resources and Wellbeing"?

I have not been to Target in person to check out which books are available in store, either. I skimmed all 50 pages of the books included on the corporation’s website as part of the Pride Collection. While I skim, I think about Little Camille, 14 years old and two hours away from the nearest Target, not especially comfortable with their gender but not yet aware of any other options, either. And I wonder what might have happened had I been skimming these selections.

Here’s what I noticed…

General Findings:

Of course, there are a lot of celebrity memoirs in the TPC Book List, as well as many books that have been subsequently adapted into films. But I was also pleasantly surprised by the fact that the bulk of the collection appeared to be queer, trashy romance novels. As a devoted fan of the documentary Love Between the Covers, I think romance novels can fill an important part of people’s lives, and I’m glad that part of life gets to be gay here.

There are also a lot of general resource books about queerness in the workplace; memoirs from straight parents’ perspectives on having queer, gay, or trans children; and transition memoirs. There are also lots of children’s books about being nonbinary :)

A lot of books seem to be written for cis, straight audiences, but those books don’t really start showing up until you’re about eight pages deep into the TPC’s fifty-page collection.

How you Browse Matters:

The best way to explore the Target Pride Collection is, at the risk of sounding self-evident, to skim through all 50 pages of the available books. It took me a few sittings to get through everything, but this was how I found the most radical, interesting, and international works included. There are stories from tons of different perspectives and walks of life; you just have to dig around for them.

The TPC also has six sub-headers at the top of the page that appear to be curated sections, but they’re rarely comprehensive. For example, I found A Safe Girl to Love while skimming the general catalog, but not in the “Amplifying Transgender Voices” section, so don’t always trust the headers.

Most Exciting Selections...

...I Have Read:

It’s great to see the array of trans books that are included: the reissue of Nevada by Imogen Binnie is particularly exciting, both because it’s my personally-favorite novel, and because in the right hands, I think that book can do a lot of good. For similar reasons, it’s great to see Manhunt by Gretchen Felker-Martin available through Target. It was an unmitigated hit that explores some of the scarier aspects of being trans in the United States right now with a really over-the-top, often cathartic horror aesthetic.

I was also thrilled to see that Rust Belt Femme by Raechel Anne Jolie is included. This book was absolutely huge for me—enormous—and is all about her life as a queer person, absorbing all the available information about gender growing up outside of Cleveland, Ohio, and getting pretty far into life understanding herself as a straight girl. I first heard about it on Season of the Bitch.

...I Haven’t Read:

A great collection of history books are available, and quite a few about ACT UP. I’m currently reading Let the Record Show, by Sarah Schulman; it’s a strategic political analysis of a social movement and a genuinely radical selection. Also included are It was Beautiful and it was Vulgar by Jack Lowrey, about arts activism and ACT UP, and several AIDS memoirs by white, gay men. There’s also Trumpet, by Jackie Kay, which is about Black trans jazz musician Joss Moody, and The Stonewall Reader.

The graphic novel The Third Person by Emma Grove is also included, which comes highly recommended (to me) by Jacob at Hello Hello Books in Rockland, Maine. This memoir follows a trans woman trying to get approval from her therapist to go on HRT; but the therapist, who is also trans, withholds approval. This book seems to be on the road to becoming a classic, and I’m glad to see greater access to complicated stories about the mental health industrial complex’ role in trans life. There is also a book called, Yes, You are Trans Enough, by Mia Violet, which sounds really promising.

There were works of fiction, poetry, and nonfiction from all over the world, and it’s very cool to see so many queer perspectives showcased from outside of the US. Notes of a Crocodile by Qiu Miaojin is there, and I’m very eager to check it out based on a recommendation from the LA Review of Books podcast. Also Catcalling, a poetry collection by Soho Lee, that explores some Korean experiences from the #MeToo era. Salt Fish Girl, by Larissa Lai sounds like an exciting take on the queer eternal, and Love Is an Ex-Country by Randa Jarrar explores being “Fat, Black, and Muslim” on a cross-country road trip in the United States.

My favorite chaotic picks are a young adult romance novel called Hot Dog Girl, by Jennifer Dugan, and a book called Strays: The True Story of a Lost Cat, a Homeless Man, and Their Journey Across America by Britt Collins. I’m unsure how the latter is connected to LGBTQ+ themes, but the premise sounds pretty solid.

Lastly, Carmen Maria Machado’s In the Dream House is on the list. This is unsurprising, given the book’s widespread success, but it’s still meaningful to have a book that explores queer domestic violence and abuse available to such a wide audience.

Books I Wish Were Included:

Considering the audience available to Target, there are a few books I hope they’ll include next year. If they’re invested in using their platform to support queer people in mainstream culture, and create more space for our lives in the lives of everyday people, then I think including these titles in their stock would go a long way.

Natural Mother of the Child by Krys Malcolm Belc is an incredibly poignant, formally expansive memoir about nonbinary pregnancy and parenthood that cut me to my core. While you can get a copy of Trystan Reese’s memoir How We Do Family, Belc’s memoir is my horse in this race. I’m especially familiar with a broad range of transmasculine authors, so it also really stood out to me that Amateur by Thomas Paige McBee is not in the TPC (I prefer his Man Alive, but Amateur is his Masculinity 101 book). If Target really wanted to fully send their queer collection, I think they should include the truly liberatory Life Isn’t Binary by Alex Iantaffi and Meg-John Barker.

While you can buy the script for the musical of Fun Home, the original comic memoir by Alison Bechdel does not appear to be a part of the collection, which seems like an obvious oversight. In general, the TPC doesn’t have a ton of what I might consider “the classics”—Susan Stryker’s Transgender History, Rita Mae Brown’s Rubyfruit Jungle—unless they’ve already been made into films.

Lastly (although of all my unlikely suggestions, I’d be most surprised if Target ever made this title available), I’d suggest Jackie Ess’s Darrylif the TPC has room for a book by Dennis Cooper, then there’s plenty of room for Ess’s irreverent debut, about a man who discovers new internal dimensions after he and his wife get into cuck stuff.In summation…

If you’re looking for a fiction book to bring along in your backpack this summer, a gift for the questioning tween in your life, or something friendly to give your mom so that she stops misgendering your sibling, then the TPC has something for you. Maybe you can use it to browse for some selections, and then buy most of the books from your favorite local, queer owned bookshop.

A.C. Howard is a writer and zine maker who lives on Wabanaki land. They write the newsletter If you liked this piece and want to leave them a tip, their Venmo is @Adrea-Howard. They will spend it on books.