The LGBT community - particularly in the Arab world - continues to face many challenges.  

Just recently, Egypt arrested at least 7 individuals who raised the rainbow flag during a rock concert. The incident took place in a September 22 performance by Lebanese indie rock band Mashrou' Leila, whose lead singer is openly gay.

But, despite the open decades-long hostility that has targeted the community, authors and activists have remained vocal. 

Here are 7 books penned by Arab authors that will give you more insight into the issues facing the LGBT community, the challenges, and the double lives they sometimes have to lead for fear of persecution. 

1. The Stone of Laughter by Hoda Barakat

The Stone of Laughter book cover, LGBT
The Stone of Laughter book cover Source: Goodreads

The Stone of Laughter was written in 1990 by Hoda Barakat. Set during the Lebanese civil war, the book's main character is Khalil, a gay man who loathes disorder and appreciates cleanliness. The story unravels as Khalil becomes associated with political parties and his love interest, Naji, and multiple friends die in the war.

The book won Barakat an Al-Naqid prize, a literary award, for being one of the first books by an Arab author to possess a lead homosexual character. 

2. An Arab Melancholia by Abdellah Taia

An Arab Melancholia book cover, LGBT,
An Arab Melancholia book cover Source: Goodreads

Abdellah Taia has become a household name in Morocco. When he publicly came out as gay, people demanded that authorities stone him.

Described by Interview Magazine as a "literary transgressor and cultural paragon," Taia's revolutionary autobiographical novel, An Arab Melancholia, revolves around the author's path towards self-acceptance as a bicultural gay man. 

Being an openly gay writer, and possibly the only openly gay Moroccan writer, Taia has become a beacon of hope for homosexual Arabs.

The book itself is definitely a page-turner for anyone interested in knowing more about the agony and frustration gay Arabs face daily.

3. In The Spider's Room by Mohamed Abdelnaby

In The Spider's Room book cover, LGBT, Arabic
In The Spider's Room book cover Source: Madamasr

In his book In The Spider's Room, Mohamed Abdelnaby assigns his protagonist, Hani Mahfouz, the task of narrating his own life.

Mahfouz, the gay son of a distant father and an overprotective mother, talks about the Egyptian gay community and the atrocities it faces. The book does include gay sex, but none as descriptive as the one where a young Mahfouz gets in a bathtub with his father. It's up to you to uncover the unforeseeable plot twist.

4. Cinnamon by Samar Yazbek

Cinnamon book cover, Samar Yazbek, LGBT, Arabic
Cinnamon book cover Source: Amazon UK

Winner of the Pinter International Writer of Courage Award in 2012, Samar Yazbek is a Syrian writer and journalist. 

In her 2008 book, Yazbek tells the story of Hanan, a wealthy woman, who comes face to face with her husband whom she despises. In a series of events, Hanan finds happiness in other women, including her domestic worker, Aliyah.  

Aliyah's age - a major controversial issue -  is revealed as the two ignite their sexual relationship. Aliyah appears to be even younger than Lolita, the protagonist in Vladimir Nabokov's novel. 

5. Guapa by Saleem Haddad

Guapa book cover, Saleem Haddad, Arabic, LGBT
Guapa book cover Source: Lambda Literary

Described as "an explosive debut" by The Guardian, and listed in Bookblast's Top 10 Reads for Independent Minds, Guapa is a novel written by Saleem Haddad in 2016. 

The novel, set over the course of 24 hours, explores the life of Rasa, a gay man living in an unnamed Arab country. He works as a translator and schedules nights when he can sneak his lover, Taymour, into his house. Unfortunately for Rasa, his grandmother catches him with his lover in bed. 

Ashamed to accost his teta and drowning in his own misery as it's his lover's wedding day, Rasa roams the streets and encounters new people. As the story reaches its peak, Rasa accepts the fact that society will never really embrace him. 

6. Koolaids by Rabih Alameddine

Koolaids book cover, Rabih Alameddine, LGBT, Arabic
Koolaids book cover Source: Rabih Alameddine

Holder of the 2017 Arab American Book Award and the 2014 California Book Award, Rabih Alameddine is one of the most mesmerizing contemporary Arab authors out there.

His book, Koolaids, remains one of the most poignant literary debuts. In his 1998 novel, Alameddine dives into the AIDS epidemic, the civil war in Beirut, death, sex, and the meaning of life. Using a unique approach, the Lebanese-American writer combines clips, vignettes, hallucinations, news reports, and conversations to deliver a magnificent book. 

Multiple queer characters appear, with the most memorable one being a possibly gay Tom Cruise.

It's worth noting that being an openly gay man, Alameddine almost always includes gay characters in his novels. Such is the case in The Hakawati and The Angel of History.

7. The Bride of Amman by Fadi Zaghmout

The Bride of Amman, book cover, Arabic, LGBT, Fadi Zaghmout
The Bride of Amman book cover Source: Arabic Literature (in English)

As its title discloses, The Bride of Amman is set in Jordan's capital city. Like most Muslim countries, Jordan has its fair share of societal restrictions, traditions, and taboos, particularly when it comes to the LGBT community. 

In his best-selling debut novel, Zaghmout challenges these restrictions, describing the lives of 4 women and a homosexual man. Rape, pedophilia, misogyny, abuse, sexuality, homophobia, religion, and freedom are the themes readers will stumble upon while flipping through the pages of this book.