Perfectly timed with the chilly temperatures approaching, below are some reads I highly recommend to queer women looking to see themselves in the pages of fiction (and non-queer women who want more realistic portrayals!). This all stems from an initial post in 2011, when I realized that when I was coming out in college, I would have loved to have a vetted book list. I was tired of trying books where one or both of the lesbians died, or books where the lesbian plot was so buried that it was just a homoerotic scene here or there.
So, I started noting books that had complex plots, nuanced portraits of lesbian relationships, contained not all white people, and/or had sexy depictions of women loving women that were not for straight men or to stoke LGBTQ's people internalized homophobia and transphobia.
And here we are with the latest list! As always, feel free to comment about any of these titles or suggest any others that you think and I and other readers should check out.
- "Ascension" by Jacqueline Koyanagi. Generally not a sci-fi reader, yet this book had me at "Alana Quick," the sexy-tough mechanic who works on starship engines and has fateful encounters with a new (female, duh) captain while trying to rescue Alana's sister. Refreshing that Alana is a black queer hero!
- "Ash" and "Huntress" by Malinda Lo. "Ash" is the stronger book of these two young adult Cinderella-lesbian-mash-up books. It's not too heavy-handed on the Cinderella tale which is good, and Lo has created really interesting roles in this medieval-ish world, such as "the King's Huntress" and all the traditions that come with it.
- "The Paying Guests" by Sarah Waters. Yeah, Waters knows how to unravel a good old-school (set in 1922) lesbian romantic tale. I like the realism of the ways that the women have to be underground but also the ways in which their presumed ineptness as "the weaker sex" can sometimes work in their favor.
- "The Price of Salt" by Claire Morgan (aka Patricia Highsmith). This is one of the best books I have ever read. I was completely riveted throughout this thin volume, written by the famed Highsmith (wrote "The Talented Mr. Ripley" and many others) under a pseudonym in 1952, since she couldn't risk her career by being identified as a lesbian. It's one of the very few books from this period that isn't about a tragic lesbian relationship, but rather details the challenging route a green saleswoman and a wealthy married society woman have to negotiate.
- "Sula" by Toni Morrison. This novel tracks the magnetic life-long relationship between Sula and her neighbor Nel. The two girls have great chemistry, but a tragic event divides them, and makes their reuniting as adults tense and complicated.
- "Rainbow Boys" by Alex Sanchez. Okay so this young adult series is really aimed at gay teens and men, but I absolutely love it. It's like "Sweet Valley High" for the gays. You get closeted dreamy jock Jason, dorky-hot Kyle who is in love with him, and out and proud Nelson who is the most free but also most harassed of the three. I kid you not, I was assigned this book for a class at Harvard. Thanks Professor Deckman, you rock!
The Book List Part I
The Book List Part II