Sapphic Summer Reads: 21 Bi & Lesbian Books Perfect for the Beach!

Sapphic Summer Reads: 21 Bi & Lesbian Books Perfect for the Beach!

Everyone seems to have a slightly different perspective of what a beach read or summer read is. To me, it’s a book that is absorbing, but not too emotionally or intellectually demanding. It’s something that will suck you in when you pick it up, but you can also put it down to run into the waves and not be lost when you come back to it. The definitions for “summer read” and “beach read” vary a lot, though, and there don’t seem to be a lot of resources for bi and lesbian summer reads, so I’m making one myself!

Of course, despite all the debates about what makes a bi or lesbian beach read, a book that is actually set during the summer is a bonus! Here are some of the books that I’ve read that I think are perfect for beach reading:

YA and Middle Grade:

This Is What It Feels Like by Rebecca BarrowThis is What it Feels Like by Rebecca Barrow

This is less fluffy than most of this list, but, honestly, the cover alone of this one makes me happy. Dia, Jules, and Hanna used to be inseparable, and they played in a band together. Meanwhile, Dia’s boyfriend, who she was just starting to get close with, was killed in a car accident. Weeks after the funeral, Dia finds out she’s pregnant and decides to keep the baby. Hanna and Dia walk away from each other, and Jules sides with Dia. Now, their city is holding a music competition that includes a $15,000 prize, and they just might have a chance to win it–but it means getting the band back together.

As you could guess from that description, there is definitely seriousness here, but it’s also about friendship, and a budding adorable F/F relationship. Also, there’s an adorable toddler who is a fan of a dog named Waffles, so what more could you want? Despite their hardships, this is an optimistic and beautiful book.

Check out my full review here.

Drum Roll, Please by Lisa Jenn Bigelow coverDrum Roll, Please by Lisa Jenn Bigelow

This is a middle grade book that takes place at summer camp, so it makes for a perfect summer read. It’s about music and friendship and divorce and growing up and crushes, but mostly it’s just about Melly finding herself and being true to herself.

I loved reading about this tiny clueless bisexual’s first foray into crushing on a girl. She gets butterflies in her stomach, and then: “I looked at her hard, trying to understand. But I wasn’t sure what I was looking for, so how was I supposed to recognize it when I saw it?”

Check out my full review here.

Hot Dog Girl by Jennifer DuganHot Dog Girl by Jennifer Dugan

The cover, title, and blurb of this makes it seem like it will be pure fluff, but be warned that it does come with a fair share of angst. It’s so summer-y, though, that I couldn’t leave it off this lsit!

Lou is gearing up for The Best Summer Ever, and even being cast as the hot dog at her summer carnival job doesn’t break her stride. Sure, her crush is literally dating the Princess of the park, but she’s got a plan to snag this diving pirate for herself. And as for the apparent closing of the park, which has been one of the few constants in her life, she is determined to find a way to save it. When she ropes her best friend, Seeley, into fake dating her, Lou is surprised to find that her various schemes aren’t going exactly to plan…

This turns into a fake dating love pentagon with a slowburn F/F friends-to-lovers romance. Hot Dog Girl is a queer YA romcom that makes for a perfect summer read.

Check out my full review here.

You Know Me Well by Nina LaCour and David LevithanYou Know Me Well by Nina LaCour and David Levithan

You Know Me Well takes place during Pride! Mark and Kate both go to the same high school and are both gay, but they don’t know anything about each other until they meet by chance at a bar during Pride. After their chance meeting, they become the other’s main source of support and guidance during a pivotal point in their lives.

I love this story of friendship and change. Probably my favourite thing to read about is queer community, so this one made me feel warm & fuzzy.

Check out my full review here.

Going Off Script by Jen WildeGoing Off Script by Jen Wilde

Jen Wilde’s books are my go-to for queer, escapist, fluffy, fun reads. Going Off Script is about a teenager who gets an internship at her favourite TV show. Her boss is a jerk, and when she writes a script to try to prove her worth, he takes it as his own, and straight-washes the lesbian character.

This is a real celebration of queer fandom, and it ends up being a very fluffy, geek revenge fantasy, as the queer actors and fandom team up to take down the homophobic showrunner. There’s a huge queer community in this book, which makes any homophobia not sting as much. If you’re a queer geek, definitely pick this one up.

Check out my full (video) review here.

Romance:

My Lady's Choosing by Kitty CurranMy Lady’s Choosing: An Interactive Romance Novel by Kitty Curran and Larissa Zageris

Imagine reading a M/F romance novel: you’re plodding along, all the love interests have been introduced, and your friend (with whom you clearly have more chemistry than with the dudes) throws out that, hey, if you want, you can travel to Egypt with her instead. You reach that point in the book and sigh. Image if she had taken her up on that! Imagine if instead of heading to the drafty castle or trading quips with the asshole rich guy, you just skipped town and went on an Egyptian adventure instead! Only this time, you can!

Most of the storylines you can choose from in this interactive romance novel are tongue-in-cheek takes on classic romances, including a Gothic Jane Eyre-esque plot line, or more of a Pride and Prejudice angle, but the F/F storyline is totally original: search for an artifact stolen from an Egyptian museum, and encounter your lady love interest’s angry ex-girlfriend! Maybe end up in a lesbian pirate gang! (Yes, you can do that. Definitely try to get to that point.) As an added bonus, I enjoyed this so much that I even went back and read the M/F plots. That’s how good this is.

Check out my full review here.

Knit One, Girl Two by Shira Glassman cover. It shows an illustration of two women kissing and a cat playing with yarn.Knit One, Girl Two by Shira Glassman

Shira Glassman’s books are a paragon of queer joy. This is a cute, mostly fluffy story that has a wide appeal: Jewish readers, queer ladies (including bi women), and artists will all find aspects that have special interest to them. It was also nice to read about a fat love interest. This definitely felt like a “slice of life” story. It’s realistic, and as if you’re just being dropped into a short period of these people’s lives, but the characters seem to live outside the words on the page, as well.

This isn’t entirely a traditional romance novella: there is a romance, but it’s just as much about Clara and Danielle’s art, or their relationships with their siblings, or their shared love of fandom. If you’re looking for a quick, light, but satisfying read, pick this one up!

Check out my full review here.

Bearly a Lady by Cassandra KhawBearly a Lady by Cassandra Khaw

I was sold immediately when I heard “Bisexual werebear novella.” The book opens with Zelda irritated that her transformation into a bear is continually destroying her wardrobe. She works for a fashion magazine, so she doesn’t take this lightly.

This is such a fun, light read. It’s quippy and snarky and smart, and because it’s only just over 100 pages, it moves quickly. The romances are mostly M/F, but the most significant relationship is F/F. Bisexual werebear novella!

Check out my full review here.

Roller Girl by Vanessa NorthRoller Girl by Vanessa North

Roller Girl follows Tina, a trans woman who has recently divorced as well as retiring as a professional athlete. She’s adrift. So when she gets invited to play on the local roller derby team, she jumps at the opportunity. And it doesn’t hurt that the coach is a swoonworthy butch woman. They are drawn to each other, but Joe doesn’t want to endanger the team by admitting to dating a teammate, and Tina doesn’t want to stay a secret forever.

This is a quick, fun read with steamy sex scenes!

Check out my full review here.

Comics:

Space Battle Lunchtime Vol 1Space Battle Lunchtime Volumes 1 & 2 by Natalie Riess

This comic is an all-ages queer women comic about a competitive cooking show… in space. What could be better?? Peony agrees to be in a competitive cooking show, only to be transported onto the spaceship it’s being filmed on. That’s when she realizes that this isn’t space-themed, it’s literally in outer space. But she takes the existence of aliens in stride, and concentrates on the competition. And, okay, maybe one of the cute alien contestants.

I highly, highly recommend reading volume 1 & 2 back to back, because they really are one complete story. This is such a joyful book!

Check out my full review here.

Lumberjanes Vol 1Lumberjanes by Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, and Shannon Watters

This one gets bonus summer points for following a group of girls at summer camp! Where they get into fantastical adventures. The strongest part of the series is the dynamic between the 5 main characters. They all have different personalities, strengths, fears, priorities, etc, but they are a tightly-knit group. They support each other. And we get to see each one spotlighted at some point.

This is also a diverse cast, including multiple trans characters, and two of the girls start dating. This is a fun series to read as an adult, but I’m especially glad it exists for kids and teens. The main characters are different ages and also a little ambiguous, so this really works as a recommendation for 9 and up, I’d say. And it’s still going!

Check out my full review here.

I Married My Best Friend to Shut My Parents Up by Naoko KodamaI Married My Best Friend to Shut My Parents Up by Naoko Kodama

This short, standalone manga is about a fake marriage: Morimoto is sick of being constantly set up by her parents. Her friend Hana suggests that they get married to shut them up.

Unsurprisingly, Hana and Morimoto’s relationship changes as they live together. Morimoto also finds new confidence in herself: she is inspired by Hana, by her dedication to her passion (art) and her defiance in being unapologetically out. It was gratifying to see an out character, one who even uses the word “lesbian,” in the pages of a yuri manga. This has all of the appeal that yuri manga usually has for me: it’s a quick, absorbing, and adorable read. But it adds more depth and realism than I expect from this genre. It had me absolutely grinning as I read it.

Check out my full review here.

Girl Friends Vol 1Girl Friends: The Complete Collection by Milk Morinaga

This seems to the quintessential yuri series:  It’s school girls, and a lot of blushing, and the typical “girls don’t do this” heteronormativity. I read this in the omnibus, and talk about a slow burn! This is almost 500 pages, and mostly just about Mariko making a new friend, falling in love with her, and then (much later) realizing that she’s fallen in love with her.

Girl Friends is super cute, but with the melodrama of agonizing over a crush on a girl. This is a fun, quick, addictive read.

Check out my review of volume 1 and volume 2.

Bonus:

A bonus recommendation for a book that I love that has summer in the title, but is definitely darker than most of this list:

The Summer We Got Free by Mia MckenzieThe Summer We Got Free by Mia McKenzie

This is a beautiful, haunting book about family, and when the history you’ve been running from finally catches up with you. When we meet Ava, she is closed off and practical. Through flashbacks, we meet her vibrant, unrestrainable childhood self–what happened to take her from that to this is the central question of the story. Everything comes to a head when Ava finds herself kissing a woman she doesn’t know on the front porch (while her husband, unknowing, waits inside).

Read this at your kitchen table on a hot summer’s night, as the humidity envelops you, and you feel the crackle in the air of a thunderstorm just about to happen.

Check out my full review here.

For even more fluffy sapphic books, check out 25+ Happy Sapphic Books to Make You Feel Warm & Fuzzy.

Summer Reads On My TBR:

So those are some of my recommendations, but it’s far from a complete list! Here are a few books on my TBR that looks like perfect summer reads, with the publisher’s blurbs.

The Summer of Impossibilities by Rachael AllenThe Summer of Impossibilities by Rachael Allen

Four girls. One summer. And a pact to do the impossible.

Skyler, Ellie, Scarlett, and Amelia Grace are forced to spend the summer at the lake house where their moms became best friends.
One can’t wait.
One would rather gnaw off her own arm than hang out with a bunch of strangers just so their moms can drink too much wine and sing Journey at two o’clock in the morning.
Two are sisters.
Three are currently feuding with their mothers.
One is hiding how bad her joint pain has gotten.
All of them are hiding something.
One falls in love with a boy she thought she despised.
One almost sets her crush on fire with a flaming marshmallow.
One has a crush that could change everything.
None of them are the same at the end of the summer.

Kings Queens and In-Betweens by Tanya BotejuKings Queens and In-Betweens by Tanya Boteju

Judy Blume meets RuPaul’s Drag Race in this funny, feel-good debut novel about a queer teen who navigates questions of identity and self-acceptance while discovering the magical world of drag.

Perpetually awkward Nima Kumara-Clark is bored with her insular community of Bridgeton, in love with her straight girlfriend, and trying to move past her mother’s unexpected departure. After a bewildering encounter at a local festival, Nima finds herself suddenly immersed in the drag scene on the other side of town.

Macho drag kings, magical queens, new love interests, and surprising allies propel Nima both painfully and hilariously closer to a self she never knew she could be—one that can confidently express and accept love. But she’ll have to learn to accept lost love to get there.

From debut author Tanya Boteju comes a poignant, laugh-out-loud tale of acceptance, self-expression, and the colorful worlds that await when we’re brave enough to look.

You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah JohnsonYou Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson

Liz Lighty has always believed she’s too black, too poor, too awkward to shine in her small, rich, prom-obsessed midwestern town. But it’s okay — Liz has a plan that will get her out of Campbell, Indiana, forever: attend the uber-elite Pennington College, play in their world-famous orchestra, and become a doctor.

But when the financial aid she was counting on unexpectedly falls through, Liz’s plans come crashing down . . . until she’s reminded of her school’s scholarship for prom king and queen. There’s nothing Liz wants to do less than endure a gauntlet of social media trolls, catty competitors, and humiliating public events, but despite her devastating fear of the spotlight she’s willing to do whatever it takes to get to Pennington.

The only thing that makes it halfway bearable is the new girl in school, Mack. She’s smart, funny, and just as much of an outsider as Liz. But Mack is also in the running for queen. Will falling for the competition keep Liz from her dreams . . . or make them come true?

I'll Be the One by Lyla LeeI’ll Be the One by Lyla Lee

The world of K-Pop has never met a star like this. Debut author Lyla Lee delivers a deliciously fun, thoughtful rom-com celebrating confidence and body positivity—perfect for fans of Jenny Han and Julie Murphy.

Skye Shin has heard it all. Fat girls shouldn’t dance. Wear bright colors. Shouldn’t call attention to themselves. But Skye dreams of joining the glittering world of K-Pop, and to do that, she’s about to break all the rules that society, the media, and even her own mother, have set for girls like her.

She’ll challenge thousands of other performers in an internationally televised competition looking for the next K-pop star, and she’ll do it better than anyone else.

When Skye nails her audition, she’s immediately swept into a whirlwind of countless practices, shocking performances, and the drama that comes with reality TV. What she doesn’t count on are the highly fat-phobic beauty standards of the Korean pop entertainment industry, her sudden media fame and scrutiny, or the sparks that soon fly with her fellow competitor, Henry Cho.

But Skye has her sights on becoming the world’s first plus-sized K-pop star, and that means winning the competition—without losing herself.

When You Get the Chance by Tom Ryan and Robin StevensonWhen You Get the Chance by Tom Ryan and Robin Stevenson

Follow cousins on a road trip to Pride as they dive into family secrets and friendships in this contemporary YA novel — perfect for fans of David Levithan and Becky Albertalli.

As kids, Mark and his cousin Talia spent many happy summers together at the family cottage in Ontario, but a fight between their parents put an end to the annual event. Living on opposite coasts — Mark in Halifax and Talia in Victoria — they haven’t seen each other in years. When their grandfather dies unexpectedly, Mark and Talia find themselves reunited at the cottage once again, cleaning it out while the family decides what to do with it.

Mark and Talia are both queer, but they soon realize that’s about all they have in common, other than the fact that they’d both prefer to be in Toronto. Talia is desperate to see her high school sweetheart Erin, who’s barely been in touch since leaving to spend the summer working at a coffee shop in the Gay Village. Mark, on the other hand, is just looking for some fun, and Toronto Pride seems like the perfect place to find it.

When a series of complications throws everything up in the air, Mark and Talia — with Mark’s little sister Paige in tow — decide to hit the road for Toronto. With a bit of luck, and some help from a series of unexpected new friends, they might just make it to the big city and find what they’re looking for. That is, if they can figure out how to start seeing things through each other’s eyes.

[May 4, 2021]

This Is All Your Fault by Aminah Mae SafiThis Is All Your Fault by Aminah Mae Safi

Set over the course of one day, Aminah Mae Safi’s This Is All Your Fault is a smart and voice-driven YA novel that follows three young women determined to save their indie bookstore.

Rinn Olivera is finally going to tell her longtime crush AJ that she’s in love with him.

Daniella Korres writes poetry for her own account, but nobody knows it’s her.

Imogen Azar is just trying to make it through the day.

When Rinn, Daniella, and Imogen clock into work at Wild Nights Bookstore on the first day of summer, they’re expecting the hours to drift by the way they always do. Instead, they have to deal with the news that the bookstore is closing. Before the day is out, there’ll be shaved heads, a diva author, and a very large shipment of Air Jordans to contend with.

And it will take all three of them working together if they have any chance to save Wild Nights Bookstore.

[October 13, 2020]

The Summer of Jordi PerezThe Summer of Jordi Perez (and the Best Burger in Los Angeles) by Amy Spalding

Seventeen, fashion-obsessed, and gay, Abby Ives has always been content playing the sidekick in other people’s lives. While her friends and sister have plunged headfirst into the world of dating and romances, Abby’s been happy to focus on her plus-size style blog and her dreams of taking the fashion industry by storm. When she lands a great internship at her favorite boutique, she’s thrilled to take the first step toward her dream career. Then she falls for her fellow intern, Jordi Perez. Hard. And now she’s competing against the girl she’s kissing to win the coveted paid job at the end of the internship.

But really, nothing this summer is going as planned. She also unwittingly becomes friends with Jax, a lacrosse playing bro-type who wants her help finding the best burger in Los Angeles, and she’s struggling to prove to her mother—the city’s celebrity health nut—that she’s perfectly content with who she is.

Just as Abby starts to feel like she’s no longer the sidekick in her own life, Jordi’s photography surprisingly puts her in the spotlight. Instead of feeling like she’s landed a starring role, Abby feels betrayed. Can Abby find a way to reconcile her positive yet private sense of self with the image others have of her?

Honor Girl by Maggie ThrashHonor Girl by Maggie Thrash

All-girl camp. First love. First heartbreak. At once romantic and devastating, brutally honest and full of humor, this graphic-novel memoir is a debut of the rarest sort.

Maggie Thrash has spent basically every summer of her fifteen-year-old life at the one-hundred-year-old Camp Bellflower for Girls, set deep in the heart of Appalachia. She’s from Atlanta, she’s never kissed a guy, she’s into Backstreet Boys in a really deep way, and her long summer days are full of a pleasant, peaceful nothing . . . until one confounding moment. A split-second of innocent physical contact pulls Maggie into a gut-twisting love for an older, wiser, and most surprising of all (at least to Maggie), female counselor named Erin. But Camp Bellflower is an impossible place for a girl to fall in love with another girl, and Maggie’s savant-like proficiency at the camp’s rifle range is the only thing keeping her heart from exploding. When it seems as if Erin maybe feels the same way about Maggie, it’s too much for both Maggie and Camp Bellflower to handle, let alone to understand.

Let me know in the comments what your favourite bi and lesbian summer reads are! You might also want to check out Autostraddle’s 8 Summer Affair Books featuring Lesbian and Bisexual Women and on the Lesbrary, Kathryn Hoss Recommends Lesbian Beach Reads.

Support the Lesbrary on Patreon to get queer books in the mail throughout the year!

42 Bi & Lesbian Books Out in July!

July Sapphic New Releases cover collage

Young Adult:

I Kissed Alice by Anna BirchI Kissed Alice by Anna Birch

For fans of Leah on the Offbeat and Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me, Anna Birch’s I Kissed Alice is a romantic comedy about enemies, lovers, and everything in between.

Rhodes and Iliana couldn’t be more different, but that’s not why they hate each other.

Rhodes, a gifted artist, has always excelled at Alabama’s Conservatory of the Arts (until she’s hit with a secret bout of creator’s block), while Iliana, a transfer student, tries to outshine everyone with her intense, competitive work ethic. Since only one of them can get the coveted Capstone scholarship, the competition between them is fierce.

They both escape the pressure on a fanfic site where they are unknowingly collaborating on a webcomic. And despite being worst enemies in real life, their anonymous online identities I-Kissed-Alice and Curious-in-Cheshire are starting to like each other… a lot. When the truth comes out, will they destroy each other’s future?

Melt My Heart by Bethany RutterMelt My Heart by Bethany Rutter

Lily Rose is used to people paying attention to her gorgeous twin sister, Daisy. But even though Lily loves her own fat body, she can’t shake the idea that no one would ever choose her over Daisy – not when they could have the thin twin.

That is, until she meets Cal, the gorgeous, sweet guy from New Zealand who can’t seem to stay away. The gorgeous, sweet guy who also happens to be Daisy’s summer crush. Lily can’t seem to figure out why she isn’t as into him as she should be. She should be head-over-heels in love, not missing time at the ice-cream shack with her life-long best friend, Cassie. Not wondering what Cassie is getting up to with Cal’s friend Jack, or what she’s thinking about when they’re alone . . .

With University threatening to tear Cassie and Lily apart at the end of summer, trying to keep Cal a secret from Daisy and a growing right-wing threat disturbing the usual quiet of their pleasant seaside town, Lily’s summer is set to be far from relaxing.

Melt My Heart is a hilarious and inspiring coming-of-age YA novel from Bethany Rutter: influencer, editor and a fierce UK voice in the debate around body positivity.

[bisexual main character]

You're Next by Kylie SchachteYou’re Next by Kylie Schachte (YA Thriller)

Flora Calhoun has a reputation for sticking her nose where it doesn’t belong. After stumbling upon a classmate’s body years ago, the trauma of that discovery and the police’s failure to find the killer has haunted her ever since. One night, she gets a midnight text from Ava McQueen, the beautiful girl who had ignited Flora’s heart last summer, then never spoke to her again.

Just in time to witness Ava’s death from a gunshot wound, Flora is set on a path of rage and vengeance for all the dead girls whose killer is never found. Her tunnel-visioned sleuthing leads to valuable clues about a shocking conspiracy involving her school and beyond, but also earns her sinister threats from the murderer. She has a choice: give up the hunt for answers, or keep digging and risk her loved ones’ lives. Either way, Flora will regret the consequences. Who’s next on the killer’s list?

Burn Our Bodies Down by Rory PowerBurn Our Bodies Down by Rory Power (YA Horror)

Ever since Margot was born, it’s been just her and her mother. No answers to Margot’s questions about what came before. No history to hold on to. No relative to speak of. Just the two of them, stuck in their run-down apartment, struggling to get along.

But that’s not enough for Margot. She wants family. She wants a past. And she just found the key she needs to get it: A photograph, pointing her to a town called Phalene. Pointing her home. Only, when Margot gets there, it’s not what she bargained for.

Margot’s mother left for a reason. But was it to hide her past? Or was it to protect Margot from what’s still there?

The only thing Margot knows for sure is there’s poison in their family tree, and their roots are dug so deeply into Phalene that now that she’s there, she might never escape.

[sapphic main character]

Faith: Taking Flight by Julie MurphyFaith: Taking Flight by Julie Murphy (YA Superhero)

Faith Herbert is a pretty regular teen. When she’s not hanging out with her two best friends, Matt and Ches, she’s volunteering at the local animal shelter or obsessing over the long-running teen drama The Grove.

So far, her senior year has been spent trying to sort out her feelings for her maybe-crush Johnny and making plans to stay close to Grandma Lou after graduation. Of course, there’s also that small matter of recently discovering she can fly….

When the fictional world of The Grove crashes into Faith’s reality as the show relocates to her town, she can’t believe it when TV heroine Dakota Ash takes a romantic interest in her.

But her fandom-fueled daydreams aren’t enough to distract Faith from the fact that first animals, then people, have begun to vanish from the town. Only Faith seems able to connect the dots to a new designer drug infiltrating her high school.

But when her investigation puts the people she loves in danger, she will have to confront her hidden past and use her newfound gifts—risking everything to save her friends and beloved town.

Young Adult Fantasy:

Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa BashardoustGirl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust

Melissa Bashardoust’s Girl, Serpent, Thorn is “an alluring feminist fairy tale” (Kirkus Reviews) about a girl cursed to be poisonous to the touch and who discovers what power might lie in such a curse.

There was and there was not, as all stories begin, a princess cursed to be poisonous to the touch. But for Soraya, who has lived her life hidden away, apart from her family, safe only in her gardens, it’s not just a story.

As the day of her twin brother’s wedding approaches, Soraya must decide if she’s willing to step outside of the shadows for the first time. Below in the dungeon is a demon who holds knowledge that she craves, the answer to her freedom. And above is a young man who isn’t afraid of her, whose eyes linger not with fear, but with an understanding of who she is beneath the poison.

Soraya thought she knew her place in the world, but when her choices lead to consequences she never imagined, she begins to question who she is and who she is becoming…human or demon. Princess or monster.

[bisexual main character]

Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn BayronCinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayron

Girls team up to overthrow the kingdom in this unique and powerful retelling of Cinderella from a stunning new voice that’s perfect for fans of A Curse So Dark and Lonely.

It’s 200 years after Cinderella found her prince, but the fairy tale is over. Teen girls are now required to appear at the Annual Ball, where the men of the kingdom select wives based on a girl’s display of finery. If a suitable match is not found, the girls not chosen are never heard from again.

Sixteen-year-old Sophia would much rather marry Erin, her childhood best friend, than parade in front of suitors. At the ball, Sophia makes the desperate decision to flee, and finds herself hiding in Cinderella’s mausoleum. There, she meets Constance, the last known descendant of Cinderella and her step sisters. Together they vow to bring down the king once and for all–and in the process, they learn that there’s more to Cinderella’s story than they ever knew . . .

This fresh take on a classic story will make readers question the tales they’ve been told, and root for girls to break down the constructs of the world around them.

A Wicked Magic by Sasha LaurensA Wicked Magic by Sasha Laurens

Dan and Liss are witches. The Black Book granted them that power. Harnessing that power feels good, especially when everything in their lives makes them feel powerless.

During a spell gone wrong, Liss’s boyfriend is snatched away by an evil entity and presumed dead. Dan and Liss’s friendship dies that night, too. How can they practice magic after the darkness that they conjured?

Months later, Liss discovers that her boyfriend is alive, trapped underground in the grips of an ancient force. She must save him, and she needs Dan and the power of The Black Book to do so. Dan is quickly sucked back into Liss’s orbit and pushes away her best friend, Alexa. But Alexa has some big secrets she’s hiding and her own unique magical disaster to deal with.

When another teenager disappears, the girls know it’s no coincidence. What greedy magic have they awakened? And what does it want with these teens it has stolen?

Set in the atmospheric wilds of California’s northern coast, Sasha Laurens’s thrilling debut novel is about the complications of friendship, how to take back power, and how to embrace the darkness that lives within us all.

[Alexa is bisexual]

The Green Ray of the Sun by Reinhardt Suarez

The summer after riding shotgun on the nerdiest odyssey this side of the Pecos, plucky misanthrope Ryland Taggart finds herself on a Tuscan farm assisting her dangerously impractical botany professor investigate a rash of unexplained crop failures. They find more than they were prepared for when Ryland begins to get nightly visits from the ghost of 19th-century bandit-king, Domenico Tiburzi, pleading with her to save the land.

Si deve seguire il raggio verde, he implores. You must follow the green ray.

When she is given an 1883 edition of Jules Verne’s The Green Ray accompanied by a photo of an unnamed woman, Ryland takes up Tiburzi’s challenge and embarks on a cross-European quest to uncover the farm’s mysterious past. But can she escape the ghosts at her heels—both the mostly dead kind and the phantoms woven from her own regrets—long enough to find how the farm’s destiny is entwined with her own?

[lesbian main character]

Ghost Wood Song by Erica WatersGhost Wood Song by Erica Waters

Sawkill Girls meets Beautiful Creatures in this lush and eerie debut, where the boundary between reality and nightmares is as thin as the veil between the living and the dead. 

If I could have a fiddle made of Daddy’s bones, I’d play it. I’d learn all the secrets he kept.

Shady Grove inherited her father’s ability to call ghosts from the grave with his fiddle, but she also knows the fiddle’s tunes bring nothing but trouble and darkness.

But when her brother is accused of murder, she can’t let the dead keep their secrets.

In order to clear his name, she’s going to have to make those ghosts sing.

Family secrets, a gorgeously resonant LGBTQ love triangle, and just the right amount of creepiness make this young adult debut a haunting and hopeful story about facing everything that haunts us in the dark.

[bisexual main character]

The Shadow of Kyoshi by F. C. YeeThe Shadow of Kyoshi by F. C. Yee

The epic, can’t-miss follow-up to the New York Times bestselling Avatar, The Last Airbender:The Rise of Kyoshi

Kyoshi’s place as the true Avatar has finally been cemented—but at a heavy cost. With her mentors gone, Kyoshi voyages across the Four Nations, struggling to keep the peace. But while her reputation grows, a mysterious threat emerges from the Spirit World. To stop it, Kyoshi, Rangi, and their reluctant allies must join forces before the Four Nations are destroyed irreparably. This thrilling follow-up continues Kyoshi’s journey from a girl of humble origins to the merciless pursuer of justice still feared and admired centuries after becoming the Avatar.

[bisexual main character]

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Fiction & Mystery:

The Pull of the Stars by Emma DonoghueThe Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue

In Dublin, 1918, a maternity ward at the height of the Great Flu is a small world of work, risk, death, and unlooked-for love, in “Donoghue’s best novel since Room” (Kirkus Reviews)

In an Ireland doubly ravaged by war and disease, Nurse Julia Power works at an understaffed hospital in the city center, where expectant mothers who have come down with the terrible new Flu are quarantined together. Into Julia’s regimented world step two outsiders — Doctor Kathleen Lynn, a rumoured Rebel on the run from the police , and a young volunteer helper, Bridie Sweeney.

In the darkness and intensity of this tiny ward, over three days, these women change each other’s lives in unexpected ways. They lose patients to this baffling pandemic, but they also shepherd new life into a fearful world. With tireless tenderness and humanity, carers and mothers alike somehow do their impossible work.

In The Pull of the Stars, Emma Donoghue once again finds the light in the darkness in this new classic of hope and survival against all odds.

[f/f relationship]

The Feasting Virgin by Georgia KoliasThe Feasting Virgin by Georgia Kolias

Xeni is a first-generation Greek American, raised in the Greek Orthodox faith, and trained in all the essential skills of a traditional Greek housewife. She knows how to make any Greek dish scrumptious, but the one recipe she hasn’t mastered is how to make a baby―by virgin birth. Xeni is a lesbian and struggles daily to resolve what she wants with what doesn’t―praying for a miracle.

Meanwhile, free-spirited Callie, who ended up with a baby conceived during a boozy one-night stand, is trying to bridge a cultural divide with Gus, her Greek American baby daddy, by learning to cook just like his mother. When Xeni spots Callie in the produce aisle selecting limp spinach and tofu for spanakopita, she’s compelled to offer her assistance. After all, food can create miracles, and they both need one.

With undeniable chemistry from their first cooking lesson, Xeni and Callie sublimate their intense attraction to one another by creating mouthwatering meals. But their good intentions are blown to shreds when Gus’s mother arrives from Greece and decides that Xeni, not Callie, would make the perfect Greek wife for Gus. Now Xeni must once and for all reconcile her religious beliefs with her sexuality―and decide which love is ultimately the higher power.

The Feasting Virgin is a delectable novel that is full of heart, humor, magical realism and a veritable feast full of tasty recipes.

My Favorite Girlfriend was a French Bulldog by Legna Rodriguez Iglesias, translated by Megan McDowellMy Favorite Girlfriend was a French Bulldog by Legna Rodriguez Iglesias, translated by Megan McDowell

My Favorite Girlfriend was a French Bulldog is a novel told in fifteen stories, linked by the same protagonist, our narrator, who–in her own voice and channeling the voices of others–creates an unsparing, multigenerational portrait of her native Cuba. Though she feels suffocated by the island and decides to leave, hers is not just a political novel–nor just a queer novel, an immigrant novel, a feminist novel–but a deeply existential one, in which mortality, corporeality, bureaucracy, emotional and physical violence, and the American Dream define the long journey of our narrator and her beloved pet dog, who gives the book both its title and its unforgettable ending. In its daring style and structure–both playful and profound, youthful and mature – and its frank discussion of political and sexual identity, My Favorite Girlfriend was a French Bulldog marks the emergence of an original and essential new voice.

Utopia Avenue by David MitchellUtopia Avenue by David Mitchell

Utopia Avenue is the strangest British band you’ve never heard of. Emerging from London’s psychedelic scene in 1967, and fronted by folk singer Elf Holloway, blues bassist Dean Moss and guitar virtuoso Jasper de Zoet, Utopia Avenue embarked on a meteoric journey from the seedy clubs of Soho, a TV debut on Top of the Pops, the cusp of chart success, glory in Amsterdam, prison in Rome, and a fateful American sojourn in the Chelsea Hotel, Laurel Canyon, and San Francisco during the autumn of ’68.

David Mitchell’s kaleidoscopic novel tells the unexpurgated story of Utopia Avenue’s turbulent life and times; of fame’s Faustian pact and stardom’s wobbly ladder; of the families we choose and the ones we don’t; of voices in the head, and the truths and lies they whisper; of music, madness, and idealism. Can we really change the world, or does the world change us?

[Elf is sapphic]

Tack & Jibe by Lilah SuzanneTack & Jibe by Lilah Suzanne

Raised on a small island in North Carolina’s Outer Banks, Willa has a picture-perfect nautical life: hanging out at the beach with her friends, living in a cozy seaside cottage, working at a sailing store, and running a hugely popular sailing Instagram. It’s so convincing that her overzealous online followers register her to compete in the High Seas, a televised national sailing championship.

Too bad Willa doesn’t actually know how to sail.

Desperate to protect her carefully curated life, Willa tracks down four-time High Seas champion Lane Cordova, and begs her for a crash course in sailing before the race begins. But Lane’s mastery of the water is matched only by Willa’s ineptitude—and her growing crush on Lane isn’t helping matters. When the competition threatens to go awry and take her idealized life with it, Willa has to figure out if she can save her reputation from sinking while taking a chance on love.

No Regrets by Tabitha WebbNo Regrets Tabitha Webb

Best friends Stella, Ana and Dixie have always lived life to the full. But now they’re approaching their forties, reality is starting to kill the mood…

Stella loves her children, but misses her glittering career. Plus she can’t even remember the last time she had sex.

Ana is trying for a baby with her partner Rex. So why can’t she stop thinking about the one that got away?

Dixie is the wildest of them all. A Tinder addict who’ll never settle down. But has she accidentally found Mr Right…?

It’s time for the friends to shake things up and start having some fun. Because you only regret the things you don’t do, right?

[Stella is sapphic]

Once You Go This Far by Kristen LepionkaOnce You Go This Far by Kristen Lepionka (Mystery)

Junior-high school nurse Rebecca Newsome was an experienced hiker―until she plummeted to her death at the bottom of a ravine in a Columbus metro park. Her daughter, Maggie, doesn’t believe it was an accident, and Rebecca’s ex-husband is her prime suspect. But he’s a well-connected ex-cop and Maggie is certain that’s the reason no one will listen to her. PI Roxane Weary quickly uncovers that the dead woman’s ex is definitely a jerk, but is he a murderer?

As she pieces together the days before Rebecca died, what Roxane finds doesn’t quite add up. From a series of trips to Detroit and across the border to a casino in Windsor, Canada, to strange calls from Rebecca’s home to a charismatic political candidate, to a women’s health organization, to a secretive church group that seems to have more information about its members than it should, Roxane needs to figure out how everything is connected before a dangerous secret gets someone else killed.

[Roxane is bisexual]

The Lady Upstairs by Halley SuttonThe Lady Upstairs by Halley Sutton (Noir Thriller)

A modern-day noir featuring a twisty cat-and-mouse chase, this dark debut thriller tells the story of a woman who makes a living taking down terrible men…then finds herself in over her head and with blood on her hands. The only way out? Pull off one final con.

Jo’s job is blackmailing the most lecherous men in Los Angeles–handsy Hollywood producers, adulterous actors, corrupt cops. Sure, she likes the money she’s making, which comes in handy for the debt she is paying off, but it’s also a chance to take back power for the women of the city. Eager to prove herself to her coworker Lou and their enigmatic boss, known only as the Lady Upstairs, Jo takes on bigger and riskier jobs.

When one of her targets is murdered, both the Lady Upstairs and the LAPD have Jo in their sights. Desperate to escape the consequences of her failed job, she decides to take on just one more sting–bringing down a rising political star. It’s her biggest con yet–and she will do it behind the Lady’s back, freeing both herself and Lou. But Jo soon learns that Lou and the Lady have secrets of their own, and that no woman is safe when there is a life-changing payout on the line.

A delicious debut thriller crackling with wit and an unforgettable feminist voice, The Lady Upstairs is a chilling and endlessly surprising take on female revenge.

[f/f relationship]

Romance:

https://amzn.to/3231Nw7Kiss Me Every Day by Dena Blake

Wynn Jamison is turning thirty. Her career has made her rich, but her love life is sorely lacking. She’s okay with that until she spends her birthday dinner with the woman who could’ve changed it all. There’s only one problem. She’s married to Wynn’s sister.

Carly Evans is tired of her wife ignoring her needs to put her career first. Family has always been important to her, and Jordan just doesn’t seem to care.

A freak thunderstorm rages during the night, and Wynn finds herself catapulted back in time to the day she made the worst decision of her life―stepping aside to let her sister romance Carly. Reliving the day over and over again, Wynn must decide what is most important: success, loyalty, or love. Given a second chance at happiness, will she take the opportunity and change her destiny?

Entangled by Melissa BraydenEntangled by Melissa Brayden

Josephine Wilder’s torrid love affair is with Tangle Valley Vineyard, her family’s legacy. She’s grown up dreaming between the vines. She’s always had secret ideas about how to make the place shine, so when it passes to her, Joey vows to make Tangle Valley everything she knows it can be. Her biggest obstacle? That overly commercial hotel going up, and the uppity manager trying to kill the vineyard’s rustic charm.

Becca Crawford loves to unwind with a good glass of wine. An astute business woman who has climbed the hospitality ladder, she’s the perfect person to head up Elite Resorts’ newest property, The Jade Hotel, and give tourists all the luxury they desire. As a bonus, The Jade is not far from the cutest vineyard with the best pinot she’s ever tasted. If only the captivating owner would get on board with her plan and stop badmouthing the hotel to everyone in town.

Is it possible that a nice glass of red could help Becca and Joey see each other in a new and alluring light?

Love Actually by M. C. Cerny

Carmen Malone’s love life was sadder than a soufflé. Every new relationship puffed up with hope and then fizzled just as quickly once her partners got comfortable. Was is possible she was a magnet for all the cheaters in the Tri-state area? She was in love with the idea of love, and the perfect relationship, but had no idea how to execute it unless it was in the form of a twelve tier wedding cake… complicated, covered in fondant, and sticky sweet.

Louisa Cox could spot a bad dye job and split ends a mile away. Her salon, the Vodka and Wash was the best day spa boutique in upstate NY. She worked her tail off to get this far in her career, and for what it was worth, she wasn’t about to lose it… until Carmen walked in looking like Medusa with trust issues as wide as the Grand Canyon. Louisa was willing to give love a second chance, but a reluctant Carmen shot her down.

Carmen was stuck between a doughnut and a croissant and there was no cronut on the planet that could help her figure it out. Guys? Girls? It was a nightmare series of bad dates until she met Louisa. Now she has to decide, keep pleasing those around her or step out and start pleasing herself?

One Woman's Treasure by Jean CopelandOne Woman’s Treasure by Jean Copeland

After Daphne accidentally “steals” a family heirloom from Nina’s front lawn thinking it’s junk left for trash pickup, she learns she’s wanted by the police for questioning. Once the dust settles, Daphne and Nina form a friendship inspired by their mutual love for antiquing and a desire for a fresh start in their lives.

As they grow closer, their attraction moves way beyond friends. But who will be brave enough to confess her feelings first? Daphne, the self-conscious procrastinator who’s working hard to get her new business off the ground, or Nina, the newly-out mom whose priority is creating a stable life for her son? Before they can take a chance on becoming lovers, they’ll have to decide if love is worth the risk.

Things Hoped For by Chencia C. HigginsThings Hoped For by Chencia C. Higgins

Can two women who only want to be loved, find a home in each other when the world around them is moving too fast for them to settle down?

Growing up in an intolerant town, Latrisha Martin was used to shrinking the most important parts of herself. She hid her loneliness within a busy life and kept the yearning in her heart tucked away from those closest to her. Just as the façade became too heavy to maintain, Trisha received wise words from a strange woman that helped redirect her life’s journey. On a whim, she relocates to Houston, and while adjusting to a new normal, she finds that those desires she’d once hidden begin to manifest in ways she never imagined.

With her star attached to a rocket ship, Xenobia Cooper was quickly transforming from a locally known talent into a name known in households across the nation. Viewed as an overnight success to many, the only thing that the veteran of the Houston underground music scene hadn’t prepared for was living a life without someone to come home to at the end of the day. A reckless tweet sent out in the middle of the night brings an influx of women with stars in their eyes, but they all lack the key component that Xeno is looking for. A chance encounter after her largest show to date and she’s convinced that those things she’d hoped for are just within her grasp.

The Care and Feeding of Waspish Widows by Olivia WaiteThe Care and Feeding of Waspish Widows by Olivia Waite

When Agatha Griffin finds a colony of bees in her warehouse, it’s the not-so-perfect ending to a not-so-perfect week. Busy trying to keep her printing business afloat amidst rising taxes and the suppression of radical printers like her son, the last thing the widow wants is to be the victim of a thousand bees. But when a beautiful beekeeper arrives to take care of the pests, Agatha may be in danger of being stung by something far more dangerous…

Penelope Flood exists between two worlds in her small seaside town, the society of rich landowners and the tradesfolk.  Soon, tensions boil over when the formerly exiled Queen arrives on England’s shores—and when Penelope’s long-absent husband returns to Melliton, she once again finds herself torn, between her burgeoning love for Agatha and her loyalty to the man who once gave her refuge.

As Penelope finally discovers her true place, Agatha must learn to accept the changing world in front of her. But will these longing hearts settle for a safe but stale existence or will they learn to fight for the future they most desire?

Storm Lines by Jessica L. WebbStorm Lines by Jessica L. Webb

Constable Bridget “Marley” Marlowe is always doing the wrong thing for the right reason. This time she’s skating the line of police procedure by protecting a young girl caught up in her father’s designer street drug ring. But when Marley gets injured, she needs help from someone she can trust.

Dr. Devon Wolfe is a burned out psychologist on leave from her job in a busy hospital trauma unit. When Devon meets the injured Marley, she doesn’t know what to make of the bright and beautiful―and occasionally rogue―cop. Devon decides to help Marley and gets mixed up in the world of addictive street drugs, a young girl who knows something but won’t speak, and the uncertainty of knowing right from wrong. All Devon knows is she and Marley are in this together.

Hairpin Curves by Elia WintersHairpin Curves by Elia Winters

RITA® Award—winning author Elia Winters delivers a sexy, playful frenemies-to-lovers road-trip romance.

Megan Harris had hopes of seeing the world, but at twenty-five she’s never even left Florida. Now a wedding invitation lures her to Quebec…in February. When her ex-friend Scarlett offers to be her plus-one (yeah, that’s a whole story) and suggests they turn the journey into an epic road trip, Megan reluctantly agrees to the biggest adventure of her life.

A week together in a car is a surefire way to kill a crush, and Scarlett Andrews has had a big one on Megan for years. The important thing is fixing their friendship.

As the miles roll away, what starts as harmless road-trip games and rest-stop dares escalates into something like intimacy. And when a surprise snowstorm forces Megan and Scarlett to hunker down without the open road as distraction, they’ve got a bigger challenge than making it to the church on time: facing the true nature of their feelings for each other.

Carina Adores is home to highly romantic contemporary love stories where LGBTQ+ characters find their happily-ever-afters.

Love Bites by Ry HermanLove Bites by Ry Herman (Paranormal Romance)

Angela likes Chloe. Chloe likes Angela. It should be simple enough – there’s just the small matter of Angela’s aversion to sunlight. And crosses. And mirrors . . .

In 1998, Angela was a smart, gothy astronomy student ­- until her then-girlfriend accidentally turned her into a vampire. A year later, she divides her time between her post-graduate degree (working on it in a dark, basement room, and only at night) and controlling her need for human blood.

Then she meets lonely but wryly humorous slush-pile reader Chloe, who’s battling demons of her own. Chloe’s anxiety and depression can make it hard for her to leave the house, while memories of her ex haunt her at night.

As sparks fly and romance blooms, Angela and Chloe struggle to hide their difficulties from each other – but sometimes the only way out is to let someone else in.

Infaemous by Arizona TapeInfaemous by Arizona Tape (Paranormal Romance)

Rich people with fat wallets shimmer.

With the help of her trusty deck of talking cards, Rie has always been able to detect the presence of money on her marks long before she picks their pocket.

When she picks the wrong target, she gains the attention of a mysterious gang. To pay for her mistake, she has no choice but to lend them her powers and hustle the richest man in the city. After a rough life on the streets, she’s just the woman for the job.

[f/f romance]

Science Fiction and Fantasy:

Unconquerable Sun by Kate ElliottUnconquerable Sun by Kate Elliot (Science Fiction)

GENDER-SPUN ALEXANDER THE GREAT ON AN INTERSTELLAR SCALE

Princess Sun has finally come of age.

Growing up in the shadow of her mother, Eirene, has been no easy task. The legendary queen-marshal did what everyone thought impossible: expel the invaders and build Chaonia into a magnificent republic, one to be respected―and feared.

But the cutthroat ambassador corps and conniving noble houses have never ceased to scheme―and they have plans that need Sun to be removed as heir, or better yet, dead.

To survive, the princess must rely on her wits and companions: her biggest rival, her secret lover, and a dangerous prisoner of war.

Take the brilliance and cunning courage of Princess Leia―add in a dazzling futuristic setting where pop culture and propaganda are one and the same―and hold on tight:

This is the space opera you’ve been waiting for.

[sapphic main character]

A Beautifully Foolish Endeavour by Hank GreenA Beautifully Foolish Endeavour by Hank Green (Science Fiction)

Who has the right to change the world forever? 
How will we live online? 
How do we find comfort in an increasingly isolated world?

The Carls disappeared the same way they appeared, in an instant. While the robots were on Earth, they caused confusion and destruction with only their presence. Part of their maelstrom was the sudden viral fame and untimely death of April May: a young woman who stumbled into Carl’s path, giving them their name, becoming their advocate, and putting herself in the middle of an avalanche of conspiracy theories.

Months later, April’s friends are trying to find their footing in a post-Carl world. Andy has picked up April’s mantle of fame, speaking at conferences and online; Maya, ravaged by grief, begins to follow a string of mysteries that she is convinced will lead her to April; and Miranda is contemplating defying her friends’ advice and pursuing a new scientific operation…one that might have repercussions beyond anyone’s comprehension. Just as it is starting to seem like the gang may never learn the real story behind the events that changed their lives forever, a series of clues arrive—mysterious books that seem to predict the future and control the actions of their readers—all of which seems to suggest that April could be very much alive.

In the midst of the search for the truth and the search for April is a growing force, something that wants to capture our consciousness and even control our reality. A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor is the bold and brilliant follow-up to An Absolutely Remarkable Thing. It is a fast-paced adventure that is also a biting social commentary, asking hard, urgent questions about the way we live, our freedoms, our future, and how we handle the unknown.

[bisexual main character]

I Come with Knives by S.A. HuntI Come with Knives by S.A. Hunt (Fantasy/Horror)

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina meets Joe Hill in S. A. Hunt’s I Come with Knives, a horror-tinged action-adventure about a punk YouTuber on a mission to hunt witches, one vid at a time

Robin – now armed with new knowledge about mysterious demon terrorizing her around town, the support of her friends, and the assistance of her old witch-hunter mentor – plots to confront the Lazenbury coven and destroy them once and for all.

Meanwhile, a dangerous serial killer only known as The Serpent is abducting and killing Blackfield residents. An elusive order of magicians known as the Dogs of Odysseus also show up with Robin in their sights.

Robin must handle these new threats on top of the menace from the Lazenbury coven, but a secret about Robin’s past may throw all of her plans into jeopardy.

[bisexual main character]

Ashes of the Sun by Django WexlerAshes of the Sun by Django Wexler (Fantasy)

Long ago, a magical war destroyed an empire, and a new one was built in its ashes. But still the old grudges simmer, and two siblings will fight on opposite sides to save their world in the start of Django Wexler’s new epic fantasy trilogy.

Gyre hasn’t seen his beloved sister since their parents sold her to the mysterious Twilight Order. Now, twelve years after her disappearance, Gyre’s sole focus is revenge, and he’s willing to risk anything and anyone to claim enough power to destroy the Order.

Chasing rumors of a fabled city protecting a powerful artifact, Gyre comes face-to-face with his lost sister. But she isn’t who she once was. Trained to be a warrior, Maya wields magic for the Twilight Order’s cause. Standing on opposite sides of a looming civil war, the two siblings will learn that not even the ties of blood will keep them from splitting the world in two.

Nonfiction:

Heathen Vol. 3 by Natasha AltericiHeathen Vol. 3 by Natasha Alterici (Comics)

At last Aydis enters the land of the gods, but when she comes face-to-face with the god king Odin, will she be able to sway him? Meanwhile, the friends she’s left behind must band with Aydis’s family to stop Odin’s army, even if it means standing against the Valkyrie themselves.

[lesbian main character]

SFSX, Vol 1 by Tina HornSFSX, Vol 1 by Tina Horn (Comics)

From notorious kink writer TINA HORN and featuring a diverse group of artists comes SFSX (SAFE SEX), a social thriller about sex, love, and torture. It’s SEX CRIMINALS in Gilead, Hustlers with a SUNSTONE twist.

In a draconian America where sexuality is strictly bureaucratized and policed, a group of queer sex workers keep the magic alive in an underground club called the Dirty Mind. Using their unique talents for bondage and seduction, they resolve to infiltrate the mysterious government Pleasure Center, free their incarcerated friends, and fight the power!

[lesbian and bisexual characters]

Is Rape a Crime?: A Memoir, an Investigation, and a Manifesto by Michelle BowdlerIs Rape a Crime?: A Memoir, an Investigation, and a Manifesto by Michelle Bowdler

The crime of rape sizzles like a lightning strike. It pounces, flattens, destroys. A person stands whole, and in a moment of unexpected violence, that life, that body is gone.

Award-winning writer and public health executive Michelle Bowdler’s memoir indicts how sexual violence has been addressed for decades in our society, asking whether rape is a crime given that it is the least reported major felony, least successfully prosecuted, and fewer than 3% of reported rapes result in conviction. Cases are closed before they are investigated and DNA evidence sits for years untested and disregarded

Rape in this country is not treated as a crime of brutal violence but as a parlor game of he said / she said. It might be laughable if it didn’t work so much of the time.

Given all this, it seems fair to ask whether rape is actually a crime.

In 1984, the Boston Sexual Assault Unit was formed as a result of a series of break-ins and rapes that terrorized the city, of which Michelle’s own horrific rape was the last. Twenty years later, after a career of working with victims like herself, Michelle decides to find out what happened to her case and why she never heard from the police again after one brief interview.

Is Rape a Crime? is an expert blend of memoir and cultural investigation, and Michelle’s story is a rallying cry to reclaim our power and right our world.

[lesbian author]

Imagining Latinx Intimacies Connecting Queer Stories, Spaces and Sexualities by Edward A. ChamberlainImagining Latinx Intimacies: Connecting Queer Stories, Spaces and Sexualities by Edward A. Chamberlain

Imagining Latinx Intimacies addresses the ways that artists and writers resist the social forces of colonialism, displacement, and oppression through crafting incisive and inspiring responses to the problems that queer Latinx peoples encounter in both daily lives and representation such as art, film, poetry, popular culture, and stories. Instead of keeping quiet, queer Latinx artists and writers have spoken up as a way of challenging stereotypes, prejudice, and the lived experiences of estrangement and physical violence. Artistic thinkers such as Gloria Anzaldúa, Frances Negrón-Muntaner, and Rane Arroyo have challenged such socio-political problems by imagining intimate social and intellectual spaces that resist the status quo like homophobic norms, laws, and policies that hurt families and communities. Building on the intellectual thought of researchers such as Jorge Duany, Adriana de Souza e Silva, and José Esteban Muñoz, this book explains how the imagined spaces of Latinx LGBTQ peoples are blueprints for addressing our tumultuous present and creating a better future.

Storytelling in Queer Appalachia by Hillery Glasby, Sherrie Gradin, and Rachael RyersonStorytelling in Queer Appalachia: Imagining and Writing the Unspeakable Other by Hillery Glasby, Sherrie Gradin, and Rachael Ryerson

In one of the first collections of scholarship at the intersection of LGBTQ studies and Appalachian studies, voices from the region’s valleys, hollers, mountains, and campuses blend personal stories with scholarly and creative examinations of living and surviving as queers in Appalachia. The essayists collected in Storytelling in Queer Appalachia are academics, social workers, riot grrrl activists, teachers, students, practitioners, scholars of divinity, and boundary crossers, all imagining how to make legible the unspeakable other of Appalachian queerness.

Focusing especially on disciplinary approaches from rhetoric and composition, the volume explores sexual identities in rural places, community and individual meaning-making among the Appalachian diaspora, the storytelling infrastructure of queer Appalachia, and the role of the metronormative in discourses of difference. Storytelling in Queer Appalachia affirms queer people, fights for queer visibility over queer erasure, seeks intersectional understanding, and imagines radically embodied queer selves through social media.

Lady Romeo by Tana WojczukLady Romeo: The Radical and Revolutionary Life of Charlotte Cushman, America’s First Celebrity by Tana Wojczuk

For fans of Book of Ages and American Eve, this illuminating and enthralling biography of 19th-century queer actress Charlotte Cushman portrays her radical lifestyle that riveted New York City and made headlines across America.

From the very beginning, she was a radical. At age nineteen, Charlotte Cushman, America’s beloved actress and the country’s first true celebrity, left her life—and countless suitors—behind to make it as a Shakespearean actress. After revolutionizing the role of Lady Macbeth in front of many adoring fans, she went on the road, performing in cities across a dividing America and building her fame. She was everywhere. And yet, her name has faded in the shadows of history.

Now, for the first time in decades, Cushman’s story comes to full and brilliant life in this definitive, exhilarating, and enlightening biography of the 19th-century icon. With rarely seen letters, Wojczuk reconstructs the formative years of Cushman’s life, set against the excitement and drama of New York City in the 1800s, featuring a cast of luminaries and revolutionaries that changed the cultural landscape of America forever.

A vivid portrait of an astonishing and uniquely American life, Lady Romeo reveals one of the most remarkable women in United States history, and restores her to the center stage where she belongs.

Check out more LGBTQ new releases at:

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The Lesbrary’s Pride Month Wrap Up: 30 Days of Sapphic Lit

30 Days of Sapphic Lit: Lesbrary Pride Month

This Pride, I wanted to put out a post every day celebrating bi and lesbian books: some of them new, some old favourites, and some updated versions of posts I’ve done before. I really enjoyed putting these together, and it’s given me new encouragement to keep regularly putting out articles and lists! I also made graphics for pretty much every post, which was a challenge for me, but I’m happy with how they turned out.

In case you missed it, here all the posts that went up in June, minus the usual reviews and link round ups:

And that wraps it up for Pride 2020! (Though, fun fact, Pride in my city actually takes place in July, so this has just been a warm up for me!) I won’t be able to keep up a post every day, but I do hope to be putting out more regular long-form content.

What articles would you like to see from the Lesbrary?

Support the Lesbrary on Patreon at $2 or more a month and be entered to win a queer women book every month! $5 and up patrons get guaranteed books throughout the year on top of the giveaways!

 

Black Sapphic 2020 Releases

Black authors and anti-racist books have recently began to get possibly more attention than ever before, despite the recent protests being only the latest in a long history of Black people speaking out against police violence and systemic racism. I’m glad that these books are getting attention now, but it’s important that this isn’t a passing blip: Black authors face systemic racism at all levels, from getting less in advances to getting less publicity to facing conscious and unconscious racism by white readers. These books are often even better than their white counterparts, because they have to be twice as good to get attention from publishers.

As we finish out Pride month, I wanted to point out some new Black sapphic releases that deserve your attention. They’re all published in 2020, so some are already out and some can be preordered. (Preordering is a great way to support the authors! More preorders means more books will be printed in its first run, and it will likely get more advertising.)

The blurbs are the publishers’ own. All the authors are Black and all the books have sapphic content, but I don’t know how each author identifies.

Young Adult:

Clap When You Land by Elizabeth AcevedoClap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo

Camino Rios lives for the summers when her father visits her in the Dominican Republic. But this time, on the day when his plane is supposed to land, Camino arrives at the airport to see crowds of crying people…

In New York City, Yahaira Rios is called to the principal’s office, where her mother is waiting to tell her that her father, her hero, has died in a plane crash.

Separated by distance—and Papi’s secrets—the two girls are forced to face a new reality in which their father is dead and their lives are forever altered.

And then, when it seems like they’ve lost everything of their father, they learn of each other.

You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah JohnsonYou Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson

Liz Lighty has always believed she’s too black, too poor, too awkward to shine in her small, rich, prom-obsessed midwestern town. But it’s okay — Liz has a plan that will get her out of Campbell, Indiana, forever: attend the uber-elite Pennington College, play in their world-famous orchestra, and become a doctor.

But when the financial aid she was counting on unexpectedly falls through, Liz’s plans come crashing down . . . until she’s reminded of her school’s scholarship for prom king and queen. There’s nothing Liz wants to do less than endure a gauntlet of social media trolls, catty competitors, and humiliating public events, but despite her devastating fear of the spotlight she’s willing to do whatever it takes to get to Pennington.

The only thing that makes it halfway bearable is the new girl in school, Mack. She’s smart, funny, and just as much of an outsider as Liz. But Mack is also in the running for queen. Will falling for the competition keep Liz from her dreams . . . or make them come true?

Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn BayronCinderella Is Dead by Kalynn Bayron (YA Fantasy)

It’s 200 years after Cinderella found her prince, but the fairy tale is over. Teen girls are now required to appear at the Annual Ball, where the men of the kingdom select wives based on a girl’s display of finery. If a suitable match is not found, the girls not chosen are never heard from again.

Sixteen-year-old Sophia would much rather marry Erin, her childhood best friend, than parade in front of suitors. At the ball, Sophia makes the desperate decision to flee, and finds herself hiding in Cinderella’s mausoleum. There, she meets Constance, the last known descendant of Cinderella and her step sisters. Together they vow to bring down the king once and for all–and in the process, they learn that there’s more to Cinderella’s story than they ever knew . . .

This fresh take on a classic story will make readers question the tales they’ve been told, and root for girls to break down the constructs of the world around them.

[Comes out July 7th]

Legendborn by Tracy DeonnLegendborn by Tracy Deonn (YA Fantasy)

After her mother dies in an accident, sixteen-year-old Bree Matthews wants nothing to do with her family memories or childhood home. A residential program for bright high schoolers at UNC–Chapel Hill seems like the perfect escape—until Bree witnesses a magical attack her very first night on campus.

A flying demon feeding on human energies.

A secret society of so called “Legendborn” students that hunt the creatures down.

And a mysterious teenage mage who calls himself a “Merlin” and who attempts—and fails—to wipe Bree’s memory of everything she saw.

The mage’s failure unlocks Bree’s own unique magic and a buried memory with a hidden connection: the night her mother died, another Merlin was at the hospital. Now that Bree knows there’s more to her mother’s death than what’s on the police report, she’ll do whatever it takes to find out the truth, even if that means infiltrating the Legendborn as one of their initiates.

She recruits Nick, a self-exiled Legendborn with his own grudge against the group, and their reluctant partnership pulls them deeper into the society’s secrets—and closer to each other. But when the Legendborn reveal themselves as the descendants of King Arthur’s knights and explain that a magical war is coming, Bree has to decide how far she’ll go for the truth and whether she should use her magic to take the society down—or join the fight.

[Comes out September 15th]

Deathless Divide by Justina IrelandDeathless Divide (Dread Nation #2) by Justina Ireland (YA Fantasy)

After the fall of Summerland, Jane McKeene hoped her life would get simpler: Get out of town, stay alive, and head west to California to find her mother.

But nothing is easy when you’re a girl trained in putting down the restless dead, and a devastating loss on the road to a protected village called Nicodemus has Jane questioning everything she thought she knew about surviving in 1880s America.

What’s more, this safe haven is not what it appears—as Jane discovers when she sees familiar faces from Summerland amid this new society. Caught between mysteries and lies, the undead, and her own inner demons, Jane soon finds herself on a dark path of blood and violence that threatens to consume her.

But she won’t be in it alone.

Katherine Deveraux never expected to be allied with Jane McKeene. But after the hell she has endured, she knows friends are hard to come by—and that Jane needs her too, whether Jane wants to admit it or not.

Watching Jane’s back, however, is more than she bargained for, and when they both reach a breaking point, it’s up to Katherine to keep hope alive—even as she begins to fear that there is no happily-ever-after for girls like her.

The Sound of Stars by Alechia DowThe Sound of Stars by Alechia Dow (YA Sci Fi)

Two years ago, a misunderstanding between the leaders of Earth and the invading Ilori resulted in the deaths of one-third of the world’s population.

Today, seventeen-year-old Ellie Baker survives in an Ilori-controlled center in New York City. With humans deemed dangerously volatile because of their initial reaction to the invasion, emotional expression can be grounds for execution. Music, art and books are illegal, but Ellie still keeps a secret library.

When young Ilori commander M0Rr1S finds Ellie’s library, he’s duty-bound to deliver her for execution. The trouble is, he finds himself drawn to human music and in desperate need of more.

Humanity’s fate rests in the hands of an alien Ellie should fear, but M0Rr1S has a potential solution―thousands of miles away. The two embark on a wild and dangerous journey with a bag of books and their favorite albums, all the while creating a story and a song of their own that just might save them both.

If you’re looking for LGBTQ Black YA more generally, check out my Book Riot video that includes these titles as well as other queer new releases:

SFF:

The City We Became by N.K. JemisinThe City We Became (Great Cities #1) by N.K. Jemisin (Fantasy)

In Manhattan, a young grad student gets off the train and realizes he doesn’t remember who he is, where he’s from, or even his own name. But he can sense the beating heart of the city, see its history, and feel its power.

In the Bronx, a Lenape gallery director discovers strange graffiti scattered throughout the city, so beautiful and powerful it’s as if the paint is literally calling to her.

In Brooklyn, a politician and mother finds she can hear the songs of her city, pulsing to the beat of her Louboutin heels.

And they’re not the only ones.

Every great city has a soul. Some are ancient as myths, and others are as new and destructive as children. New York? She’s got six.

The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah JohnsonThe Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson (Science Fiction)

An outsider who can travel between worlds discovers a secret that threatens her new home and her fragile place in it, in a stunning sci-fi debut that’s both a cross-dimensional adventure and a powerful examination of identity, privilege, and belonging.

Multiverse travel is finally possible, but there’s just one catch: No one can visit a world where their counterpart is still alive. Enter Cara, whose parallel selves happen to be exceptionally good at dying—from disease, turf wars, or vendettas they couldn’t outrun. Cara’s life has been cut short on 372 worlds in total.

On this Earth, however, Cara has survived. Identified as an outlier and therefore a perfect candidate for multiverse travel, Cara is plucked from the dirt of the wastelands. Now she has a nice apartment on the lower levels of the wealthy and walled-off Wiley City. She works—and shamelessly flirts—with her enticing yet aloof handler, Dell, as the two women collect off-world data for the Eldridge Institute. She even occasionally leaves the city to visit her family in the wastes, though she struggles to feel at home in either place. So long as she can keep her head down and avoid trouble, Cara is on a sure path to citizenship and security.

But trouble finds Cara when one of her eight remaining doppelgängers dies under mysterious circumstances, plunging her into a new world with an old secret. What she discovers will connect her past and her future in ways she could have never imagined—and reveal her own role in a plot that endangers not just her world, but the entire multiverse.

[Comes out August 4th]

Romance:

Take a Hint, Dani Brown by Talia HibbertTake a Hint, Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert (Romance)

Danika Brown knows what she wants: professional success, academic renown, and an occasional roll in the hay to relieve all that career-driven tension. But romance? Been there, done that, burned the T-shirt. Romantic partners, whatever their gender, are a distraction at best and a drain at worst. So Dani asks the universe for the perfect friend-with-benefits—someone who knows the score and knows their way around the bedroom.

When big, brooding security guard Zafir Ansari rescues Dani from a workplace fire drill gone wrong, it’s an obvious sign: PhD student Dani and former rugby player Zaf are destined to sleep together. But before she can explain that fact to him, a video of the heroic rescue goes viral. Suddenly, half the internet is shipping #DrRugbae—and Zaf is begging Dani to play along. Turns out his sports charity for kids could really use the publicity. Lying to help children? Who on earth would refuse?

Dani’s plan is simple: fake a relationship in public, seduce Zaf behind the scenes. The trouble is, grumpy Zaf is secretly a hopeless romantic—and he’s determined to corrupt Dani’s stone-cold realism. Before long, he’s tackling her fears into the dirt. But the former sports star has issues of his own, and the walls around his heart are as thick as his… um, thighs.

The easy lay Dani dreamed of is now more complex than her thesis. Has her wish backfired? Is her focus being tested? Or is the universe just waiting for her to take a hint?

[M/F romance with bi main character]

Things Hoped For by Chencia C. HigginsThings Hoped For by Chencia C. Higgins

Can two women who only want to be loved, find a home in each other when the world around them is moving too fast for them to settle down?

Growing up in an intolerant town, Latrisha Martin was used to shrinking the most important parts of herself. She hid her loneliness within a busy life and kept the yearning in her heart tucked away from those closest to her. Just as the façade became too heavy to maintain, Trisha received wise words from a strange woman that helped redirect her life’s journey. On a whim, she relocates to Houston, and while adjusting to a new normal, she finds that those desires she’d once hidden begin to manifest in ways she never imagined.

With her star attached to a rocket ship, Xenobia Cooper was quickly transforming from a locally known talent into a name known in households across the nation. Viewed as an overnight success to many, the only thing that the veteran of the Houston underground music scene hadn’t prepared for was living a life without someone to come home to at the end of the day. A reckless tweet sent out in the middle of the night brings an influx of women with stars in their eyes, but they all lack the key component that Xeno is looking for. A chance encounter after her largest show to date and she’s convinced that those things she’d hoped for are just within her grasp.

Poetry:

Burning Sugar by Cicely Belle BlainBurning Sugar by Cicely Belle Blain

In this incendiary debut collection, activist and poet Cicely Belle Blain intimately revisits familiar spaces in geography, in the arts, and in personal history to expose the legacy of colonization and its impact on Black bodies. They use poetry to illuminate their activist work: exposing racism, especially anti-Blackness, and helping people see the connections between history and systemic oppression that show up in every human interaction, space, and community. Their poems demonstrate how the world is both beautiful and cruel, a truth that inspires overwhelming anger and awe — all of which spills out onto the page to tell the story of a challenging, complex, nuanced, and joyful life.

In Burning Sugar, verse and epistolary, racism and resilience, pain and precarity are flawlessly sewn together by the mighty hands of a Black, queer femme.

This book is the second title to be published under the VS. Books imprint, a series curated and edited by writer-musician Vivek Shraya, featuring work by new and emerging Indigenous or Black writers, or writers of color.

[Comes out September 29th]

The Gospel of Breaking by Jillian Christmas The Gospel of Breaking by Jillian Christmas

In The Gospel of Breaking, Jillian Christmas confirms what followers of her performance and artistic curation have long known: there is magic in her words. Befitting someone who “speaks things into being,” Christmas extracts from family history, queer lineage, and the political landscape of a racialized life to create a rich, softly defiant collection of poems.

Christmas draws a circle around the things she calls “holy”: the family line that cannot find its root but survived to fill the skies with radiant flesh; the body, broken and unbroken and broken and new again; the lover lost, the friend lost, and the loss itself; and the hands that hold them all with brilliant, tender care. Expansive and beautiful, these poems allow readers to swim in Jillian Christmas’s mother-tongue and to dream at her shores.

dayliGht: Poems by Roya MarshdayliGht: Poems by Roya Marsh

dayliGht is a dazzling collection of poems from a necessary new voice, at once a clarion call for stories of Black women and a rebuke of broken notions of sexuality and race.

Growing up, Roya Marsh was considered “tomboy passing.” With an affinity for baggy clothes, cornrows, and bandanas, she came of age in an era when the wide spectrum of gender and sexuality was rarely acknowledged or discussed. She knew she was “different,” her family knew she was “different,” but anything outside of the heteronorm was either disregarded or disparaged.

In her stunning debut, written in protest to an absence of representation, Marsh recalls her early life and the attendant torments of a butch Black woman coming of age in America. In lush, powerful, and vulnerable verses, dayliGht unpacks traumas to unearth truths, revealing a deep well of resilience, a cutting sense of irony, and an astonishing fresh talent.

Nonfiction:

Wow, No Thank You by Samantha IrbyWow, No Thank You by Samantha Irby (Essays)

Irby is forty, and increasingly uncomfortable in her own skin despite what Inspirational Instagram Infographics have promised her. She has left her job as a receptionist at a veterinary clinic, has published successful books and has been friendzoned by Hollywood, left Chicago, and moved into a house with a garden that requires repairs and know-how with her wife in a Blue town in the middle of a Red state where she now hosts book clubs and makes mason jar salads. This is the bourgeois life of a Hallmark Channel dream. She goes on bad dates with new friends, spends weeks in Los Angeles taking meetings with “tv executives slash amateur astrologers” while being a “cheese fry-eating slightly damp Midwest person,” “with neck pain and no cartilage in [her] knees,” who still hides past due bills under her pillow.

The essays in this collection draw on the raw, hilarious particulars of Irby’s new life. Wow, No Thank You. is Irby at her most unflinching, riotous, and relatable.

If you’re looking for more LGBTQ 2020 releases by Black authors, my Book Riot video includes these titles as well as other LGBTQ representation.

Of course, these are just the titles that I know about that are out this year! There are lots more that were published previously and are coming out later. Some sapphic books by Black authors that I’m looking forward to coming out in 2021 are:

  • Darling by K. Ancrum: A queer, modern-day YA retelling of Peter Pan
  • Rise to the Sun by Leah Johnson: Four days. Two girls. One life-changing music festival.
  • A Crown So Cursed (The Nightmare-Verse #3) by L.L. McKinney: a dark Alice in Wonderland YA retelling
  • Honey Girl by Morgan Rogers: a found family Vegas F/F romance

And if you’re looking for sapphic books by Black authors, check out

Support the Lesbrary on Patreon at $2 or more a month and be entered to win a queer women book every month! $5 and up patrons get guaranteed books throughout the year on top of the giveaways!

Coming Out Later In Life: Books About Coming Out as Bi or Lesbian at 30+

Coming Out Later in Life cover collage

According to most representation across books, TV, and movies, queer people all seem to come out as teenagers. That’s definitely true for some of us, but for others it’s a much longer journey. Some people don’t realize it themselves until later in life, while others didn’t feel safe enough to tell others until they were more independent. Some people (like me!) come out multiple times in their lives, either having their gender or sexuality shift over time or just having a new understanding of themselves. It’s a much messier process than the traditional coming out narrative would have you believe!

So if you’re looking for representation of character who don’t come out in their teens or twenties, check out these titles! (The descriptions are from the publishers.) And please let me know in the comments if I’ve missed any that you know about!

Romance:

Fearless by Shira GlassmanFearless by Shira Glassman

A newly out-of-the-closet band mom falls for an orchestra teacher while snowed in at All-State.

Lana Novak hasn’t played violin in over twenty years, her musical life these days confined to being a devoted band mom to her clarinet whiz daughter Robin. She didn’t think she could get back into it after this long, but Melanie Feinberg, the outgoing, enthusiastic, and very cute butch orchestra director from Robin’s school, has other ideas.

Hooked on You by Jenn MatthewsHooked on You by Jenn Matthews

Anna’s life’s in a bit of a rut. As a teacher with two great kids and a boyfriend, she seems to have it all. Except…she’s bored as hell. Perhaps a new hobby’s in order? Something…crafty?
Divorced mother and veteran Ollie has been through the wars, emotionally and physically. To relax, she runs a quirky crochet class in her London craft shop. She can’t help but notice the attractive, feisty new student. A shame Anna’s straight as an arrow.

But somewhere between the chain stitches, doubles and trebles, Ollie and Anna form a powerful connection they never expected.

A quirky lesbian romance about love never being quite where you expect.

Wild Things by Karin KallmakerWild Things by Karin Kallmaker

Scholar and award-winning author Faith Fitzgerald has every reason to be happy: a wealthy, charming man who adores her and a family cheering her marriage prospects. But from the moment she meets Eric’s sister, Sydney Van Allen, she knows her safe, predictable feelings for him are a shadow of what could be.

Openly lesbian and running for Senator, Sydney can only succeed if she can live down her wild past. That means no liaisons, especially with the achingly alluring woman on her brother’s arm who looks at her with confusion–and desire.

 

Gerri Hill has several titles that fit this post, including Hunter’s WayPartnersStorms, and Pine Curtain.

Pine Curtain by Gerri HillBehind the Pine Curtain by Gerri Hill

Jacqueline Keys was ostracized from her small hometown of Pine Springs, Texas when she was seventeen, sent away because she was gay. Fifteen years later, Jacqueline is persuaded to go back to the tiny town of Pine Springs after her father’s death.

The quick trip she’d envisioned for the funeral turns into weeks as she learns her father’s business is suddenly hers to manage. And she is also again face-to-face with the woman who, as a teen, had been Jackie’s first crush. She and Kay had been inseparable as kids, and later as teens. They find themselves falling back into their old habits, and Jackie is soon fighting the same feelings she’d had when she was seventeen.

But living behind the pine curtain, Kay is afraid of her love for Jackie, afraid of what her family will say, afraid of how the town will react. Jackie refuses to hide, refuses to crawl back into the closet, so once again, she leaves Pine Springs . . . alone.

Something in the Wine by JaeSomething in the Wine by Jae

All her life, Annie Prideaux has suffered through her brother’s constant practical jokes only he thinks are funny. But Jake’s last joke is one too many, she decides when he sets her up on a blind date with his friend Drew Corbin—neglecting to tell his straight sister one tiny detail: her date is not a man, but a lesbian. Annie and Drew decide it’s time to turn the tables on Jake by pretending to fall in love with each other. At first glance, they have nothing in common. Disillusioned with love, Annie focuses on books, her cat, and her work as an accountant while Drew, more confident and outgoing, owns a dog and spends most of her time working in her beloved vineyard. Only their common goal to take revenge on Jake unites them. But what starts as a table-turning game soon turns Annie’s and Drew’s lives upside down as the lines between pretending and reality begin to blur. Something in the Wine is a story about love, friendship, and coming to terms with what it means to be yourself.

Just Jorie by Robin Alexander

Some believe that special someone is out there just waiting to be found. Jorie Andolini is one of those people and has spent a lot of time envisioning that moment. She bumps into a woman at a grocery store, the woman drops a can of peas, Jorie picks it up, their eyes meet, and two souls connect. But it’s actually a wasted trip to New York, a snowstorm, and a canceled flight home that puts her in the path of Lena Vaughn.

Lena has found fault in every man she’s ever dated. Her dream of finding a husband is dwindling with every year that passes. Despite what her friends say, Lena doesn’t believe she has a fear of commitment, she simply hasn’t found a man she wanted to commit to. It comes as a surprise that in fact it is a woman who stirs those desires. For Lena, it’s not really a matter of sexuality, it’s just Jorie.

Travel the road to happiness with Jorie and Lena. Two crazy old women, meddling friends, and cattitude are just some sights you’ll see along the way.

If the Shoe Fits by E.J. NoyesIf the Shoe Fits by E.J. Noyes

Jana Fleischer loves her life—wonderful family, best sister in the world, awesome soon to be sister-in-law, fabulous job, and a never-ending stream of men to chew through and spit out. So what if everyone says she’s too picky and she’s never had a real relationship?

When a chance meeting with Brooke Donnelly leaves Jana literally and figuratively off-balance, it doesn’t take long for her initial annoyance to turn into the first sparks of friendship. Jana always thought she was happy with her life, but the more time she spends with Brooke, the more she realizes something is missing. And maybe not just in the friendship department.

But how do you make that leap when you’ve never even considered kissing a woman, and have spent your whole life avoiding romantic commitments? Being brave, taking the first step, and admitting she wants to try to make things work with Brooke is only the beginning. Whether it’s the beginning of a disaster—or everything Jana hadn’t realized she wanted—depends on if Brooke can also be brave enough…

The X Ingredient by Roslyn SinclairThe X Ingredient by Roslyn Sinclair

A smart, sexy lesbian romance about facing the truth about your desires … and risking everything.

Diana Parker is Atlanta’s top lawyer and isn’t afraid to let everyone know it. She’s driven, ruthless, demanding, and stuck in a failing marriage. Too bad she can’t run her personal life as well as she runs her ordered office.

When a young assistant shows up with bright blue eyes, a cute Southern accent, and a streak of pink hair, Diana’s sure she’s all wrong for the job. And yet something seems to be pulling her and Laurie Holcombe together, drawing them into a secret, thrilling dance that’s far too dangerous for a boss and employee.

Can they make rules for this powerful attraction, a way to keep each other at arm’s length? But how do you resist the irresistible?

Breaking Character by Lee WinterBreaking Character by Lee Winter

Life has become a farcical mess for icy British A-lister Elizabeth Thornton. America’s most-hated villain stars in a top-rated TV medical drama that she hates. Now, she’s been romantically linked to her perky, new co-star, Summer, due to the young woman’s clumsiness. As a closeted actress, that’s the last thing Elizabeth needs. If she could just get her dream movie role, life would be so much better. The only problem is that the eccentric French film-maker offering it insists on meeting her “girlfriend”, Summer, first.

Summer Hayes is devastated when her co-star shuns her for accidentally sparking rumors they’re lovers. Now the so-called British Bitch has the audacity to ask Summer to pretend to be her girlfriend to get her a role? Elizabeth doesn’t even like Summer! Oh, how she’d love to tell her no. And Summer definitely would if it wasn’t for the fact she’s maybe a tiny bit in love with the impossible woman.

A lesbian celebrity romance about gaining love, losing masks, and trying to stick to the script.

Other:

Sometime Yesterday by Yvonne Heidt Sometime Yesterday by Yvonne Heidt (Horror)

Natalie Chambers is a successful artist who, after her divorce, impulsively buys a Victorian house overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Immediately, she begins to dream of Sarah and Beth, two lovers from the past and the Dark Man who controlled their lives. When she begins to look for explanations for the things going bump in the night, the only answer she can get from the locals is that several previous owners had fled screaming into the night.

Van Easton hasn’t had a serious relationship since her partner died several years ago. Content to let other women and alcohol distract her, she is surprised at the intensity of emotion that bubbles to the surface after she meets Natalie. Contracted to restore the gardens at Natalie’s house, she refuses to believe that the mansion is haunted. Until the Dark Man follows her home.

It appears he will stop at nothing to keep the new lovers apart, and the violence continues to escalate. Can they solve the mystery that will set Beth and Sarah free and banish the evil presence in the house? Or will they have to run to survive as well?

Vow of Celibacy by Erin JudgeVow of Celibacy by Erin Judge (Fiction)

Natalie has made a promise: a vow of celibacy, signed and witnessed by her best friend. After a string of sexual conquests, she is determined to figure out why the intense romantic connections she’s spent her life chasing have left her emotionally high and dry. As Natalie sifts through her past and her present, she confronts her complicated feelings about her plus-sized figure, her bisexuality, and her thwarted career in fashion design.

Piecing together toxic relationship patterns from her past, Natalie finds herself strutting down fashion runways and rekindling her passion for clothing design in the present. All the while, her best friend, Anastaze, struggles with her own secret-whether or not to reveal her true identity to the thousands of fans of her popular blog and her potential first sexual partner.

Clever, sexy, and hilarious, Vow of Celibacy delves into the perilous terrain of love and relationships, the uncertainty of early adulthood, and the sustaining force of friendship. This is an irresistible novel about the stories we can’t help but tell ourselves about others, and it captures in perfect pitch what it’s like to be a young woman coming of age in America today.

Memoirs:

Dear John, I Love JaneDear John, I Love Jane by Candace Walsh

The new buzzword in female sexuality is “sexual fluidity”—the idea that for many women, sexual identity can shift over time, often in the direction of same-sex relationships. Examples abound in popular culture, from actress Cynthia Nixon, who left her male partner of 15 years to be with a woman, to writer and comedienne Carol Leifer, who divorced her husband for the same reason.

In a culture increasingly open to accepting this fluidity, Dear John, I Love Jane is a timely, fiercely candid exploration of female sexuality and personal choice. The book is comprised of essays written by a broad spectrum of women, including a number of well-known writers and personalities. Their stories are sometimes funny, sometimes painful—but always achingly honest—accounts of leaving a man for a woman, and the consequences of making such a choice.

Arousing, inspiring, bawdy, bold, and heartfelt, Dear John, I Love Jane is an engrossing reflection of a new era of female sexuality.

Hidden Nature: A Voyage of Discovery by Alys FowlerHidden Nature: A Voyage of Discovery by Alys Fowler

Leaving her garden to the mercy of the slugs, award-winning writer Alys Fowler set out in an inflatable kayak to explore Birmingham’s canal network, full of little-used waterways where huge pike skulk and kingfishers dart.

Her book is about noticing the wild everywhere and what it means to see beauty where you least expect it. What happens when someone who has learned to observe her external world in such detail decides to examine her internal world with the same care?

Beautifully written, honest and very moving, Hidden Nature is also the story of Alys Fowler’s emotional journey: above all, this book is about losing and finding, exploring familiar places and discovering unknown horizons.

Untamed by Glennon DoyleUntamed by Glennon Doyle

Four years ago, Glennon Doyle—bestselling Oprah-endorsed author, renowned activist and humanitarian, wife and mother of three—was speaking at a conference when a woman entered the room. Glennon looked at her and fell instantly in love. Three words flooded her mind: There She Is. At first, Glennon assumed these words came to her from on high. Soon she realized that they came to her from within.

Glennon was finally hearing her own voice—the voice that had been silenced by decades of cultural conditioning, numbing addictions, and institutional allegiances. This was the voice of the girl Glennon had been before the world told her who to be. She vowed to never again abandon herself. She decided to build a life of her own—one based on her individual desire, intuition, and imagination. She would reclaim her true, untamed self.

Soulful and uproarious, forceful and tender, Untamed is both a memoir and a galvanizing wake-up call. It offers a piercing, electrifying examination of the restrictive expectations women are issued from birth; shows how hustling to meet those expectations leaves women feeling dissatisfied and lost; and reveals that when we quit abandoning ourselves and instead abandon the world’s expectations of us, we become women who can finally look at ourselves and recognize: There She Is.

Untamed shows us how to be brave. As Glennon insists: The braver we are, the luckier we get.

The Fixed Stars by Molly Wizenberg

At age 36, while serving on a jury, author Molly Wizenberg found herself drawn to a female attorney she hardly knew. Married to a man for nearly a decade and mother to a toddler, Wizenberg tried to return to her life as she knew it, but something inside her had changed irredeemably. Instead, she would discover that the trajectory of our lives is rarely as smooth or as logical as we’d like to believe.

Like many of us, Wizenberg had long understood sexual orientation as a stable part of ourselves: we’re “born this way.” Suddenly she realized that her story was more complicated. Who was she, she wondered, if something at her very core could change so radically? The Fixed Stars is a taut, electrifying memoir exploring timely and timeless questions about desire, identity, and the limits and possibilities of family. In honest and searing prose, Wizenberg forges a new path: through the murk of separation and divorce, coming out to family and friends, learning to co-parent a young child, and realizing a new vision of love. The result is a frank and moving story about letting go of rigid definitions and ideals that no longer fit, and learning instead who we really are.

Vote for your favourites and add your own to the Goodread list!

An earlier version of this post ran in March.

Support the Lesbrary on Patreon at $2 or more a month and be entered to win a queer women book every month! $5 and up patrons get guaranteed books throughout the year on top of the giveaways!

Lesbian Poetry: Because it Didn’t End with Sappho

Lesbian Poetry Selections and Recommendations

I’ve been researching the history of lesbian literature (as you do), and one of the things that I’ve learned is that lesbian poetry has been at the foundation of lesbian lit. Of course, Sappho is the one that started it all, though we have to make due with only fragments of her poetry, leaving us with tantalizing scraps of poems like:

and on a soft bed
delicate
you would let loose your longing

and neither any[          ]nor any
holy place nor
was there from which we were absent

no grove[         ]no dance
]no sound
[

One of the few (almost) complete poems we have still resonates today:

He seems to me equal to the gods that man
whoever he is who opposite you
sits and listens close
to your sweet speaking

and lovely laughing—oh it

puts the heart in my chest on wings
for when I look at you, even a moment, no speaking
is left in me

no: tongue breaks and thin
fire is racing under skin
and in eyes no sight and drumming
fills ears

and cold sweat holds me and shaking
grips me all, greener than grass
I am and dead—or almost
I seem to me.

But all is to be dared, because even a person of poverty . . .

(Both translated by Anne Carson in If Not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho)

Sappho is the foundation of queer women literature, including giving us the words lesbian and sapphic, but lesbian poetry books have in general been some of the first explicitly lesbian books published through time.

In the 1800s, Wu Tsao was a celebrated poet. Her poems were sung throughout China. And she was open about loving women. Among other topics, she wrote love poetry for courtesans, including this one:

For the Courtesan Ch’ing Lin

On your slender body
Your jade and coral girdle ornaments chime
Like those of a celestial companion
Come from the Green Jade City of Heaven.
One smile from you when we meet,
And I become speechless and forget every word.
For too long you have gathered flowers,
And leaned against the bamboos,
Your green sleeves growing cold,
In your deserted valley:
I can visualize you all alone,
A girl harboring her cryptic thoughts.

You glow like a perfumed lamp
In the gathering shadows.
We play wine games
And recite each other’s poems.
Then you sing `Remembering South of the River’
With its heart breaking verses. Then
We paint each other’s beautiful eyebrows.
I want to possess you completely –
Your jade body
And your promised heart.
It is Spring.
Vast mists cover the Five Lakes.
My dear, let me buy a red painted boat
And carry you away

(Translated by Kenneth Rexroth and Ling Chung in Women Poets of China)

In 1900 in France, Natalie Clifford Barney published Quelques Portraits-Sonnets de Femmes (Translated: Some Portrait-Sonnets of Women), a book of lesbian love poetry. When her father found out about this, he bought up the remaining stock of the title and had them burned.

A few years later, Renée Vivien (a lover of Barney’s) wrote and published her own lesbian poetry, chock-full of references to Sappho’s poems and not exactly subtextual in their content:

The Touch

The trees have kept some lingering sun in their branches,
Veiled like a woman, evoking another time,
The twilight passes, weeping. My fingers climb,
Trembling, provocative, the line of your haunches.

My ingenious fingers wait when they have found
The petal flesh beneath the robe they part.
How curious, complex, the touch, this subtle art–
As the dream of fragrance, the miracle of sound.

I follow slowly the graceful contours of your hips,
The curves of your shoulders, your neck, your unappeased breasts.
In your white voluptuousness my desire rests,
Swooning, refusing itself the kisses of your lips.

(The Muse of the Violets: Poems by Renée Vivien)

In 1923, the U.S. got its first book of lesbian poetry: On A Grey Thread by Elsa Gidlow. I’m including one from her later collection, Sapphic Songs:

For the Goddess Too Well Known

I have robbed the garrulous streets,
Thieved a fair girl from their blight,
I have stolen her for a sacrifice
That I shall make to this night.

I have brought her, laughing,
To my quietly dreaming garden.
For what will be done there
I ask no man pardon.

I brush the rouge from her cheeks,
Clean the black kohl from the rims
Of her eyes; loose her hair;
Uncover the glimmering, shy limbs.

I break wild roses, scatter them over her.
The thorns between us sting like love’s pain.
Her flesh, bitter and salt to my tongue,
I taste with endless kisses and taste again.

At dawn I leave her
Asleep in my wakening garden.
(For what was done there
I ask no man pardon.)

I can’t detail the entire history of lesbian poetry here, so I will skip to one of the biggest names: Audre Lorde, who has written incredible things about race, sexuality, and sexism, and casually includes lines like “And there is, for me, no difference between writing a good poem and moving into sunlight against the body of a woman I love” (Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power).

Love Poem

Speak earth and bless me with what is richest
make sky flow honey out of my hips
rigid as mountains
spread over a valley
carved out by the mouth of rain.
And I knew when I entered her I was
high wind in her forests hollow
fingers whispering sound
honey flowed
from the split cup
impaled on a lance of tongues
on the tips of her breasts on her navel
and my breath
howling into her entrances
through lungs of pain.
Greedy as herring-gulls
or a child
I swing out over the earth
over and over
again.

(The Collected Poems of Audre Lorde)

A contemporary of Lorde’s who isn’t as well known is Pat Parker, who was another black lesbian feminist poet writing in the ’70s. I can’t help but include this one :

For Willyce by Pat Parker

[image description: a Pat Parker poem titled “For Willyce.” It reads: “When i make love to you / i try / with each stroke of my tongue/ to say   i love you / to tease   i love you / to hammer   i love you / to melt   i love you // & your sounds drift down / oh god! / oh jesus! / and I think – / here it is, some dude’s / getting credit for what / a woman / has done, / again.”]

(Pit Stop by Pat Parker)

Of course, lesbian poetry isn’t just a thing of the past. Recently, Julie R. Enszer’s collection Sisterhood left me completely shaken with this poem:

Zyklon B

Where should one draw the line?
…the line is very clearly Zyklon B.

The painters call before we move into the new house. Ma’am, they say—
I am not old enough to be a ma’am, but I don’t correct them—
Ma’am, they say, we smell gas.
I dismiss their concern. I say, Keep painting.
I say, You are already two weeks behind schedule.

Five days after we move in, I wake up sick. I vomit.
Gas filled our house. We open all the windows,
call the utility company. The stove regulator isn’t working.
It can’t be fixed. We buy a new Frigidaire.

This is what I know of life:
Love fiercely, even recklessly;
Laugh loudly, even raucously;
Risk everything, at least once;
Live openly, without abandon;
Build trust, be honest;
Buy American.

A year later our washing machine breaks.
I want a new German one—small, sleek, stylish.
I tell my wife, It is perfect for the kitchen.
Our washer and dryer are in the kitchen.
My wife says, They built the ovens.
We buy a new Frigidaire.

Degesch, a company affiliated with Degussa,
based in Dusseldorf,
is the world’s largest maker of specialty chemicals.
Degussa has an exemplary record
of examining the wartime past,
making restitution to victims. Still
The Memorial Foundation for the Murdered Jews of Europe
rejects a subcontract for Degussa.
Degesch manufactured gas pellets: Zyklon B.

This is what I know of gas:
May you never make a mistake that cannot be corrected.
May you never take an action that cannot be forgotten.

If you’re looking for coming out poetry, the tiny book When I Was Straight by Julie Marie Wade would be up your alley. It is divided into two sections: “When I Was Straight” and “After.”

When I Was Straight

I did not love women as I do now.
I loved them with my eyes closed, my back turned.
I loved them silent, & startled, & shy.

The world was a dreamless slumber party,
sleeping bags like straitjackets spread out on
the living room floor, my face pressed into a

slender pillow.

All night I woke to rain on the strangers’ windows.
No one remembered to leave a light on in the hall.
Someone’s father seemed always to be shaving.

When I stood up, I tried to tiptoe
around the sleeping bodies, their long hair
speckled with confetti, their faces blanched by the

porch-light moon.

I never knew exactly where the bathroom was.
I tried to wake the host girl to ask her, but she was
only one adrift in that sea of bodies. I was ashamed

to say they all looked the same to me, beautiful &
untouchable as stars. It would be years before
I learned to find anyone in the sumptuous,

terrifying dark.

This, of course, does not begin to scratch the surface in highlighting amazing lesbian poetry! Feel free to comment with of your favorites that I missed.

Some great resources for discovering more authors are: this list of LBT+ Women & Non-Binary Contemporary Poets (and if you are looking for other queer women poets, I can’t recommend Leah Lakshmi-Piepzna Samarasinha highly enough!), looking at the Lambda Literary Awards winner (and nominees) for the Lesbian Poetry category,  and the Goodreads list of Best Lesbian Poetry.

Probably the easiest way, though, is to try some lesbian poetry/literature anthologies, like Inseparable: Desire Between Women in Literature by Emma Donoghue, Chloe Plus Olivia: An Anthology of Lesbian Literature from the Seventeenth Century to the Present by Lillian Faderman, or My Lover Is a Woman: Contemporary Lesbian Love Poems edited by Lesléa Newman, and follow up on the poets who appeal to you!

Looking for more sapphic poetry? Check out 10 Poetry Collections by Black Queer Women and the Poetry tag.

This post originally ran on Book Riot.

Support the Lesbrary on Patreon at $2 or more a month and be entered to win a queer women book every month! $5 and up patrons get guaranteed books throughout the year on top of the giveaways!

 

 

6 of the Best Sapphic Shakespeare Retellings

6 Sapphic Shakespeare Retellings

Queering Shakespeare is a popular academic subject—and why not? Shakespeare was bisexual himself, and his plays are packed full of cross-dressing and other queer shenanigans. Personally, I love a good retelling, especially one that features queer women, so I had to see if I could put together a list for today’s theme. Sadly, there are a lot fewer LGBTQ retellings of Shakespeare than I expected, especially Romeo and Juliet. Is retelling a forbidden love story as an F/F or M/M romance too obvious?

Worse, I could find no examples at all of queer Shakespeare retellings by authors of colour. I’d love to see an author like Anna-Marie McLemore spin a well-known Shakespeare plot into a new diverse queer reincarnation of itself. Adam Silvera sure seems like he could reinvent a Shakespearean tragedy. It’s been a while since Ash, Malinda Lo! Maybe a historical fiction Chinese F/F Romeo and Juliet story? I’m just spit-balling here.

Although I’d like there to be more, we do have some excellent bi and lesbian Shakespeare retellings out there, so without any more preamble, let’s get into it!

As I Descended by Robin Talley coverAs I Descended by Robin Talley (Macbeth)

I’ll start with what I believe is the most well-known example. As I Descended is Macbeth as a queer southern gothic YA set at a boarding school. This doesn’t follow every plot point of Macbeth, but it firmly establishes a broody atmosphere and is filled with revenge plots.

This story starts off spooky (with a Ouija board), and steadily gets darker as it progresses, ending up in seriously unsettling territory. Keep in mind the source material and don’t expect a cheerful ending, but because there are so many queer characters (including a Latina main character and a main character with a disability), there is no token queer character to kill off. This is perfect for a fall evening while listening to the wind howl outside your window.

The Last True Poets of the Sea by Julia DrakeThe Last True Poets of the Sea by Julia Drake (Twelfth Night)

This is an atmospheric, absorbing story of Violet’s attempts to understand her complicated family by searching for a lost shipwreck that changed the direction of their lives. It turned their family into survivors—at least, that’s what they tell themselves. But siblings Violent and Sam are on a downward spiral, and when Sam attempts to take his life, partier Violet is sent away. The Last True Poets of the Sea includes family secrets, a bisexual love triangle, a failing aquarium, and an F/F romance with a fellow wreck hunter. Perfect for fans of Ashley Herring Blake or Summer of Salt.

Miranda in Milan by Katharine DuckettMiranda in Milan by Katharine Duckett (The Tempest)

This one isn’t actually a retelling as much as a sequel. Miranda and Ferdinand are in Milan to be married, ready to start their Happily Ever After, but Miranda does not get the welcome she expected. Instead, she finds herself isolated. The only person willing to keep her company is her maid, Dorothea, a queer Black Moroccan Muslim woman with her own magic powers. Part fluffy F/F story, part creepy magic, this novella has Miranda reexamining all of the events of The Tempest, and what her father is responsible for.

Among Other Things, I've Taken Up Smoking by Aoibheann SweeneyAmong Other Things, I’ve Taken Up Smoking by Aoibheann Sweeney (The Tempest)

If you asked me to predict which Shakespeare play would be the most popular to adapt into a sapphic story, I wouldn’t have chosen The Tempest, but here we are. This one is also part Ovid’s Metamorphosis, and takes place between two islands: Crab, the tiny island in Maine that Miranda grows up on, and Manhattan, where she ends up. This is a story about loneliness, even when transplanted to the big city. Miranda has to decide which path she should choose (including how to resolve a bisexual love triangle). The strength of the book is Sweeney’s restrained, poetic style.

Lady Hotspur by Tessa Gratton (Henry IV)

While The Queens of Innis Lear implied a lot of characters were either bi or pansexual, Lady Hotspur centres its queer main characters. It also takes its time in establishing the world, so be prepared for hundreds of pages of epic fantasy. This loose retelling of Henry IV—a sequel to her take on King Lear—is an ambitious book that is quite divisive: it’s the kind of story people seem to love or hate. If a gender-swapped fantasy version of Henry IV  with a complex sapphic romance sounds up your alley (and why would you be reading this post if it wasn’t?), give this one a try and decide for yourself.

Star-Crossed by Barbara DeeStar-Crossed by Barbara Dee (Romeo and Juliet)

And finally, I have to recommend this adorable middle grade book about a girl who finds herself playing Romeo in the school play—and falling for her Juliet. But she’s had a crush on a boy before! What does it mean? This has some parallels to the play, but mostly it’s about putting on the production itself, including some discussion of the themes and ideas embedded in it. This was one of the first middle grade books to feature a bisexual main character (the paperback edition even uses the word “bisexual” on the page!) It is sweet and well done, and I’m so grateful we have books like this being published now.

This isn’t a complete list, but hopefully this gives you an idea of some of the sapphic directions that authors have taken Shakespeare in. In 2021, keep an eye out for the upcoming YA anthology That Way Madness Lies edited by Dahlia Adler. This is a collection of Shakespeare retellings, and Dahlia has told me there will be some queer stories in here by authors of colour! In the meantime, keep on keeping Shakespeare queer!

This post originally ran on Book Riot.

Support the Lesbrary on Patreon at $2 or more a month and be entered to win a queer women book every month! $5 and up patrons get guaranteed books throughout the year on top of the giveaways!

 

What Charles and Anti-Charles Reveals About Goodreads Homophobia

Graphic reading Charles and Anti-Charles; or, Goodreads Ratings are Homophobic

Everyone who uses the Goodreads ratings system seems to use it differently. Most of the time, this is a harmless difference of opinion: your 3-star opinion may be my 4 star. Despite these discrepancies, though, we all know what the stars are supposed to represent, right? They say right on them: 1 star is “didn’t like it,” 2 stars is “it was okay,” and so on. It turns out, though, that under Goodreads rules, you can rate a book anything, with or without reading it, for any reason. And that brings us to the problem of Goodreads Charles.

Who is Goodreads Charles?

Imagine that you are an author whose queer book is about to be released. How exciting! You are still going through the final edits, and ARCs are not released yet, but you do have a Goodreads listing of your book up. It’s being added to lists like “2020 Queer SFF,” and you’re looking forward to (and terrified of) people adding it to their TBR. But you already have your first rating! It’s from a Goodreads member named Charles (no profile picture), and it’s 1 star. Oh no! You go onto a Facebook writer’s group, and vent a little about it. Soon other queer authors comment, saying, “Welcome to the club. You’ve been Charles’d.”

This is Charles. If you click on their average rating (1.10 at the time of writing this), you can see their ratings breakdown: 96% 1 star. Over 6,500 1 star ratings. If you are an avid reader of queer books, that name may be familiar. And that’s because almost every popular new queer book (but especially queer women books) will have a 1-star rating from Charles. Often months before ARCs are available, never mind the final product.

https://twitter.com/WORDNRD68/status/1232341496222953472

K. Aten knows about it. She’s been trying to get Goodreads to delete the Charles account for at least a year. One day she took a screencap of the stats to email Goodreads. The next day, she checked back and 500 more books had been 1-starred overnight. Charles is well known by authors of f/f titles: in fact, one author planned to hand out stickers about Charles at the next “lesfic” convention, the Golden Crown Literary Society:

https://twitter.com/erinzakwrites/status/1259513127068106753

The more I heard about Charles, the more interested and confused I got. Who is Goodreads Charles? Which books do they target? Isn’t that against the rules? Why do it? And why does it matter? Let’s go through these one by one.

Which Books Get Charles’d?

When looking through Goodreads message boards, Twitter, and Facebook, I found quite a few people talking about Charles. Some seemed to say that they target LGBTQ books in general. Others said that lesbian fiction was hit the hardest. Some said that both authors of colour and LGBTQ books were getting Charles’d. Because Charles’s profile is private, I can’t go through and see all of those ratings. So I did a very unscientific survey, trying to hunt down all the Charles 1 stars I could find. (I never did find the few books rated 4 or 5 stars. What are those about??) Here’s what I found: the vast majority seemed to be F/F titles, with some other LGBTQ books, and a sprinkling of non-LGBTQ books (about 1% of the books rated). I couldn’t see many authors of colour included, and no non-LGBTQ authors of colour.

One trend I saw, though, was that most of the books Charles’d were on LGBTQ book lists, especially of upcoming releases. It seems like Charles went through every book on lists like 2020 Queer Sci-Fi Fantasy or 2020 Lesbian Releases and 1-starred every book on that list. You can check out the list of Charles’d books I made, in case you want to check out some of the excellent titles and Goodreads lists linked there!

Charles is prolific, but not consistent. Some authors are Charles’d multiple times, but other have many LGBTQ titles, and only one gets Charles’d.

Isn’t That Against Goodreads Policy?

A user rating books 1 star for having queer content, especially without reading it, sure seems like it would be against the rules. You can’t really rate a book without reading it, can you? But then again, how many times have you seen GIF-filled, bubbly 5-star reviews saying “I can’t wait to read this”? If that’s allowed, is the opposite, too?

According to Goodreads review guidelines, the only rules for ratings are:

We will not tolerate abuse of our ratings system, such as rating the same work more than once for the purpose of inflating or deflating the book’s average rating. Multiple ratings we determine to be abusive will be removed.

Also not allowed:

Reviews that are harassing or threatening, or that contain hate speech or bigotry. These will be deleted outright and anyone posting them risks being removed from the site.

So you can’t rate a book multiple times to skew the ratings, and the review can’t include bigotry, but that’s about it. As long as you’re not leaving reviews or doubling up on ratings, it seems like 1-starring books for the content is completely allowed, and whether you’ve read it or not doesn’t play into the equation. And that’s what a lot of authors found out when they tried to report Charles:

https://twitter.com/KrisBryant2014/status/1141042211775234054

 

Another email response said to report if reviews have hate speech or threats, but otherwise they’ll be left up.

Why Does Charles Rate Queer Books 1 Star?

At first glance, this seems too obvious to ask. An account rates thousands of queer books 1 star without reading them. It’s a pretty open and shut case of hate, isn’t it? They’re ratings hundreds of books in a night. That’s dedication. But here’s the weird part: this account isn’t just 1-starring popular queer books. They are really digging into some obscure titles, ones that the average reader isn’t aware of.

S. Lynn, a queer author whose been researching Charles, emailed with me about it, and they mentioned that some international users use stars differently, sometimes using 1 star as the most positive. Other people mentioned that they’ve heard of people 1-starring books to come back to them, as a way of adding them to their TBR. (But…there’s a TBR shelf…why…?)

Multiple authors shared that they had been told Charles uses 1 stars to indicate a book they want to come back to:

To add to this theory, another author said that after several months her one Charles 1 star was changed to a 5 star, though, confusingly, another author had Charles TBR her book and then 1 star it later.

In fact, not only have some people claimed to know that Charles’s 1 star is meant as a TBR, there are rumours that Charles is actually an f/f fiction author.

Why Does Charles Matter?

Okay, so one user is 1-starring books without reading them. It’s probably not even done maliciously. So why does it matter?

(More on Anti-Charles in just a minute!)

Here’s the real problem: on Goodreads, average rating is king. You can have thoughtful reviews extolling the life-changing brilliance of your book, but if your average is low, many readers won’t take a chance on it. If Charles was only rating well-known, already-released books, that 1-star rating wouldn’t mean much. But because they are rating books that are not-yet-released, and rating obscure books, often Charles is the only rating, or one of a handful.

And to me, this is what is so important about Goodreads Charles: it reveals the arbitrary nature of Goodreads ratings in general. Anyone can rate books without reading them for any reason at all. But those meaningless reviews have real consequences. Fewer people want to pick those books up, because they think the low ratings are a red flag. Here are marginalized authors, people who are already susceptible to more barriers in publishing, a smaller marketing budget, and a less-receptive audience, and this is just one more hurdle.

It doesn’t matter whether it’s done maliciously by Charles. It means that just as a queer book is getting some buzz, being put on LGBTQ Goodreads lists and linked to, their rating will get tanked. Right when it has a spotlight first being shone on it, it will have that working against them.

Luckily, other Goodreads users have decided that two can play at this game.

Anti-Charles 007

Meet TheAntiCharles007. Goodreads average: 5 stars. Just like Charles, I have no idea who this person is in real life (though I would love to know!) Presumably, though, they are another queer book fan, and have decided to try to neutralize Charles as much as possible. Every book they find with a 1 star Charles rating, they 5 star.

It is a noble effort, and Anti-Charles is a hero for our times, but the odds are stacked against them. For one thing, Charles is just much more prolific than Anti-Charles. There are many books that have been Charles’d that the Anti-Charles hasn’t evened out yet. And, annoyingly, 3 stars isn’t really viewed as a neutral rating on Goodreads. It’s still seen as low.

But Anti-Charles isn’t working alone. You’ll occasionally also see “Good Charles” make an appearance, using the same strategy as Anti-Charles. My favourite is “Nope Charles:”

Nope Charles review, reading "Not today, Satan."

Unfortunately, Charles isn’t the only problem.

Beyond Charles

While I find the question of Charles fascinating, they are not the only user affecting Goodreads ratings: they just showcase how these ratings can be affected by homophobia, and they’re far from the worst.

 

Author Alex Logan shared more examples of users who skew queer books’ ratings downwards, including Applecat, who has “charming shelves like ‘transing-children’ and has given 1-stars to 51 trans memoirs and LGBTQ kids books.”

These are only the most obvious examples. The truth is, it’s far from unusual to come across an LGBTQ title with reviews that say that the F/F romance was “unnecessary” and “distracting,” so it affected their rating. Or that it has “forced diversity.”

And those are only the reviews that say it outright! Imagine how many more people rate LGBTQ books lower, but know better than to admit it in their reviews. Or who aren’t even aware that the reason they didn’t “connect” with the character was their own homophobia.

The Goodreads rating system skews LGBTQ books’ ratings downwards. It allows for homophobia, as long as it’s not outright threats or hate speech. That means that, Charles or no, queer books on Goodreads are likely not going to have as high a rating as the equivalent non-LGBTQ book. It’s impossible to say how big that gap is, but it’s there.

So what does that mean for you? Well, you can always start your own vigilante Charles. (Meet AntiCharles008!) You can go through LGBTQ Goodreads lists and read, review, and hype them. But maybe most of all, you can stop paying attention to star ratings. The way that Goodreads allows users to rate now, those averages are meaningless at best and actively discriminatory at worst.

This post originally ran on Book Riot.

Support the Lesbrary on Patreon at $2 or more a month and be entered to win a queer women book every month! $5 and up patrons get guaranteed books throughout the year on top of the giveaways!

 

8 Books with Established F/F Relationships from the Start

8 Books with Established F/F Relationships

Don’t get me wrong: I appreciate a slow burn romance as much as the next fanfic reader. But getting together isn’t the only story you can tell about a relationship—and in my opinion, it’s not even the most interesting one. What about everything that comes afterwards? How do they maintain that relationship over time? This is where books that start with an already established relationship shine. They can dive into the complexities of a long-term relationship, or they can just have a cute couple without introducing needless drama to keep them apart.

With f/f relationships, there can be even more appeal to these stories. Sometimes you just want to read a story about two women in love, and skip over all the obstacles to getting together. If you haven’t seen a lot of representation of f/f relationships, it’s reassuring to see what that looks like: not just the lead-up and the fade out on a happy ending, but the day-to-day of that relationship. With that in mind, here are 8 books that start with the f/f couples already together.

The Legend of Korra: Turf Wars Part OneThe Legend of Korra: Turf Wars by Bryan Konietzko, Michael Dante DiMartino, Irene Koh, and Vivian Ng

If you haven’t seen The Legend of Korra, stop reading and start there. If you haven’t even seen Avatar: the Last Airbender, clear your calendar for the next few days and do that first. Okay, now that we’re caught up and I can talk spoilers, the beginning of Turf Wars was exactly my queer heart could have asked for from a Korra sequel. It’s basically a Korra and Asami honeymoon, and they make it very clear for anyone not paying attention that they are a romantic couple. They only get more settled into this relationship as the series goes on (this is a trilogy, but you can get it collected in one volume). In some ways, it starts to fade into the background, but it’s nice to be able to take their relationship for granted.

Goldie Vance Vol 4The Goldie Vance series by Hope Larson, Brittney Williams, and Sarah Stern

Okay, I’m cheating a little bit with this one. They do get together in the first book, but from the second volume on, they’re an established relationship. Goldie Vance follows a teen detective, but the art style is so cute that I kept forgetting it wasn’t a middle grade comic. (And now there’s a middle grade novelization!) It has a ’50s feel, and Goldie falls for Diane, who is rocking a James Dean vibe. Their budding romance is very sweet, but I also appreciated seeing how they evolved as a couple: Diane is very supportive of Goldie’s non-stop detective work and all the trouble that she gets into because of it.

Under Threat by Robin StevensonUnder Threat by Robin Stevenson

It may be surprising to see middle grade/YA comics on this list, but I’ve also got a YA title that begins with an established relationship! It’s hardly the main topic of this story, however. Under Threat is about Franny, whose parents are abortion providers, and they are receiving threats because of it. When she tries to lean on her girlfriend for support, she finds out that her girlfriend’s brother is vehemently anti-choice, and Franny is stuck between reporting him and possibly losing her girlfriend, or gambling with her family’s safety. This is part of the Orca Soundings series, which are hi-lo (high interest, low reading level) books, so it’s very short and quick to read, but it tackles a lot. It feels like it’s been stripped down to the essentials of the story, with no padding at all.

One Hundred Nights of Hero by Isabel GreenbergThe One Hundred Nights of Hero by Isabel Greenberg

This may be my favourite comic/graphic novel of all time. It’s a retelling of A Thousand and One Nights, with a f/f couple at the centre of it. The framing device is that Cherry’s husband has made a bet with another man, Manfred, that he can’t seduce Cherry in 100 nights. In order to save Cherry from being forced into this arrangement, Hero (her lover and maid) tells Manfred stories over the course of these nights, with the promise that once he seduces Cherry, the stories will end. These stories are engaging in themselves, and resemble folk tales. They revolve around women, often sisters, and as those characters tell their own narratives, the nesting story structure grows. The art is beautiful, and I was captivated just by the varied page layouts. And at the middle of this story is an epic and unshakeable love between two women.

The Olive Conspiracy by Shira GlassmanThe Olive Conspiracy by Shira Glassman

This is another series that starts with the couple getting together, but you can just as easily start here. As the Mangoverse series continues, it gathers up more and more queer relationships and family structures. In this volume, Queen Shulamit and Chef Aviva have been a couple for years and are raising an infant princess together (with the help of a dragon, of course). Shira Glassman’s books are always queer Jewish happiness, and you can guarantee that you’ll finish her books with a warm fuzzy feeling.

Chameleon Moon by RoAnna Sylver coverChameleon Moon by RoAnna Sylver

Why not an established f/f/f triad? Chameleon Moon is a dystopian book, but a hopeful one. While their city descends into flames, surveilled by a police force, these superheroes band together to carve out some room for kindness in their hellish landscape. RoAnna Sylver centres representation and optimism in their work, and queer, trans, disabled characters as well as characters of colour are the heroes in these stories. And as for established relationships, this is another one where the couple is raising a child together, so you can’t get much more established than that.

Everafter by Nell Stark and Trinity TamEverafter by Nell Stark and Trinity Tam

Valentine and Alexa are poised to be a power couple. Valentine is wealthy and a medial student, while Alexa is a law student. Valentine is about to propose when she is attacked and turned into a vampire—I hate it when that happens. This is just a bump in the road, though, as they band together to find the vampires who did this to her, while dealing with the resultant PTSD and, well, change of diet. If you’re looking for lesbian vampire erotica, this has a fair amount of blood-sucking sex scenes here as well. If you’re a paranormal romance fan, give this a try.

Mistletoe Mishap by Siri CaldwellMistletoe Mishap by Siri Caldwell

From paranormal romance/erotica suitable for Halloween to an erotica just right for Christmas! Mistletoe Mishap follows two middle-aged women (both successful science professors) who are looking to reignite the spark between them. The premise is sexy, but most of the book actually explores their relationships, including how they navigate being semi-closeted at work. If you’re in the mood for a short, holiday-themed read that has sex scenes, but also some nuance around negotiating an established relationship, put this on your December TBR.

 

 

This is far from a complete list of established f/f relationships, but I hope this gives you a good place to start! From teenagers who have just started dating to middle-aged couples who have been married for many years, this proves that you don’t need to write an endless will they, won’t they to have a relationship story worth telling!

This post originally ran on Book Riot.

Support the Lesbrary on Patreon at $2 or more a month and be entered to win a queer women book every month! $5 and up patrons get guaranteed books throughout the year on top of the giveaways!

 

Let’s Talk About Racism in Lesbian Publishing

Racism in Lesbian Publishing

As we continue to have an international conversation about anti-blackness and systemic racism, it becomes more and more obvious how racism exists in every industry, and needs to be rooted out and addressed. Recently, KD Williamson, a Black f/f romance author, brought this discussion to the forefront in lesfic.

[Edited to add: of course, Black authors have been speaking out about this for years:]

First of all, what exactly is “lesfic”? It’s an abbreviation for “lesbian fiction,” but it’s usually used to mean a certain kind of lesbian fiction. It’s almost always f/f romance, and it’s usually published by a lesbian publisher (like Bold Strokes Books, Bella Books, or Ylva Publishing). Although I obviously read a lot of queer women lit, I’ve never been very involved in the “lesfic” world, so take these opinions with a grain of salt, but this is what I’ve observed. Lesfic seems to be a pretty insular environment. Authors are almost entirely white, middle-aged women–at least, the ones who get the most press are. It’s also specifically lesbian. Although there is the occasional bi woman character, that’s only when they’re in a f/f relationship, and even that is pretty rare.

GCLS is the Golden Crown Literary Society, an organization that promotes lesbian literature. It began in 2004, and began giving out awards and holding annual conferences in 2005. It’s this annual conference that began the conversation on twitter. KD Williamson pointed out that the conference’s invited authors are overwhelmingly white. This is not new, but it’s particularly troubling because this year’s event–due to COVID-19–was held entirely online. Because no one had to travel to participate, it offered an opportunity to reach out to a more diverse selection of authors. Unfortunately, that’s not what happened.

https://twitter.com/DataLover916/status/1274473759676588032

KD Williamson also pointed out that her complaints are about the homogeneity of lesfic as a whole: not just the lack of Black authors, editors, etc represented, but of people of colour in general, of bisexual people, of trans people.

Other authors began to join in that they, too, have experienced feeling unwelcome at GCLS. Amanda Radley wrote about how last year she had asked GCLS to change its naming conventions to be more accepting of bisexual and other non-lesbian queer authors. In response, GCLS changed the language to “lesbian-themed” instead of lesbian (??), but rejected the motion to include “bisexual” or any other labels.

One Black author mentioned feeling unsafe at lesfic conferences because she found that some white authors there wouldn’t even speak to Black authors. Stephanie Andrea Allen spoke about trying to reform the GCLS awards process from the inside, and realizing that it was going nowhere, and wasn’t worth the energy:

Many authors talked about how they had quietly walked away from GCLS and not bothered to even submit their books for awards, because they knew they wouldn’t be chosen. Rebekah Weatherspoon spoke about how being used as a token women of colour made for painful lesfic conference experiences:

This isn’t isolated to GCLS, however. It’s a systemic problem–in publishing in general, but also in lesfic in particular. Publishers and event organizers to drastically change to address this. Here’s what I suggest they do to get started:

1) You can’t fix a problem until you’ve identified it. Do you have data on your organization?

  • What percentage of the people at your organization/business are white?
  • What about the authors you publish?
  • If you don’t know, start from there. Do an internal audit.

2) Do those numbers reflect the greater population?

  • But also keep in mind that you are speaking to a global audience.

3) What are your internal policies around antiracism?

  • What concrete policies do you have to make a safe working environment for people of color?
  • Kay Acker added: “If anti-racism policies are in place, what are the concrete plans for enforcement? Are the expectations and steps in the process clear? Who has to report issues, and how are the reporters protected?”
  • Do you require antiracism training for your employees?
  • For editors and employees who work closely with authors, what policies do you have around their interactions with authors, especially authors of color?

4) If your organization is disproportionately white, what strategies will you use to fix that?

  • What goals do you have, and what’s your plan to get there?
  • How can you reach out to potential employees of color?
  • Do you have an internship program? Is it paid?
  • Where do you advertise job openings?
  • Do you have a mentorship program?
  • If you don’t know how to find employees of color–do the research. Hire someone to figure it out.
  • Tara Scott added: “what will you do to bring Black women and other WOC into editing and acquiring books? When your white authors are writing BIPOC characters, will you pay sensitivity readers to ensure the books aren’t full of microaggressions?”

5) For publishers:

  • What percentage of the books you publish each year are by authors of color?
  • What is your goal? What’s your plan to get there?
  • What does your contract look like?
  • Do you rely on agents to find new authors?
  • How might these be barriers to acquiring authors of color?
  • Are your rates competitive?
  • How can you make your company more welcoming and safe for authors of color?
  • Are the people that the authors work closely with people of color?
  • Heather Rose Jones added: “When an author is looking for potential publishers for their work, they look to see who and what that publisher is already publishing. Publishers can’t just passively say, “why don’t POC submit to us?” if they don’t look interested.”
    • This is something LGBTQ publishers should be aware of! Perceived hostility by general publishers is probably how you got started!

6) For event organizers:

  • What percentage of the authors at your events are people of color?
  • What is your goal? What’s your plan to get there?
  • Do you pay authors?
  • Do you pay for their transportation costs and accommodations?
  • What barriers might exist for authors of color?
  • How will you fix them?

7) While you are doing this work, consider other intersectionalities: most of these same questions should be asked for disabled people and trans people as well.

To be clear: I can only speak from my own perspective, and I’m white, so I will have oversights. Please add anything I’ve missed! The Lesbrary has a long way to go, too. I only recently added a max percentage of white authors to cover as a reviewer, and I need to diversify my own reading more, and reach out to more reviewers of colour. I commit to keep doing this work.

After I posted this on twitter, Bywater Books reached out to me to discuss their new imprint, Amble Press, which is run by an author of colour and was started to acquire more authors of colour (while continuing to add authors of colour to Bywater Books as well).

[Edited to add: The imprint was also started for male and non-binary authors, however, and it looks like so far only one of the three authors they have signed on is a person of colour, though the imprint is new and still revolving. KD Williamson also points out that separate imprints for authors of color is not what they’re asking for:]

This isn’t a particularly organized post, because the situation is still evolving, but I wanted to put it out there as an introduction into the conversation, especially if you’re not on twitter.

Finally, if you’re looking for Black f/f authors, here are some of the names that came up during this conversation!

As well as the organizations Black Lesbian Literary Collective and Sistahs on the Shelf.

At the Lesbrary, you can also check out:

While you’re here, check out the Black Lives Matter carrd for petitions to sign, places to donate, resources to educate yourself, and more. Also, support Black LGBTQ authors and Black-owned bookstores.