Kathryn Hoss Recommends Lesbian Beach Reads

Every summer my entire obnoxious/lovable extended family rents a beach house in the Carolinas for a week, and every summer I end up scouring Goodreads, Amazon, and the Lesbrary for “lesbian beach reads.” Usually, that phrase yields zero-to-few results.

I’m here to change that.

funhomemusical   unbearable lightness portia de rossi   PriceofSalt   FriedGreenTomatoes   the-miseducation-of-cameron-post-cover-final

Looking for a juicy tell-all for the drive down?
Fun Home by Alison Bechdel is one of my all-time favorites. The graphic memoir explores Bechdel’s fraught relationship with her closeted gay, perfectionist father and his unexpected suicide. Despite the subject matter, Bechdel’s tone is more thoughtful than ruminating, probing for the truth in a situation with many sides. As someone who was a baby butch at one time, it was a breath of fresh air to see myself reflected in child- and college-Alison. This read can be accomplished in a few hours.
Unbearable Lightness by Portia de Rossi is another quick read, but it is not light. The memoir recounts de Rossi’s lengthy struggle with bulimia and anorexia, her journey from rock bottom, when her organs nearly shut down, to a very nice life with Ellen Degeneres and their horses. I will say it brought back eating-disordered feelings from adolescence that I didn’t know I still had– de Rossi’s devastating internal monologues can be triggering– but it’s an important story and an engrossing read.

The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith might be the perfect road-trip story, straddling the line between pulp novel and classic literature. You’ve probably already seen the 2015 movie, Carol, but I’m gonna say the book is worth reading too. Highsmith’s prose tends to maunder in details that I thought not at all necessary to plot or characterization, but I found it interesting on an anthropological level to see Therese and Carol’s relationship unfold in 1952. Elements of the story are lifted straight out of Highsmith and her friends’ lives, adding to the realism. For the romance crowd, if you like the “Oh no, there’s only one bed and we have to share it!” trope, you’re gonna love this.

Looking for something profound so that when your relatives ask what you’re reading, you don’t have to feel ashamed?
I actually haven’t finished Fried Green Tomatoes by Fanny Flagg, only because the prose lends itself to be read slow as molasses. There is definitely a lot in this book that would not be considered politically correct. I don’t know how many times I’ve thought, “Is this a White Savior narrative?” The romance is also only one thread in a rich tapestry of family and food. But Fried Green Tomatoes feeds my soul because it depicts a lesbian-headed family living in the south, in the 20s and 30s, and no one ever says a word about them being different or wrong. I actually tried fried green tomatoes (the food) the other day. Spoiler alert: They were delicious.

I was going to do a separate YA section, but then I was like, nah. The Miseducation of Cameron Post by emily m. danforth is Literature. Set in small-town Montana in a fully-fleshed out fictional city, The Miseducation is so hyperreal, I kept thinking, “This has to be autobiographical, right? No way someone could make up that much detail.” And yet, danforth did. Right down to watching the girl you like skid her flip flop a little too far away and lunge to pick it up with her toes. A bittersweet story of parental mortality, thwarted teenage love, and coming of age, I couldn’t bring myself to read this one on the beach because it made me feel like my heart was in my throat.

secondmangocover   LoveDevoursbySarahDiemer   ClimbingtheDatePalm-200x300   BrandedAnn   olive conspiracy

Looking for adventure, romance, and fantasy all rolled into one beautiful escapist mess?

Not gonna lie– this is what I consider a Certified Lesbian Beach Read. Sitting ankle-deep in the surf with wind sand-blasting my face and the sun encroaching ever-closer to my beergarita, I’m not exactly looking to think too hard. I want to see some salty pirate pansexuals, some transcendentally beautiful trans mermaids, and some lesbian ladies in full 16th-century attire making out on a tropical island.

First off, I can recommend Love Devours: Tales of Monstrous Adoration by Sarah Diemer. You can download “The Witch Sea” for free on Amazon separately, but my favorite story in this collection is “Seek.” I don’t want to give too much away, but I’ll say this: Mysterious sea woman. Girl-knight seeking to win the hand of a beautiful princess. Sultry enchantress. Intrigue! Also check out The Monstrous Sea by Sarah and Jennifer Diemer for its trans girl YA mermaid story, “True if By Sea.”

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention The Second Mango by our own Shira Glassman for its lesbian princess, her woman-knight BFF, her bisexual long-lost love, and the tropical, vaguely Floridian setting in which they frolic.

Finally, Branded Ann by Merry Shannon was a recent standout, well-plotted with a careful balance of romance and adventure. This is the lesbian Pirates of the Caribbean– a search for lost treasure, threats of mutiny, mayyyyybe some kind of supernatural being?? I also came away feeling like I learned something about 16th century piracy, all while enjoying sizzling hot sexual tension. My only gripe is the character description. I felt like had no idea what most of the characters looked like, except the two main characters, who were described in frequent and florid detail. Still, this was all I ever wanted, all I ever needed in a pirate romance novel. (This one comes with a trigger warning for sexual assault mentions.)

What are your favorite LBT beach reads? Let me know on the Goodreads list! (https://www.goodreads.com/list/show/100656.Lesbian_Beach_Reads)

Kathryn Hoss is an aspiring author and singer-songwriter from Ohio. She can be found at kathrynhoss.tumblr.com.

Guest Lesbrarian: Hannah

Ooh, another Guest Lesbrarian! We haven’t had one in a long time. If you want to have your review of a relevant book posted at the Lesbrary, just go to the About page for more info. This is a review from Hannah on Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café by Fannie Flagg.

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café by Fannie Flagg is not my kind of book. There are no spaceships, serial killers, or wizards. It can be (and is) described as heartwarming and folksy, words that usually turn me off of a book faster than seeing Dan Brown’s name on the cover. That being said, Fried Green Tomatoes is a magnificent book and a personal favorite.

Many people are familiar with the movie adaptation starring Mary Stuart Masterson and Mary-Louise Parker (a very good if tragically de-gayed movie), and it’s a shame that the book isn’t more widely read. There are stories within stories here and all are as humorous and engaging as the last. The book follows two groups of people living in the same area in different eras. Evelyn Couch, an overweight and unhappy housewife, befriends an old woman, Ninny Threadgoode, in a nursing home and is inspired to take control her life. Mrs. Threadgoode tells Evelyn the story of the town of Whistle Stop, Alabama, which includes everything from true love to murder to the KKK.

In many cases where a novel is told in flashbacks, the present is used just as a vehicle for the main story, but that isn’t the case here. Evelyn and Mrs. Threadgoode are fully developed characters that the reader can truly identify and sympathize with. At no point does the reader feel like skipping over the sections of the book set in the late 80’s to get back to Ruth and Idgie in the 30’s.

The part of the aspect of the story most interesting to lesbian readers is the relationship between Ruth Jamison and Idgie Threadgoode, owners of the Whistle Stop Café. While the word lesbian is never used, it doesn’t take a genius to see that they are lovers in every sense of the word. Idgie loves Ruth (“Idgie smiled back at her and looked up into the clear blue sky that reflected in her eyes, and she was as happy as anybody who is in love in the summertime can be,”), Ruth loves Idgie (“When Idgie had grinned at her and tried to hand her that jar of honey, all these feelings that she had been trying to hold back came flooding through her, and it was at that second in time that she knew she loved Idgie with all her heart,”), and even Dot Weems, writer of the town’s weekly bulletin, knows Idgie and Ruth love each other (“Stump Threadgoode, son of Idgie Threadgoode and Ruth Jamison…”). There can be no doubt that these two are the genuine article.

Not only did this book make me laugh until I was nearly crying, but it also made me cry until I could barely stand to read another page. Very few books form such a strong emotional bond with the reader as quickly as Fried Green Tomatoes. Fannie Flagg is an incredibly gifted (and gay!) writer who has created a book that, while it doesn’t contain the wizards I’m so fond of, is not devoid of magic.

Thanks so much for the review, Hannah! Hannah also writes the Meriden Humane Society blog.

Have you read Fried Green Tomatoes At the Whistle Stop Cafe? What did you think of it?