11 Sapphic Chefs for Your Cookbook Collection

Graphic reading 11 Cookbooks by Sapphic Chefs

Is it your New Years’ resolution to cook more in 2021? Is lockdown forcing you to spend more time in the kitchen? Are you just tired of eating the same dishes over and over again? From solo feasts to fantasy dinner parties, here are eleven brilliant cookbooks by sapphic chefs to make your meals as queer as possible.

Flavour by Ruby TandohFlavour by Ruby Tandoh

If you’re a fan of The Great British Bake Off, Flavour from Season 4 runner-up Ruby Tandoh is the perfect match for you. Organised by ingredient, the cookbook is a great way to follow what you have in the fridge to a brand new recipe – some sweet, some savoury. Tandoh also writes delightful anecdotes about the inspirations behind her meals, including a spaghetti dish dedicated to Adèle in Blue is the Warmest Colour, and the Dutch Baby dessert which is (allegedly) a favourite of Harry Styles.

Now and Again by Julia Turshen

Fed up with food waste? I know I am, but working out how to use up that half-a-shallot sitting at the back of my fridge is a source of constant stress. Thankfully, Julia Turshen’s Now and Again will inspire you to stop worrying and embrace your leftovers. The accessible, affordable recipes are accompanied by notes on how to prep in advance and handy tips on what you can do to repurpose any remaining food. For cooks of all skill levels, these are staple recipes that you’ll find yourself returning to again and again.

A Simple Feast by Diana Yen and The Jewels of New YorkA Simple Feast by Diana Yen and The Jewels of New York

As beautifully designed as it is informative, A Simple Feast features gorgeous photography from Diana Yen and her creative studio The Jewels of New York – who unsurprisingly specialise in food styling. Split into four seasons, the recipes are arranged by situational themes such as ‘Brown Bag Lunch’, ‘Snow Day’ and ‘Rooftop Barbecue’. It’s a charming way to navigate a cookbook, and to bring a little New York fantasy and glitz to your kitchen.

Vegan(ish) by Jack MonroeVegan(ish) by Jack Monroe

Are you trying to eat fewer animal products this year? Known for their shoe-string budget recipes, food writer and anti-poverty campaigner Jack Monroe has the answer in Vegan(ish). Not only are these plant-based recipes a great way to cook on a budget, they also help to reduce your environmental impact, whether you’re taking the vegan plunge or just bored of eating steak for every meal (er, you probably shouldn’t be doing that anyway!). Another bonus are the deliciously punny recipe titles, such as Beet Wellington and Chilli Non Carne.

Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen by Zoe AdjonyohZoe’s Ghana Kitchen by Zoe Adjonyoh

Based on the pop-up restaurant of the same name, Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen celebrates – you guessed it! – Ghanian cuisine. Part memoir, part cookbook, the recipes trace Adjonyoh’s heritage through food, from traditional dishes to ways to incorporate flavours into contemporary dishes. The book also includes a guide to sourcing ingredients – another passion of Adjonyoh’s, who has spent the past year focusing on how to decolonise the supply chains, farming and agriculture systems that export spices and produce from the African continent.

My Drunk Kitchen Holidays by Hannah HartMy Drunk Kitchen Holidays by Hannah Hart

Not confident in the kitchen? With helpful instructions such as ‘take a drink!’ and ‘post it to Instagram’, the recipes in My Drunk Kitchen Holidays are well-suited to even the most amateur of cooks. If you’ve ever watched YouTuber Hannah Hart’s My Drunk Kitchen series, then you’ll know what to expect from her cookbooks: chaotic hilarity. This one covers a year of holidays and observances, from New Year’s to Middle Child’s Day (apparently that’s a thing!); ideal for a time when finding anything to look forwards to is a blessing.

Kristen Kish Cooking by Kristen Kish and Meredith EricksonKristen Kish Cooking by Kristen Kish and Meredith Erickson

When you want to cook something a little more ambitious, Season 10 Top Chef winner Kristen Kish is a great person to turn to. Her mouth-watering recipes are accompanied by personal anecdotes and notes, and preceded by a soul-bearing introduction that delves into Kish’s childhood and later experience on Top Chef. While some of the ingredients may be tricky to come by, the dishes have a ‘wow factor’ for when you really want to show off your skills.

Repertoire by Jessica BattilanaRepertoire by Jessica Battilana

Although it’s exciting to cook new dishes, it’s also useful to have some tried-and-tested meals that you can create while running on auto-pilot. In Repertoire, Jessica Battilana shares the 75 recipes that she relies on most. From Garlic-Butter Roast Chicken to a dependable Chocolate Cake, these are simple, accessible dishes that don’t require years of practise to master.

Atelier Crenn by Dominique CrennAtelier Crenn by Dominique Crenn

At the opposite end of the scale, Atelier Crenn is the daunting cookbook from three-Michelin-starred chef Dominique Crenn. Crenn’s dishes are ambitious, inventive and beautifully artistic. While I’m not brave enough to attempt such lofty recipes as Sea Urchin with Licorice or Beef Carpaccio, I’m happy for colleagues to think that I am when they spot it on my bookshelf during a Zoom.

Solo by Anita LoSolo by Anita Lo

Now more than ever, living alone can be tough, and it’s often hard to find motivation to cook if it’s just for yourself. Luckily, Anito Lo is here to help with Solo, a recipe book bursting with meals for one. The book is structured like a restaurant menu, with sections on vegetarian meals, noodles and rice, fish, poultry, meat, sides and sweets – there’s truly something for every taste. Practise a little self-care this year and treat yourself to some delicious solo meals!

The Little Library Cookbook by Kate YoungThe Little Library Cookbook by Kate Young

If you’re reading this article, you’re probably a book-lover as well as a foodie. Featuring 100 recipes inspired by literature, The Little Library Cookbook is a perfect combination of these two passions. Sample Paddington’s marmalade, bake cookies with Merricat, or – for something extra sapphic – dine with Virginia Woolf in a room of one’s own.

Why We Need Queer Holiday Stories

Photo of a book and holiday mug with a Christmas tree in the background

I have a little collection of sapphic Christmas books that I save up to read in December. It isn’t a long list, but I try to make room for at least one every year. At first, I wasn’t sure why I was doing it. I don’t feel a strong pull towards Christmas books in general—although I celebrate, I’m not exactly a deck-the-halls-er. Usually my celebrations are a little more quiet, and the highlight is our family stocking exchange. The few times that I have attempted a straight/cis/allo M/F Christmas romance, I was left wanting. So why do I save up queer holiday stories, especially F/F romances, when I’m not usually much of a romance reader?

I’ve noticed that I’m not the only one. I run a bi and lesbian books tumblr, and every year, I see requests for queer holiday books, especially YA ones. Unfortunately, although there is a modest collection of queer Christmas romances and a handful of other holidays, queer holiday YA is very difficult to find, and any genre other than romance is thin on the ground. It’s frustrating to see so much demand for this and not see publishing houses prioritizing these titles—it’s not that no one is writing these stories, it’s that they’re not being picked up and promoted.

Which brings me back to my original question: what is the appeal? Why is there such demand for queer holidays books, especially for teens? In one respect, it’s simple: lots of people like themed reading, and queer people are no exception. It’s not unusual to want to prioritize horror books at Halloween or Christmas books in December, if that’s what you celebrate. I don’t think that’s the whole story, though.

Holidays are complicated for many queer people. It’s a time of family, togetherness, and tradition—and for many queer people, those have been difficult to come by. Biological families aren’t always accepting of their queer relatives, and whether that means ties are severed completely, or those relationships are made complicated, it affects how we think of holidays. Many people have to be closeted around their family or change their gender expression. They may be misgendered or face microaggressions when they get together over the holidays. Others have made their own chosen families, or are still seeking where they belong.

Tradition is also a sticking point for many queer people. Tradition can mean familiarity and happy memories, like exchanging stockings is for my family, but it can also be suffocating. It can be a reason to stifle someone’s gender expression, or an excuse to keep another family member unwillingly in the closet. Tradition can be used to reinforce repressive gender roles, or even to turn away from financial realities—it’s tradition for everyone to give everyone else a gift, regardless of who lost their job this year!

That tension between traditional depictions of holidays—as a mostly harmonious gathering of biological family—and the reality of many queer people’s lives doesn’t negate the appeal, however. In fact, I think that the fact that it doesn’t always match that vision of the holidays can make us long to have our own version. We want to see our own possible futures, and that’s even more important for teenagers. A queer holiday book, especially a sappy romance, can make us imagine that we can keep all of the good parts of the holidays without having to put up with the bad parts.

Queer holiday stories matter because they reconcile past and possibility. They imagine a family and traditions that are welcoming, that don’t require us to sacrifice parts of ourselves to fit in. I’m lucky enough to have a biological family who is accepting, but many other queer and trans people don’t have that privilege. Queer holiday stories let us immerse ourselves in a world that is gentler and kinder, that never asks us to choose between being our authentic selves and maintaining our familial relationships.

Even for queer people who have accepting biological families, it can still be alienating to see the same cis/het/allo Christmas stories over and over. Queer holiday books fill in those gaps as well as letting us imagine our own future traditions. I hope that soon we see a lot more queer holiday stories hit the market, especially teen ones and stories that depict many different belief system, races, genders, and other intersectionalities. The demand is there, so now we’re just waiting for publishing to pick up the slack!

Looking for sapphic Christmas books? Check out the Christmas tag!

This post originally ran on Book Riot.

41 Bi and Lesbian Books Out This Month!

Sapphic New Releases cover collage

I hope you haven’t set your Best Reads of 2020 list in stone, because there are more book out this month! Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to find out which books have queer representation, or what kind of representation they have. So here’s a big list of bi and lesbian books out this month, sorted by genre. I’ve highlighted a few of the books I’m most interested in, but click through to see the other titles’ blurbs!

As always, if you can get these through an indie bookstore, that is ideal, but if you can’t, the titles and covers are linked to my Amazon affiliate link. If you click through and buy something, I’ll get a small percentage. On to the books!

Young Adult & Children’s Books

The Ballad of Ami Miles by Kristy Dallas AlleyThe Ballad of Ami Miles by Kristy Dallas Alley

A teen girl on a quest to find her long-lost mother finds herself on a journey of self-discovery in Kristy Dallas Alley’s moving YA debut, The Ballad of Ami Miles.

Raised in isolation at Heavenly Shepherd, her family’s trailer-dealership-turned-survival compound, Ami Miles knows that she was lucky to be born into a place of safety after the old world ended and the chaos began. But when her grandfather brings home a cold-eyed stranger, she realizes that her “destiny” as one of the few females capable of still bearing children isn’t something she’s ready to face.

With the help of one of her aunts, she flees the only life she’s ever known and sets off on a quest to find her long-lost mother (and hopefully a mate of her own choosing). But as she journeys, Ami discovers many new things about the world…and about herself.

[lesbian main character]

The Good Girls by Claire Eliza BartlettThe Good Girls by Claire Eliza Bartlett

One of Us Is Lying meets Sadie in this twisty, feminist thriller for the Me Too era.

The troublemaker. The overachiever. The cheer captain. The dead girl. Like every high school in America, Jefferson-Lorne High contains all of the above.

After the shocking murder of senior Emma Baines, three of her classmates are at the top of the suspect list: Claude, the notorious partier; Avery, the head cheerleader; and Gwen, the would-be valedictorian.

But appearances are never what they seem. And the truth behind what really happened to Emma may just be lying in plain sight. As long buried secrets come to light, the clock is ticking to find Emma’s killer—before another good girl goes down.

[lesbian and bisexual main character]

A Curse of Roses by Diana PinguichaA Curse of Roses by Diana Pinguicha

With just one touch, bread turns into roses. With just one bite, cheese turns into lilies.

There’s a famine plaguing the land, and Princess Yzabel is wasting food simply by trying to eat. Before she can even swallow, her magic–her curse–has turned her meal into a bouquet. She’s on the verge of starving, which only reminds her that the people of Portugal have been enduring the same pain.

If only it were possible to reverse her magic. Then she could turn flowers…into food.

Fatyan, a beautiful Enchanted Moura, is the only one who can help. But she is trapped by magical binds. She can teach Yzabel how to control her curse–if Yzabel sets her free with a kiss.

As the King of Portugal’s betrothed, Yzabel would be committing treason, but what good is a king if his country has starved to death? With just one kiss, Fatyan is set free. And with just one kiss, Yzabel is yearning for more. She’d sought out Fatyan to help her save the people. Now, loving her could mean Yzabel’s destruction.

Based on Portuguese legend, this #OwnVoices historical fantasy is an epic tale of mystery, magic, and making the impossible choice between love and duty…

Prom and Other Hazards by Jamie SullivanProm and Other Hazards by Jamie Sullivan

It might take the magic of prom to turn her best friend into her girlfriend.

Frankly, prom is a ridiculous concept. People at school treat it like it’s a test run for a wedding, complete with “promposals.” That’s not even mentioning the dresses, which look like Disney vomited tulle and sparkles onto the nearest mannequin. Sam wants nothing to do with any of it.

But there’s the tiny fact that her best friend, Tash, dreams of the perfect romantic prom. And Sam’s been in love with Tash since they were ten years old. She’s given up hope of ever having the courage to tell Tash how she feels, until she spots The Suit in a shop window. Sleek, androgynous, and flat-out cool—it could finally give her the boost she needs. However, it’s also way out of her price range.

Still, if she can earn the money for the suit, then maybe she can finally tell Tash she loves her, and they can both enjoy the perfect prom.

The Love Curse of Melody McIntyre by Robin TalleyThe Love Curse of Melody McIntyre by Robin Talley

Perfect for fans of Becky Albertalli and Nina LaCour, this #ownvoices romantic comedy from New York Times bestselling author Robin Talley has something for everyone: backstage rendezvous, deadly props, and a seemingly insurmountable obstacle to True Love.

Melody McIntyre, stage manager extraordinaire, has a plan for everything.

What she doesn’t have? Success with love. Every time she falls for someone during a school performance, both the romance and the show end in catastrophe. So, Mel swears off any entanglements until their upcoming production of Les Mis is over.

Of course, Mel didn’t count on Odile Rose, rising star in the acting world, auditioning for the spring performance. And she definitely didn’t expect Odile to be sweet and funny, and care as much about the play’s success as Mel.

Which means that Melody McIntyre’s only plan now is trying desperately not to fall in love.

Coming Out by Kezia EndsleyComing Out by Kezia Endsley (YA Nonfiction)

Coming Out: Insights and Tips for Teenagers offers compassionate insight into the hows and whys of coming out. Whether you are struggling with coming out yourself or wanting to help a friend or family member, this book seeks to provide answers to some of the questions you may have.

Written from the perspective of the LGBTQIA+ community with firsthand accounts from fellow teenagers, this book addresses the issues and concerns of today that will resonate with anyone wishing to come out and live a happy, fulfilled life surrounded by people who love and accept them.

You will learn

  • how to know when you or a loved one is ready to come out
  • who to tell first
  • how to deal with unsupportive people
  • how to deal with homophobia
  • how to move into loving self-acceptance

With helpful tips and a list of online resources for making connections and more, this book will provide you with all the important information you might need to come out successfully and build a strong relationship with those around you.

Ritu Weds Chandni by Ameya NarvankarRitu Weds Chandni by Ameya Narvankar (Children’s)

Ayesha is excited to attend her cousin Ritu’s wedding. She can’t wait to dance at the baraat ceremony! But not everyone is happy that Ritu is marrying her girlfriend Chandni. Some have even vowed to stop the celebrations. Will Ayesha be able to save her cousin’s big day?

Centering Ayesha’s love for her cousin as much as it showcases Ritu and Chandni’s love for each other, this warmhearted debut from Ameya Narvankar celebrates the power of young voices to stand up against prejudice and bigotry.

Fiction, Mystery, and Thrillers

Rising Out by M AzmitiaRising Out by M Azmitia (Fiction)

Anaya knows great things are expected of her: go to college, find a good man, and make her mother proud. But going to college means leaving behind her best friend, Eri. Eri is an Afrolatina transgender woman living in a closed-minded world and only Anaya knows her secret. The two decide to take a cross-country road trip, where Eri is finally able to open up to who she is, and Anaya finds out that she might be in love with her best friend.

 

Wendy of the Wallops (The Wallops #2) by Gill McKnight  Blue by Abigail Padgett  From the Woods by Charlotte Greene

Romance

Get It Right by Skye KilaenGet it Right by Skye Kilaen

A butch lesbian parolee. The pretty pansexual nurse who got away. Is this their second chance at a happily ever after?

Finn is finally out of prison, which is great. Having no job, no car, and no place to sleep except her cousin’s couch? Not so great. Plus, her felony theft conviction isn’t doing wonders for her employment prospects, so she can’t afford her migraine meds without the public clinic.

The last thing she ever expected was for the gal who stole her heart to come walking down that clinic’s hallway: Vivi, the manicure-loving nurse who spent two years fighting the prison system to get proper medical care for her patients, including Finn.

Finn could never believe she imagined the attraction and affection between them. But acting on that in prison, especially as nurse and patient, had been a serious No Way. She’s had eight months to get over Vivi, who abruptly left her job without saying goodbye. Finn is over it. Honest! It’s totally and completely fine.

Except Vivi, here and now, doesn’t seem fine. And Finn couldn’t live with herself if she didn’t try to help.

Is fate offering Finn a second chance? Or is finding love as likely as finding a job with health insurance?

Party Favors by Erin McLellanParty Favors by Erin McLellan

Three…

Amanda Ellis knows three things: she’s tired of doing what’s expected of her, she hates her job at her family’s business, and the last thing she wants to do is attend her parents’ boring New Year’s Eve ball with a date her mother picked. A few days of fun with her online best friend is exactly what she needs to ring in the New Year on her own terms.

Two…

Wren Rebello is impulsive and always ready for fun. A last-minute girls’ getaway sounds like the perfect way to spend New Year’s. But even Wren isn’t prepared for the spark of attraction she feels when she meets Amanda in person for the first time. Good thing Wren loves popping Amanda’s cork.

One…

After days spent sharing end-of-year resolutions and the one bed in their cottage, the clock strikes midnight and the ball drops on their time together. As Amanda and Wren go their separate ways, they leave new resolutions unfulfilled. Is there enough New Year’s magic left to turn their online friendship into real-life love?

All Aglow A Lesbian Christmas Romance by Bryce OakleyAll Aglow: A Lesbian Christmas Romance by Bryce Oakley

A college tradition turned long-term promise means the Payne and Sideris families have spent every Christmas together for the past thirty-something years.

Cass Sideris loves traditions. She’s trying her hardest to follow in her lawyer parent’s footsteps to make them proud, but in all honesty, the only family customs she truly feels inspired by are the ones that involve cutting down a giant Christmas tree, walking through the forest as the snow falls, and sipping eggnog next to the fire, surrounded by loved ones.

She’s grown up alongside the Payne children, including her best friend Dylan, the young twins who exist solely to make her life harder, and, uh, the oldest Payne daughter, Stevie. Stevie, a firefighter with perfect hair and a kind heart. No big deal. Cass hasn’t had an unrequited and unconfessed crush on Stevie since she was eight-years-old or anything.

When Stevie gets her heart broken, Cass doesn’t expect to be the one consoling her. And after a series of unfortunate events and a last-minute road trip bring her closer to Stevie, Cass starts questioning more than just her feelings for Stevie… like her path in life. Still, she definitely shouldn’t be trying to casually catch Stevie under the mistletoe, right?

This is a holiday romance packed with all of the warm fuzzy feelings. You know the ones. Grab your hot cocoa bombs and a cozy blanket to cuddle up and enjoy as the yuletide gets real gay.

Femme Like Her by Fiona ZeddeFemme Like Her by Fiona Zedde

Nailah Grant only dates studs, races her Camaro for therapy, and believes in leaving her exes in the past where they belong.

But, with a layoff looming and her retired parents about to take a life-changing step Nailah isn’t ready for, her world becomes far from stable. Enter Scottie, the only femme she’s ever allowed close enough to touch her heart. They say trouble comes in threes, and this femme is one with a capital T.

Scottie is an ex though, and somebody Nailah never should have been with in the first place. Yet, when the foundations of her life collapse, Scottie is the one Nailah finds herself clinging to. Just as things settle into a semblance of something Nailah could only dream about, a shattering secret from Scottie’s past threatens to destroy everything the two women have built together.

Will Nailah stay the course with Scottie, or allow her fears to ruin her chance at a real and passionate love?

All I Want for Christmas cover   Girls Night edited by Yolanda Olson  16 Steps to Forever by Georgia Beers  Not This Time by MA Binfield  If You Dare by Sandy Lowe

Love Changes Everything by Jaime Maddox  Maybe Charlotte by Louise McBain  The Found Jar by Jaycie Morrison  Heart of the Storm by Nicole Stiling   Jackpot by Cade Haddock Strong

Hexes and Vexes by Arizona Tape & Laura Greenwood  Second Chance Mates by C.X. Young and Clara Hartley

Fantasy

Hollow Empire by Sam HawkeHollow Empire (The Poison Wars #2) by Sam Hawke

Moving from poison and treachery to war and witchcraft, Sam Hawke’s Poison Wars continue with Hollow Empire, a fabulous epic fantasy adventure perfect for fans of Robin Hobb, Naomi Novik, and Scott Lynch.

Poison was only the beginning…. The deadly siege of Silasta woke the ancient spirits, and now the city-state must find its place in this new world of magic. But people and politics are always treacherous, and it will take all of Jovan and Kalina’s skills as proofer and spy to save their country when witches and assassins turn their sights to domination.

[lesbian main character]

Give Way to Night by Cass MorrisGive Way to Night (Aven Cycle #2) by Cass Morris

The second book of the Aven Cycle explores a magical Rome-inspired empire, where senators, generals, and elemental mages vie for power.

Latona of the Vitelliae, mage of Spirit and Fire, is eager to wield her newfound empowerment on behalf of the citizens of Aven–but societal forces conspire to keep her from exercising her gifts, even when the resurgence of a banished cult plots the city’s ruin. To combat this threat, Latona must ally with Fracture mage Vibia, the distrustful sister of Sempronius Tarren.

While Latona struggles to defend their home, Sempronius leads soldiers through wartorn provinces to lift the siege of Toletum, where Latona’s brother Gaius is hemmed in by supernatural forces. Sempronius must contend not only with the war-king Ekialde and his sorcerers, but with the machinations of political rivals and the temptations of his own soul, ever-susceptible to the darker side of ambition.

Though separated by many miles soon after their love affair began, Latona and Sempronius are united by passion as they strive to protect Aven and build its glorious future.

[lesbian mc]

When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain (The Singing Hills Cycle #2) by Nghi VoWhen the Tiger Came Down the Mountain (The Singing Hills Cycle #2) by Nghi Vo

The cleric Chih finds themself and their companions at the mercy of a band of fierce tigers who ache with hunger. To stay alive until the mammoths can save them, Chih must unwind the intricate, layered story of the tiger and her scholar lover—a woman of courage, intelligence, and beauty—and discover how truth can survive becoming history.

Nghi Vo returns to the empire of Ahn and The Singing Hills Cycle in When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain, a mesmerizing, lush standalone follow-up to The Empress of Salt and Fortune.

Comics & Manga

Juliet Takes a Breath Graphic Novel by Gabby RiveraJuliet Takes a Breath Graphic Novel written by Gabby Rivera and illustrated by Celia Moscote

The graphic novel adaptation of the hit LGBT coming of age novel!

A NEW GRAPHIC NOVEL ADAPTATION OF THE BESTSELLING BOOK!

Juliet Milagros Palante is leaving the Bronx and headed to Portland, Oregon. She just came out to her family and isn’t sure if her mom will ever speak to her again. But don’t worry, Juliet has something kinda resembling a plan that’ll help her figure out what it means to be Puerto Rican, lesbian and out. See, she’s going to intern with Harlowe Brisbane – her favorite feminist author, someone whose last work on feminism, self-love and lots of other things will help Juliet find her ever elusive epiphany.  There’s just one problem—Harlowe’s white, not from the Bronx and doesn’t have the answers. Okay, maybe that’s more than one problem but Juliet never said it was a perfect plan…

Critically-acclaimed writer Gabby Rivera adapts her bestselling novel alongside artist Celia Moscote in an unforgettable queer coming-of-age story exploring race, identity and what it means to be true to your amazing self. Even when the rest of the world doesn’t understand.

Moonstruck Vol 3   Bloom Into You: Regarding Saeki Sayaka, Vol. 3 by Hitoma Iruma & Nio Nakatani

Nonfiction

Sometimes You Have to Lie by Leslie BrodySometimes You Have to Lie: The Life and Times of Louise Fitzhugh, Renegade Author of Harriet the Spy by Leslie Brody

In this inspiring biography, discover the true story of Harriet the Spy author Louise Fitzhugh — and learn about the woman behind one of literature’s most beloved heroines.
Harriet the Spy, first published in 1964, has mesmerized generations of readers and launched a million diarists. Its beloved antiheroine, Harriet, is erratic, unsentimental, and endearing — very much like the woman who created her, Louise Fitzhugh.
Born in 1928, Fitzhugh was raised in segregated Memphis, but she soon escaped her cloistered world and headed for New York, where her expanded milieu stretched from the lesbian bars of Greenwich Village to the art world of postwar Europe, and her circle of friends included members of the avant-garde like Maurice Sendak and Lorraine Hansberry. Fitzhugh’s novels, written in an era of political defiance, are full of resistance: to authority, to conformity, and even — radically, for a children’s author — to make-believe.
As a children’s author and a lesbian, Fitzhugh was often pressured to disguise her true nature. Sometimes You Have to Lie tells the story of her hidden life and of the creation of her masterpiece, which remains long after her death as a testament to the complicated relationship between truth, secrecy, and individualism.

Black Futures edited Kimberly Drew and Jenna Wortham Black Futures edited Kimberly Drew and Jenna Wortham

NEW YORK TIMES EDITORS’ CHOICE • An archive of collective memory and exuberant testimony
A luminous map to navigate an opaque and disorienting present
An infinite geography of possible futures

What does it mean to be Black and alive right now?

Kimberly Drew and Jenna Wortham have brought together this collection of work—images, photos, essays, memes, dialogues, recipes, tweets, poetry, and more—to tell the story of the radical, imaginative, provocative, and gorgeous world that Black creators are bringing forth today. The book presents a succession of startling and beautiful pieces that generate an entrancing rhythm: Readers will go from conversations with activists and academics to memes and Instagram posts, from powerful essays to dazzling paintings and insightful infographics.

In answering the question of what it means to be Black and alive, Black Futures opens a prismatic vision of possibility for every reader.

Good White Queers Racism and Whiteness in Queer U.S. Comics by Linke Kai Good White Queers?: Racism and Whiteness in Queer U.S. Comics by Linke Kai

How do white queer people portray our own whiteness? Can we, in the stories we tell about ourselves, face the uncomfortable fact that, while queer, we might still be racist? If we cannot, what does that say about us as potential allies in intersectional struggles? A careful analysis of Dykes To Watch Out For and Stuck Rubber Baby by queer comic icons Alison Bechdel and Howard Cruse traces the intersections of queerness and racism in the neglected medium of queer comics, while a close reading of Jaime Cortez’s striking graphic novel Sexile/Sexilio offers glimpses of the complexities and difficult truths that lie beyond the limits of where white queer self-representations dare to tread.

Streetwalking by Ana-Maurine LaraStreetwalking: LGBTQ Lives and Protest in the Dominican Republic by Ana-Maurine Lara

Streetwalking: LGBTQ Lives and Protest in the Dominican Republic is an exploration of the ways that lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and queer persons exercise power in a Catholic Hispanic heteropatriarchal nation-state, namely the Dominican Republic. Lara presents the specific strategies employed by LGBTQ community leaders in the Dominican Republic in their struggle for subjectivity, recognition, and rights. Drawing on ethnographic encounters, film and video, and interviews, LGBTQ community leaders teach readers about streetwalking, confrontación, flipping the script, cuentos, and the use of strategic universalisms in the exercise of power and agency. Rooted in Maria Lugones’s theorization of streetwalker strategies and Audre Lorde’s theorization of silence and action, this text re-imagines the exercise and locus of power in examples provided by the living, thriving LGBTQ community of the Dominican Republic.

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Lesbian Manga and Yuri Manga: What’s the Difference and Where Should You Start?

Where to Get Start with Lesbian Manga and Yuri Manga graphic

Getting into a new genre or format is always intimidating. Manga is a Japanese form of comics that tends to be endlessly marathonable: once you get started on a series, you want to sit down and read them all. For me, the most exciting thing about starting to read manga was that it already had a sub-genre dedicated to F/F romance…kind of. Yuri is a tricky thing to define, but it’s generally used to describe manga or anime that includes F/F romance or lesbian subtext. The problem is that this is a huge spectrum: you may pick up a book expecting lesbian manga, and instead get some Significant Glances or blushing and that’s about the extent of the LGBTQ content.

I am still a newcomer to reading yuri and lesbian manga, so I defer to Erica Friedman’s definition of yuri vs. lesbian manga. Friedman runs a yuri site called Okazu, which started in the early 2000s. Not only has she been writing about and reviewing yuri for almost two decades, but she also regularly gives presentations about the history of yuri. If you want an overview of the term, here is a video that goes over the basics.

 

For the purposes of this post, I’ll use Friedman’s definition: “Yuri is lesbian content without lesbian identity.” This makes it necessarily a subjective label. Some people may consider a manga yuri, and others won’t count it. On Okazu, manga that explicitly discusses identity labels is not categorized as yuri, and instead is filed as LGBTQ manga. In that same vein, I’m going to start off with recommendations of lesbian manga: these titles generally use the word “lesbian” or more broadly discuss being queer as an identity. These are still fairly rare, however, so I’ll also give some recommendations for yuri manga that have canonical F/F romances, even if they don’t use identity labels.

Lesbian Manga

My Lesbian Experience With Loneliness by Nagata Kabi (Amazon Affiliate Link)My Lesbian Experience With Loneliness by Nagata Kabi

This is the obvious place to start this list, but it’s also an exception: this is the only nonfiction manga included. My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness details the author’s struggles with mental health, coming out, and—of course—loneliness. It is vulnerable and raw to the point that it is sometimes uncomfortable to read, but it offers an honesty that hadn’t been present in yuri/lesbian manga before this. It was also a huge hit, and its popularity not only ensured the publication of sequels (My Solo Exchange DiaryMy Solo Exchange DiaryVol. 2, and the upcoming My Alcoholic Escape from Reality), but also opened the door for more lesbian manga that looks frankly at lesbian identity and coming out in Japan.

Our Dreams at Dusk Vol 4 by Yuhki Kamatani (Amazon Affiliate Link)Our Dreams at Dusk by Yuhki Kamatani

Admittedly, this series follows a gay teenager who is coming to terms with his identity, but it is one of the most queer manga series out there. It follows Tasuku, who is considering suicide because of the bullying he’s faced at school for being perceived as gay. He is distracted by seeing a woman jump from a high ledge, and follows her to a drop-in center. It is run by this mysterious woman, and soon she has him volunteering to help out. He is stunned when he meets Haruko, who casually mentions her wife. The final volume in the series follows the planning of a wedding ceremony between two women, who are Tasuku’s inspiration to come out.

I Married My Best Friend to Shut My Parents Up by Naoko Kodama (Amazon Affiliate Link)I Married My Best Friend To Shut My Parents Up by Kodama Naoko

I know: the title doesn’t exactly scream quality representation. This short, standalone manga is surprisingly thoughtful, though. It’s about a fake marriage: Morimoto is sick of being constantly set up by her parents. Her friend Hana suggests that they get married (or, at least, get an equivalent partnership certificate offered in some regions). Morimoto finds herself agreeing to this plan, despite her parents’ outrage and despite her knowledge that Hana is an out lesbian and had feelings for her in high school. Unsurprisingly, once they start living together, their relationship begins to change. Not only does this have a character who identifies as a lesbian, it also deals with having abusive and controlling parents, and even some discussion of consent. Do be prepared for a very short manga, though: the last section of the book is a short story.

Yuri Manga: the Classics

Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Vol 7Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon by Naoko Takeuchi

Before there was lesbian manga, there were the classics of yuri manga. The one that’s probably most well-known is Sailor Moon. Although Usagi is arguably bisexual, that’s a whole other tangent. What made Sailor Moon so significant to the yuri genre was the relationship between Haruka (Sailor Uranus) and Michiru (Sailor Neptune). Their long-standing relationship is included without fanfare, which was fairly unusual at the time, especially for a series that achieved such popularity around the world. While the American TV adaptation tried to rewrite the two as cousins, there’s no way to mistake their relationship in the original books.

Revolutionary Girl Utena coverRevolutionary Girl Utena by Chiho Saito

Revolutionary Girl Utena owes a lot to the Magical Girl manga genre, but it is its own surreal masterpiece. It follows Utena who, as a young child, was saved by a prince. She’s so impressed that she vows to grow up to become a prince herself. Now, she’s at a private school (where all the girls swoon over her), and she stumbles on a dueling club. This club duels for the Power to Revolutionize the World and the Rose Bride. The Rose Bride is a fellow student, Anthy, who seems to be acting as a prop in their game. Utena joins the duel to protect Anthy, and finds herself drawn into a dreamlike world where castles descend from the sky and you settle every interpersonal conflict with fencing skills. In the original manga, the relationship between Anthy and Utena is heavily subtextual. It’s been adapted to many formats, though (anime, movie, standalone manga, manga short stories), and is often canonical in those.

Check out my full review of the Utena series here and my review of the recent sequel, After the Revolution, here.

The Rose of Versailles, Vol 2 Riyoko IkedaThe Rose of Versailles by Riyoko Ikeda

Predating any of these was The Rose of Versailles, which was serialized in 1973 and published in 10 volumes in 1982. It follows Oscar François de Jarjeyes, a young noblewoman raised as a son who is now the commander of Marie Antoinette’s guard. There is yuri content: Oscar and another female character, Rosalie, acknowledge that they have feelings for each other, and if Oscar was a man, they’d be together. Beyond that, though, the playing with gender in this series has likely affected yuri manga more than any actual F/F content. It’s not hard to see how Utena may have been influenced by this earlier work.

Where to Start With Yuri Manga

Girl Friends by Milk Morinaga Vol 1 (Amazon Affiliate Link)Girl Friends by Milk Morinaga

While lesbian manga is still pretty rare, there is a lot more yuri manga being published that is inarguably F/F (not just subtext). One of the foundational series in this vein is Girl Friends. This follows most of the common tropes in yuri: it follows two schoolgirls, one of whom has a crush on the other. There is a lot of blushing and the typical “girls don’t do this” heteronormativity. The first omnibus is about 500 pages, and it’s a slow burn: the majority of this first collection is just about them becoming friends. I thought the second volume was stronger, because SPOILER: it deals more with their relationship than just the pining, and it takes them seriously as a couple, even after graduation.

Bloom Into You Vol 1 (Amazon Affiliate Link)Bloom Into You by Nakatani Nio

This series has become hugely popular. It follows Yuu, who is a big fan of shoujo manga and is waiting for her whirlwind romance. When she does get a confession of love from a boy, however, she finds herself uninterested and turning him down. Later, she sees Nanako—who is running for school president—also turn down a suitor, and strikes up a conversation, thinking they have something in common. She’s taken aback when soon Nanako is also declaring her love for Yuu. Yuu doesn’t return her feelings, but agrees to be “wooed.” Unsurprisingly, based on the premise, it can veer into questionable consent territory: Nanako is sometimes pushy. They do discuss this when it happens, though, and over the course of the series, this becomes an engaging and cute romance that keeps you flipping pages.

Kase-San and Morning Glories Vol 1 (Amazon Affiliate Link)Kase-san and Morning Glories by Hiromi Takashima

This is told in a series of vignettes as Yamada meets Kase, a tomboy track star. They bond over their shared love of the gardens at their school, and their romance slowly begins to blossom. (I’m sorry. I couldn’t help it.) There is the typical “but we’re both girls!” angst and includes some fan service, but overall, it’s a cute and fluffy F/F romance. In the second volume, SPOILER: they try to navigate being a couple and exploring the sexual aspect of their relationship.

Although this is a high school romance, there is a sequel series called Kase-san and Yamada that takes place in college!

After Hours Vol 1 by Yuhta Nishio (Amazon Affiliate Link)After Hours by Yuhta Nishio

This is one of the few books on this list that follows adult characters! Emi is ditched by her friend in a dance club, and she’s overwhelmed by the loudness and crush of people. When she starts getting hit on, she starts looking for an exit and is rescued by Kei, a DJ. They go home together, and Emi finds herself drawn into Kei’s exciting, artistic life.

This is one of the few yuri manga volumes to include a sex scene that doesn’t seem to be for fan service, and both women already seem comfortable with their sexuality—in fact, Emi is likely bisexual, which is another rarity on this list.

Sweet Blue Flowers Vol 1 by Takako Shimura (Amazon Affiliate Link)Sweet Blue Flowers by Takako Shimura

When Akira starts at a new high school, she isn’t expecting to run into her best friend from kindergarten, Fumi! They strike up their friendship again, but Fumi is trying to mend a broken heart: her girlfriend left her and is getting married. She’s glad to be asked out by another classmate, Sugimoto, but she’s struggling to get over her last relationship. Akira is protective of Fumi and tries to help her move on. This is the same mangaka who wrote Wandering Son, which is a beloved manga series featuring trans characters. (In fact, this one discusses identity enough that it might even belong in the lesbian manga category.)

Citrus Vol 1 (Amazon Affiliate Link)Citrus by Saburo Uta

I am conflicted about this title, because on the one hand, it’s the most absorbing manga series I’ve ever read. On the other hand… just look at that cover. It follows Yuzu, a fun-loving girl who’s just started at a new high school and is shocked by their strict rules. She immediately comes into conflict with Mei, the student council president, who has no tolerance for her. Then, plot twist, Mei turns out to be Yuzu’s new stepsister! This is a romance between stepsisters, but they have just met. There is questionable consent, but it is grappled with: Mei has gone through sexual abuse, and has a fractured relationship with her sexuality. This isn’t an entirely healthy relationship, and there’s definitely a lot of angst, but it is captivating.

A Tropical Fish Yearns for Snow by Makoto Hagino (Amazon Affiliate Link)A Tropical Fish Yearns for Snow by Makoto Hagino

This is a typical blushing schoolgirl yuri romance, with a lingering hug acting as the climax of the story, but I really enjoyed it. Konatsu is just starting at a new school (is anyone else noticing a pattern?), and they are holding an event hosted by the Aquarium Club. When she attends, she runs into the sole member of the club, Koyuki, and they share a shy conversation. Konatsu discovers that she has to join a school club—will she choose the Home Ec Club that her friendly classmate Kaede invited her to, or will she help out Koyuki at the Aquarium Club? This is an adorable story, and I liked that Konatsu helps Koyuki to take some time for herself and not always live up to the standard others hold her to. I also thought the aquarium theme made for beautiful illustrations.

Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid by coolkyousinnjyaMiss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid by coolkyousinnjya

Kobayashi has a pretty regular life working as a programmer—until she bumps into Tohru. Tohru is a dragon, and she seems to hate every human except Kobayashi, which means they end up living together. It turns into a slapstick slice-of-life comedy with a lot of crass humor.

Despite all the ridiculousness, this is still one of the few yuri manga series with adult main characters.

This is far from a complete list! There is a lot more yuri manga out there and more is getting published all the time. Unfortunately, lesbian manga is still pretty hard to come by. If you have recommendations of lesbian manga (manga that discusses lesbian identity) that didn’t make it to this list, comment below!

Looking for more yuri and lesbian manga recommendations? Check out the manga tag.

This post originally ran on Book Riot.

16 Brilliant Bi and Lesbian Literary Fiction Novels to Keep You Thinking

Bi and Lesbian Literary Fiction to Keep You Thinking graphic

When I say that I read mostly bi and lesbian literature, people often assume that means F/F romance. Although I like the occasional romance novel, the truth is that it makes up very little of my reading life. There are sapphic books in every genre: science fiction, fantasy, mystery, nonfiction, etc. One of the genres I gravitate towards is bi and lesbian literary fiction—which is a tricky thing to describe. What makes a book literary fiction? Well, usually it is more character-driven than plot-driven. It may deal with “big ideas” and concentrate more on questions than on action. It’s often seen as complex and “well-written”—but all of these qualities are subjective. I’m not interested in getting a perfect definition. Instead, I want to offer some book recommendations that will likely appeal to you if you read books that are marketed as “literary fiction.”

This is in no way a complete list of every bi and lesbian literary fiction book out there. They’re just some of my favorites. To simplify, I decided to leave out the “classics” of lesbian literature: The Well of Loneliness, The Color Purple, Rubyfruit Jungle, and other books published in the early days of queer lit. These are not all recent releases, but they are biased towards books that have come out in the last decade or two. Did your favorites make the list?

The Last Nude by Ellis AveryThe Last Nude by Ellis Avery

This is historical fiction based on Tamara de Lempicka, and it made me fall in love with Ellis Avery as an author and Tamara de Lempicka as an artist. It’s about the artist’s relationship with one of her models, Rafaela, who was the inspiration for six paintings. It’s beautiful and melancholy, and completely pulls you into 1920s Paris. It will make you think about art, doomed romance, discovering your sexuality, our relationships to our bodies, queer history, and the nature of betrayal.

In Another Place, Not Here by Dionne BrandIn Another Place, Not Here by Dionne Brand

This is about two women in Trinidad: one a sugar cane worker, another an activist attempting to unionize the workers. They are immediately drawn to each other, but their relationship is threatened by outside forces, including racism and homophobia. This book will make you think about belonging, and feeling caught between (and left outside of) two communities. It will make you think about immigration, and what it means to be “illegal,” about justice and belonging, and about individual choices in an unjust system.

My Education by Susan ChoiMy Education by Susan Choi

This books at first glance seems to be the very stereotype of a literary novel: a young university student begins taking classes with a professor rumored to sleep with his students. They begin sleeping together. When Regina meets his wife, however, she is far more interested in her—and that’s the dynamic at the heart of this novel. This book will make you think about trainwreck relationships—the kind you can’t quite resist, about flawed main characters, and about the mistakes you make in early adulthood.

Miss Timmins' School for Girls by Nayana CurrimbhoyMiss Timmins’ School for Girls by Nayana Currimbhoy

This is an atmospheric, absorbing book about teaching at a boarding school in India in the 1970s during the monsoon season. Sheltered Charulata is only a handful of years older than the students, but she changes quickly, especially when she has two sordid, tragic love affairs (one male partner, one female). Then a student turns up dead, and the mystery element begins. This will make you think about coming of age and discovering your own identity.

Patsy by Nicole Dennis-BennPatsy by Nicole Dennis-Benn

Patsy has just taken her chance to move to the U.S., leaving her small Jamaican hometown behind—as well as her 5-year-old daughter. Patsy follows the main character and her daughter over years, and how they both reconcile with this decision, and what it means for their relationship. It will leave you thinking about family, independence and interdependence, gender, and sexuality. Be sure to also check out her previous novel, Here Comes the Sun.

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

This title is standing in for a lot of Donoghue books: she’s one of the big names in lesbian literary fiction. The Pull of the Stars is set during the 1918 pandemic in a small hospital ward, which is either exactly what you want to read right now, or exactly the opposite. It will leave you thinking about the parallels between that pandemic and ours, about justice in healthcare, pregnancy and childbirth, and motherhood.

The Salt Roads by Nalo HopkinsonThe Salt Roads by Nalo Hopkinson

This book is an experience. It follows three women in different countries and time periods: Mer in 18th century Haiti, Jeanne in 1880s France, and Meritet in ancient Alexandria. Binding the three together is the spirit Ezili, who inhabits each of them at different times. This book has an F/F sex scene in the first 15 pages, and let me tell you, when I was assigned this in university, I was not expecting that. This book will leave you thinking about freedom and oppression, what’s worth sacrificing, misogyny and racism throughout time, sexuality, spirituality, the beauty of language, and so much more.

when fox is a thousand by larissa laiWhen Fox is a Thousand by Larissa Lai

This is told in three perspectives: the eponymous fox, counting down until her thousandth birthday when she will acquire power and knowledge; Yu Hsuan-Chi, a real-life poetess from 9th century China; and Artemis, a young woman in modern-day Vancouver. This is told like folklore, with fables woven throughout. It’s beautifully written, I firmly believe it should be considered a classic of lesbian literary fiction. This will make you think about toxic friendships, about activism uninformed by compassion and respect, and about queering folklore.

Her Body and Other Parties Carmen Maria Machado coverHer Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado

This is a beautiful and unsettling collection that takes familiar stories and exposes the misogyny beneath them. They are thoughtful, metaphorical stories: women who fade away until they are imbued into objects, lists of lovers that turn into a dystopian narrative, and urban legends transformed. Read this to think about gender, stereotypes (a writer is accused of writing a stereotype, and she explains that she’s writing about herself—her gay, anxious self), folklore, feminism, and more.

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

This book feels like the moment before a summer thunderstorm. It’s about a family dealing with the fallout from a tragedy they can’t bare to talk about. We alternate between Ava’s childhood, when she was free-spirited and passionate, and her closed-off, practical adult self. Read this to think about race and racism (particularly anti-Black racism), societal norms, growing up, family secrets, and the possibility of kissing a strange woman who shows up at your doorstop.

Cereus Blooms at Night by Shani Mootoo

Mala is sent to Paradise Alms House after she is declared unfit to stand trial for suspected murder. Slowly, she begins to unravel her life story to her nurse, Tyler (a gender-nonconforming person of indeterminate gender). Two queer love stories emerge: one in Mala’s past, one with Tyler. This story will make you think about homophobia, racism, and the intersections between them; about inter-generational queerness; and about hope.

Under the Udala Trees by Chinelo OkparantaUnder the Udala Trees by Chinelo Okparanta

This story is about two star-crossed lovers in Nigeria: they’re both girls, and from different ethnic communities. They are thrown together during civil war—but this is not a romance, and they are torn apart. Ijeoma has to learn what do about this part of herself that has to be hidden for her safety and acceptance. Read this to think about the the dangers of being out in different places around the world, to consider how much is worth sacrificing to be your whole self, and how these impossible choices may change over time.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins ReidThe Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Monique is shocked when Evelyn Hugo picks her to pen her biography: Hugo is an aging starlet whose biography is sure to be a bestseller, and Monique is an unknown writer with some magazine credits. Still, she takes the opportunity, and listens to Hugo unravel her life story, which reveals how she stayed closeted about her sexuality (bisexual) and ethnicity (Latina). Read this to think about the cost of fame, bi-erasure, complex female characters, racism, and 1950s Hollywood.

Everfair by Nisi ShawlEverfair by Nisi Shawl

You might find this in the sci-fi/fantasy section, but this is more alternate history than steampunk. It’s a reimagining of the colonial history of the Republic of Congo, and also follows a tumultuous, decades-long relationship between two women of very different backgrounds. Read this to think about colonialism, racism, white “passing,” complicated F/F relationships, intersectionality, war, and the story structure of including a staggering amount of point of view characters.

Tipping the Velvet by Sarah WatersTipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters

Sarah Waters is my favorite author, so this is a stand-in for all of her books, but I especially recommend picking up Fingersmith, too. Tipping the Velvet is a “lesbo-Victorian romp” (that’s the author’s description) about a small-town girl falling for a male impersonator and joining her on the road. Read it to think about being queer in Victorian England, male impersonators and gender, first loves, socialism, relationships that develop from friendships, and love after loss.

Written on the Body by Jeanette WintersonWritten on the Body by Jeanette Winterson

Jeanette Winterson is one of the big names in lesbian literary fiction, so there are a lot of her books I could have included, but I especially recommend this and The PassionWritten on the Body is remarkable for not stating the gender of the protagonist explicitly at any point, but it’s generally regarded as a classic of lesbian literary fiction. It’s about the narrator’s adoration of Louise, a married woman, and singing the praises of her and her body. Read this to think about gender assumptions and signifiers, and about being passionately in all-consuming love.

Bonus book:

This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max GladstoneThis Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone

Okay, you’ll almost certainly find it in the science fiction section: it’s about two women on opposite sides of a war across space and time, leaving each other letters—at first taunting, and then romantic. The letters between Red and Blue are so beautiful and lyrical that you’ll forgive me for including it on this list. Read this to think about poetry and love letters, war and time travel, and recognizing the humanity of people we’ve been taught to dehumanize.

Those are my picks for bi and lesbian literary fiction that will leave you with much to ponder! This is only a brief introduction: there are many more sapphic literary works, and more are being published all the time. If you pick up any of these, let me know what you think on Twitter! I’d love to hear what you think. Feel free to also offer any recommendations of bi and lesbian literary fiction you think I’d enjoy! I’m always looking for more.

This article originally ran on Book Riot.

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10 Queer Roller Derby Books for When You Miss the Track

10 Queer Roller Derby Books for When You Miss the Track graphic

It seems ridiculous to try to explain why roller derby appeals to queer women. A woman-centric sport? People with different body types playing a hardcore sport together? Puns? What’s not to love? Unfortunately, there have not been nearly enough books or movies to capitalize on the inherent potential of an amazing F/F roller derby romance. (I’m looking at you, Whip It.) I have been able to put together a list of 10 sapphic books that feature roller derby, but unfortunately, this is a very white list. There is one book on this list out in 2021 by an author of colour, but I hope that publishers seek out more roller derby stories from a variety of authors in the future, offering different points of view, because there’s no reason this list should be so white.

Kenzie Kickstarts a Team by Kit RosewaterKenzie Kickstarts a Team (The Derby Daredevils #1) by Kit Rosewater, illustrated by Sophie Escabasse

One of the most exciting things I’ve seen in queer lit in the last five years or so is the emergence of LGBTQ middle grade novels! For a long time, we had picture books and YA, and nothing in between. The Derby Daredevils is a series about a junior roller derby team started by Kenzie, who is the point of view character in this first volume. Her mother is a derby girl, and she desperately wants her and her best friend to play in the new junior league, which means they have to put together a team, pronto. This is an adorable short chapter book with tons of illustrations, and a diverse cast of characters in terms of race, personality, and body types. Kenzie has a crush on a girl, and she also has a trans dad. This is a perfect pick for kids just starting to get into chapter books. (Or adults, because I loved it.)

Bruised by Tanya BotejuBruised by Tanya Boteju (March 2021)

Okay, I’m a little early on this, because Bruised doesn’t come out until 2021, but I am eagerly awaiting it. From the author of Kings, Queens, and In-Betweens, this follows Daya, who is just beginning in the roller derby world. She and her parents were in an accident, and only she survived; since then, she’s been looking for ways to deal with it, usually by throwing herself into physically painful situations. She hopes that the bruises from roller derby will distract her from the emotional pain, but being part of this community ends up meaning a lot more than an excuse to throw herself into danger. I’m not sure of the exact sapphic content in this yet, but I’ve been assured that it’s there, and given her previous novel, I see no reason to doubt that!

On a Roll (Lumberjanes Volume 9)On a Roll (Lumberjanes Volume 9) by Shannon Watters, Kat Leyh, Carolyn Nowak, Maarta Laiho, Aubrey Aiese, and Brooklyn Allen

There’s never a bad reason to read Lumberjanes, and volume 9 just happens to include a roller derby bout against some yetis. Lumberjanes has been queer from the beginning, with an adorable romance between two of the girls, and it also has trans representation in the later volumes. This volume even has a nonbinary character who starts using gender neutral pronouns and is immediately accepted! As always, this is just a fun, happy read.

Slam! by Pamela Ribon and Veronica FishSlam! by Pamela Ribon and Veronica Fish

Jennifer and Maise meet at “Fresh Meat” orientation and immediately hit it off—unfortunately, they’re put onto different teams. As they go from being rookies to finding their places on their teams, they begin to grow apart. Does this sound like the beginning of a friends-to-rivals romance? It does. Unfortunately, this isn’t that, but we do get a lesbian character in Jennifer (who is on the cover). Part of the appeal of roller derby is the close-knit friendships and community that grow from being part of a team, and that’s what Slam! focuses on—so this is more about the romance of friendship!

Roller Girl by Vanessa NorthRoller Girl by Vanessa North

I might have done a romance bait-and-switch with Slam!, but don’t worry: most of the books on this list are proper romances. Roller Girl is about Tina, who is a recently divorced trans woman looking for a fresh start. When her very attractive butch plumber Joanna recommends roller derby, she jumps at the chance. The only problem is that Joanna is the coach, which means the plumber/derby girl is off limits. Will they be able to resist their mutual attraction? Will the sexual tension ever be resolved? Okay, yes, obviously. But will they be able to keep their secret relationship from the team?

Kat & Mouse by Jacqueline HeatKat & Mouse by Jacqueline Hear

Dot Mauser is the “bad girl” of the roller derby rink. As far as she’s concerned, the referee Kat has it out for her. Little does she know that while Kat is handing Dot plenty of penalties, she has her eye on her for different reasons. During the derby’s Pride event, these two find out that they’re both artists: Dot upcycles “junk” and Kat is a photographer. They form an unlikely alliance, though Dot is sure Kat hates her. There’s plenty of drama, and some darker topics than the premise would suggest, but there’s also a lot of heat between the two characters. Bonus: this is written by a roller derby girl herself, with a preface and appendix with more information.

Crash Into You by Diana MorlandCrash Into You by Diana Morland

Megan’s life revolves around roller derby, and she takes it very seriously. Yes, she’s constantly surrounded by beautiful women, but she’s never let that distract her. That is, until she finds herself falling head over heels (literally) for the opposing team’s blocker Gianna. Megan is determined to keep her focus on the competition, but it’s definitely hard to keep her eyes on the prize when she can’t stop looking at her opponent. This is a quick, fun romance with a fat love interest and some steamy scenes.

The Real Thing by Laney WebberThe Real Thing by Laney Webber

Virginia Harris is the star of a lesbian web series, and it’s gone to her head. She’s used to being recognized, and has no problem finding women. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise when she is told by Allison that she was catfished by someone using her photo. Allison seems like the perfect girl, but she’s disheartened by the whole dating app experience and is ready to jump back into roller derby before she meets Virginia—can she separate the real Virginia from the catfish version she just fell for? This is one for fans of complex and “unlikable” female characters, because Virginia is a divisive love interest.

Troll or Derby by Red TashTroll or Derby by Red Tash

And now for something completely different. Roller Deb is an outcast in her town, but when her popular sister goes missing, it’s up to her to rescue her. In her search, she finds a world of trolls, fairies, gangsters, and a bloodthirsty version of roller derby. This is a dark fantasy and includes sex, drugs, and violence. Roller Deb first is pulled into this world as part of her rescue mission, but her roller derby skills make her powerful and sought-after here, and she will have to resist being pulled under completely if she wants to escape with her sister.

Color Jam Roller Derby Coloring Book by Margot AtwellColor Jam Roller Derby Coloring Book by Margot Atwell

While I may hold roller derby’s appeal to queer women to be self-evident, Margot Atwell wrote a Huffington Post article called Why Is Roller Derby Important To So Many Queer Women? In it, she talked about why she wanted to honour queer women in her kickstarted roller derby colouring book, including how being part of the roller derby community helped her to discover her own sexuality and come out. This includes several portraits of queer roller derby role models.


And that’s it for sapphic roller derby books I could find! Feel free to let me know (@lesbrary) if I missed any! There is also a novella in Hot Ice: 3 Romance Novellas: “Ice on Wheels” by Aurora Rey, so there’s a bonus for you. I hope that in the coming years, we’ll see many more queer roller derby books come out, whether they’re F/F romances, nonbinary YA novels, bisexual comics, or anything else under the rainbow & roller derby umbrella!

This post originally ran on Book Riot.

Bringing the Lesbian Vampire Home: Carmen Maria Machado’s Reclamation of CARMILLA

Carmilla: Bringing the Lesbian Vampire Home graphic

Carmilla is a lesbian vampire story that predates Dracula by decades. It’s a story I’ve come back to over and over, in the same conflicted way that I am drawn to lesbian pulp. In fact, I wrote a post about queer culture’s tendency to reclaim toxic representation, and how Carmilla and lesbian pulp fits into that. On the one hand, it’s validating to read about queer characters in classic literature, when our presence has been erased from much of history. On the other, Carmilla is literally a monster. I vividly remember my university Gender Studies class about Monstrous Women, and how the pinnacle of this is the lesbian vampire who lurks in the shadows, ready to pounce on innocent women and violently convert them.

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Carmilla is a complex character, though. She’s in some ways pitiable and even relatable. She also seems to love Laura in some way, and their relationship is passionate, if veiled and macabre. I’m not the only queer woman drawn to this flawed but compelling character: it’s been adapted into a YouTube series (with canonically queer characters, including a nonbinary side character) that became popular enough to get its own movie and book adaptations.

I’ve always felt conflicted reading Carmilla, though, because while I could reclaim the character, it was with the knowledge that the author and story was painting her as monstrous—and that her sexuality was just an expression of this villainy. I was both repulsed by and attracted to this story—just as Laura is said to be to Carmilla. When I discovered that Carmen Maria Machado was editing and introducing a new edition, I was eager to get my hands on it. I couldn’t imagine that an introduction and new editor could make a huge difference, but if anyone could reclaim this queer narrative, Machado could: the same person who wrote, “I think a lot about queer villains, the problem and pleasure and audacity of them” (In the Dream House).

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I shouldn’t have underestimated Machado. This edition rewrites the entire narrative of Carmilla while keeping the vast majority of the text exactly the same. Originally, Le Fanu published the chapters serially in a magazine, then later bound them together with an introduction which claimed that the story came from Doctor Hesselius’s notes. Machado adds another layer. She claims that Le Fanu pulled this story from stolen letters, disguising and censoring the women’s story. Machado claims that the real letters from Veronika (“Laura”) were explicit about her and Carmilla’s romantic and sexual relationship.

In this version, it isn’t queer women who are trying to alter the author’s intention in order to claim Carmilla. Instead, it’s Le Fanu whose heteronormativity has obscured the real story, which can now be unearthed in its true form. This edition also adds a few footnotes and illustrations, though I desperately wanted there to be more of both. The meta-narrative that Machado creates is one in which vampires do exist—and that’s not all. In one footnote, Laura lingers outside of the woods, and the footnote laments, “Lonely as she was, if only Laura knew the potential friends who resided in those woods! Peddlers, mountebanks, roguish-but-decent thieves and brigands, fairies, wolpertingers…” (Another footnote, after a lengthy description, succinctly states, “If this isn’t an orgasm, nothing is.”) And Robert Kraiza’s illustrations are beautiful and compelling.

It’s so nice to have a friendly (i.e. queer) guide through this unfriendly narrative. It was always interesting to read this classic lesbian text, but it was through the lens of heterosexism. Having a queer author shape this story makes it feel entirely new—not a guilty pleasure, but a triumphant one. Machado brings Carmilla and Laura into the fold. In this version, Laura watches in horror as her male supposed protectors execute her lover in front of her, claiming it is for her safety. Veronika dreams of Carmilla, of her corpse intoning “You are mine.” Veronika writes, “How I fear that sound: that it might be true, and that it might never be true again.”

Unfortunately, shame, guilt, and fear intermingling with desire is still a common feeling for many queer people, especially when they are first exploring their sexuality. Laura is drawn to Carmilla at the same time that she feels “something of repulsion,” which can easily be interpreted as compulsory heterosexuality souring desire. Laura even wonders if Carmilla could be a boy disguised—the only way she can conceive of romance. Under Machado’s framing, instead of being horrific, Laura and Carmilla’s relationship seems somewhat familiar. Unhealthy, sure, and conflicted—but not inhuman.

After reading this book, I was filled with pride for how queer readers throughout time have reclaimed and reshaped the narratives meant to destroy us:

I want to seek out every snide reference to a queer woman in literature throughout time, for the same reason that queer people reclaim monsters and villains. Because we stare our fears in the eye and embrace them. We take the boogeyman stories about us and we invite them in. We make monsters into heroes and the heroes into monsters. We queer the story. Instead of shrinking from the terrible associations that have been put on us, we remake them and show them off. Because we are alchemists who turn shame into pride. And this is a book that knows that so intimately.

I finished that book knowing that Machado understood why I kept reading Carmilla, and she had created a version more hospitable to readers like me. Instead of feeling like I was fighting through the text, I was guided through it with a sympathetic hand. The lesbian vampire has long been the cruel caricature of queer women, a weapon used to portray all desire between women as pathological and even violent. Machado has taken that character, and in the grand tradition of reclaiming queer villains, she has humanized her. After long being the spectre haunting queer representation, Machado has invited Carmilla in, finally bringing the original lesbian vampire home.

This article originally ran on Book Riot.

81 Bi and Lesbian Books Out This Month!

Bi & Lesbian Books Out in September!

Would you believe that more than 80 sapphic books come out this month? It’s true! Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to find out which books have queer representation, or what kind of representation they have. So here’s a big list of bi and lesbian books out this month, sorted by genre.

Usually, I’d put the publisher’s descriptions, but with the amount of books coming out, it’s just too much! So I’ve highlighted a few of the books I’m most interested in, but click through to see the other titles’ blurbs!

As always, if you can get these through an indie bookstore, that is ideal, but if you can’t, the titles and covers are linked to my Amazon affiliate link. If you click through and buy something, I’ll get a small percentage. On to the books!

Young Adult Contemporary

Miss Meteor by Tehlor Kay Mejia & Anna-Marie McLemoreMiss Meteor by Tehlor Kay Mejia and Anna-Marie McLemore

A gorgeous and magical collaboration between two critically acclaimed, powerhouse YA authors offers a richly imagined underdog story perfect for fans of Dumplin’ and Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe.

There hasn’t been a winner of the Miss Meteor beauty pageant who looks like Lita Perez or Chicky Quintanilla in all its history.

But that’s not the only reason Lita wants to enter the contest, or her ex-best friend Chicky wants to help her. The road to becoming Miss Meteor isn’t about being perfect; it’s about sharing who you are with the world—and loving the parts of yourself no one else understands.

So to pull off the unlikeliest underdog story in pageant history, Lita and Chicky are going to have to forget the past and imagine a future where girls like them are more than enough—they are everything.

[Pansexual main character]

Who I Was with Her by Nita TyndallWho I Was with Her by Nita Tyndall

There are two things that Corinne Parker knows to be true: that she is in love with Maggie Bailey, the captain of the rival high school’s cross-country team and her secret girlfriend of a year, and that she isn’t ready for anyone to know she’s bisexual.

But then Maggie dies, and Corinne quickly learns that the only thing worse than losing Maggie is being left heartbroken over a relationship no one knows existed. And to make things even more complicated, the only person she can turn to is Elissa — Maggie’s ex, and the single person who understands how Corinne is feeling.

As Corinne struggles to make sense of her grief and what she truly wants out of life, she begins to have feelings for the last person she should fall for. But to move forward after losing Maggie, Corinne will have to learn to be honest with the people in her life… starting with herself.

Every Body Looking by Candice Iloh    Watch Over Me by Nina LaCour  Under Shifting Stars by Alexandra Latos  Throwaway Girls by Andrea Contos

YA Sci Fi and Fantasy

Vampires Never Get Old edited by Zoraida Cordova & Natalie C. ParkerVampires Never Get Old: Tales with Fresh Bite edited by Zoraida Cordova & Natalie C. Parker (YA Anthology)

Eleven fresh vampire stories from young adult fiction’s leading voices!

In this delicious new collection, you’ll find stories about lurking vampires of social media, rebellious vampires hungry for more than just blood, eager vampires coming out—and going out for their first kill—and other bold, breathtaking, dangerous, dreamy, eerie, iconic, powerful creatures of the night.

Welcome to the evolution of the vampire—and a revolution on the page.

Vampires Never Get Old includes stories by authors both bestselling and acclaimed, including Samira Ahmed, Dhonielle Clayton, Zoraida Córdova and Natalie C. Parker, Tessa Gratton, Heidi Heilig, Julie Murphy, Mark Oshiro, Rebecca Roanhorse, Laura Ruby, Victoria “V. E.” Schwab, and Kayla Whaley.

[includes sapphic stories]

The Art of Saving the World by Corinne DuyvisThe Art of Saving the World by Corinne Duyvis (YA Sci Fi)

One girl and her doppelgangers try to stop the end of the world in this YA sci-fi adventure

When Hazel Stanczak was born, an interdimensional rift tore open near her family’s home, which prompted immediate government attention. They soon learned that if Hazel strayed too far, the rift would become volatile and fling things from other dimensions onto their front lawn—or it could swallow up their whole town. As a result, Hazel has never left her small Pennsylvania town, and the government agents garrisoned on her lawn make sure it stays that way. On her sixteenth birthday, though, the rift spins completely out of control. Hazel comes face-to-face with a surprise: a second Hazel. Then another. And another. Three other Hazels from three different dimensions! Now, for the first time, Hazel has to step into the world to learn about her connection to the rift—and how to close it. But is Hazel—even more than one of her—really capable of saving the world?

[Asexual lesbian mc]

The Scapegracers by Hannah Abigail Clarke  Night Shine by Tessa Gratton  Iron Heart by Nina Varela  Forget This Ever Happened by Cassandra Rose Clarke   Crownchasers by Rebecca Coffindaffer

Middle Grade & Children’s

Pepper’s Rules for Secret Sleuthing by Briana McDonaldPepper’s Rules for Secret Sleuthing by Briana McDonald (Middle Grade)

Nancy Drew meets Harriet the Spy in this action-packed and heartfelt debut middle grade following an overzealous amateur sleuth as she investigates a shocking family secret—and unravels the mystery of her developing feelings for girls.

Rule One: Your loyalty is to the case.

Amateur detective Pepper Blouse has always held true to this rule, even if it meant pushing people away. But when the results of Pepper’s latest case cost her any hope of the girl she likes returning her feelings, she decides that maybe she should lay low for a while.

That is, until her Great Aunt Florence passes away under mysterious circumstances. And even though her dad insists there’s nothing to investigate, Pepper can’t just ignore rule fourteen: Trust your gut.

But there’s nothing in the rulebook that could’ve prepared her for the family secrets her investigation uncovers.

Maybe it’s time to stop playing by the rules.

Jo: A Graphic Novel by Kathleen GrosJo: A Graphic Novel by Kathleen Gros (Middle Grade Graphic Novel)

A modern-day graphic novel adaptation of Little Women that explores identity, friendships, and new experiences through the eyes of thirteen-year-old Jo March. A must-read for fans of Raina Telgemeier.

With the start of eighth grade, Jo March decides it’s time to get serious about her writing and joins the school newspaper. But even with her new friend Freddie cheering her on, becoming a hard-hitting journalist is a lot harder than Jo imagined.

That’s not all that’s tough. Jo and her sisters—Meg, Beth, and Amy—are getting used to a new normal at home, with their dad deployed overseas and their mom, a nurse, working overtime.

And while it helps to hang out with Laurie, the boy who just moved next door, things get complicated when he tells Jo he has feelings for her. Feelings that Jo doesn’t have for him…or for any boy. Feelings she’s never shared with anyone before. Feelings that Jo might have for Freddie.

What does it take to figure out who you are? Jo March is about to find out.

The Legend of Korra Ruins of the Empire (Library Edition)  My Family, Your Family! by Kathryn Cole, illustrated by Cornelia Li 

Fiction

Bestiary by K-Ming ChangBestiary by K-Ming Chang

Three generations of Taiwanese American women are haunted by the myths of their homeland in this spellbinding, visceral debut about one family’s queer desires, violent impulses, and buried secrets.

One evening, Mother tells Daughter a story about a tiger spirit who lived in a woman’s body. She was called Hu Gu Po, and she hungered to eat children, especially their toes. Soon afterward, Daughter awakes with a tiger tail. And more mysterious events follow: Holes in the backyard spit up letters penned by her grandmother; a visiting aunt arrives with snakes in her belly; a brother tests the possibility of flight. All the while, Daughter is falling for Ben, a neighborhood girl with strange powers of her own. As the two young lovers translate the grandmother’s letters, Daughter begins to understand that each woman in her family embodies a myth—and that she will have to bring her family’s secrets to light in order to change their destiny.

With a poetic voice of crackling electricity, K-Ming Chang is an explosive young writer who combines the wit and fabulism of Helen Oyeyemi with the subversive storytelling of Maxine Hong Kingston. Tracing one family’s history from Taiwan to America, from Arkansas to California, Bestiary is a novel of migration, queer lineages, and girlhood.

A World Between by Emily HashimotoA World Between by Emily Hashimoto (Fiction/Romance)

A college fling between two women turns into a lifelong connection—and spells out a new kind of love story for a millennial, immigrant America.

“A sweetly poignant look at the transformative power of young love.” —O, The Oprah Magazine

In 2004, college students Eleanor Suzuki and Leena Shah meet in an elevator. Both girls are on the brink of adulthood, each full of possibility and big ideas, and they fall into a whirlwind romance. Years later, Eleanor and Leena collide on the streets of San Francisco. Although grown and changed and each separately partnered, the two find themselves, once again, irresistibly pulled back together.

Emily Hashimoto’s debut novel perfectly captures the wonder and confusion of growing up and growing closer. Narrated in sparkling prose, A World Between follows two strikingly different but interconnected women as they navigate family, female friendship, and their own fraught history.

Polar Vortex by Shani MootooPolar Vortex by Shani Mootoo

A novel reminiscent of the works of Herman Koch and Rachel Cusk, in which a lesbian couple attempts to escape the secrets of their pasts.

Polar Vortex is a seductive and tension-filled novel about Priya and Alex, a lesbian couple who left the big city to relocate to a bucolic countryside community. It seemed like a good way to leave their past behind and cement their newish, later-in-life relationship. But there’s leaving the past behind–and then there’s running away from awkward histories.

Priya has a secret–a long-standing, on-again, off-again relationship with a man, Prakash. In Priya’s mind Prakash is little more than an old friend, but in reality things are a bit complicated. Why has she never told Alex about him? Prakash has tracked Priya down in her new life, and before she realizes what she’s doing, she invites him to visit.

Alex is not pleased, and soon the existing cracks in their relationship widen, revealing secrets Alex herself would have preferred to keep. Into the fissure walks Prakash, whose own agenda forces all three to face the inevitable consequences of their choices.

Maiden Leap by C.M. Harris  https://amzn.to/2DHTjRd    Like a Bird by Fariha Róisín  Islands of Mercy by Rose Tremain

The Testimony of Alys Twist by Suzannah Dunn   Barbed Wire by Erin Wade

Mystery & Thriller

Romance

Lovers Rock (Friends & Lovers 3) by Ava FreemanLovers Rock (Friends & Lovers 3) by Ava Freeman

Your favorite trio return for one last shot at winning it all in the game of love …

Alexis and Sera are finally on the other side of issues that would have broken a weaker relationship. Yet their bond has remained strong and their love for each other has seen them through it all. Now that they are settled, they want to take the next step: parenthood. Alexis thinks they’ve been through it all but this one might be the hardest yet.

Stevie has come to understand who she is and what she can offer in a relationship as well as what she needs in return. Now she just has to convince Chloe that she’s changed. When another woman enters the picture, she discovers what might be the missing link to making it all work.

As the end of her European tour fast approaches, Victoria is ready to hit the ground running. Seemingly overnight she’s become one of the most in demand photographers in the entertainment industry. Despite her success, she just wants to fill the void in her heart left by the one who got away, Savannah. Not ready to give up , she makes a last ditch effort to save what has the potential to be the greatest love she’s ever known.

The Holiday Detour by Jane KolvenThe Holiday Detour by Jane Kolven

Sometimes it takes everything going wrong to make you see how right things are.

Dana Gottfried is a stressed-out Jewish lesbian who’s just quit her job and wants to get home to see her grandmother. When her car breaks down in Indiana on Christmas Eve, Dana is stranded―until she’s rescued by Charlie, a pig farmer who doesn’t identify as male or female. Although they come from different worlds, Dana is intrigued by Charlie’s sense of humor and kindness. Despite her better judgment, Dana says yes when Charlie offers a ride.

But the journey home is paved with detours. From car accidents to scheming exgirlfriends to a snowy and deserted Chicago Loop, everything that could go wrong on their road trip does, but it leads Dana on a path of self-discovery that just might end in love.

[un]common Ground by Erica Abbott  Too Hot to Ride by Andrews & Austin  Just One Taste by CJ Birch  Passion's Sweet Surrender by Ronica Black  It's in Her Kiss (Midnight in Manhattan, #2) by Rachel Lacey

The Wrong Date by Sienna Waters  Last Resort by Angie Williams 

Fantasy & Science Fiction

Stone and Steel by Eboni DunbarStone and Steel by Eboni Dunbar (Fantasy)

In Stone and Steel, when General Aaliyah returns triumphant to the city of Titus, she expects to find the people prospering under the rule of her Queen, the stone mage Odessa. Instead, she finds a troubling imbalance in both the citizens’ wellbeing and Odessa’s rule. Aaliyah must rely on all of her allies, old and new, to do right by the city that made her.

Stone and Steel is a sharp and sexy story of love, loyalty and magic. Eboni has given us a world where Black Queerness reigns supreme, and our world is better for it.” — Danny Lore, co-author of Queen of Bad Dreams

This queer, elementally themed world should appeal to fans of Laurie J. Marks’ Elemental Logic series.” — Booklist

This will be an easy pick for anyone looking for queer, Black speculative fiction—and for fantasy fans more broadly.” — Publishers Weekly

Master of Poisons by Andrea HairstonMaster of Poisons by Andrea Hairston (Fantasy)

“This is a prayer hymn, a battle cry, a lovesong, a legendary call and response bonfire talisman tale. This is medicine for a broken world.” —Daniel José Older

Award-winning author Andrea Hairston weaves together African folktales and postcolonial literature into unforgettable fantasy in Master of Poisons

The world is changing. Poison desert eats good farmland. Once-sweet water turns foul. The wind blows sand and sadness across the Empire. To get caught in a storm is death. To live and do nothing is death. There is magic in the world, but good conjure is hard to find.

Djola, righthand man and spymaster of the lord of the Arkhysian Empire, is desperately trying to save his adopted homeland, even in exile.

Awa, a young woman training to be a powerful griot, tests the limits of her knowledge and comes into her own in a world of sorcery, floating cities, kindly beasts, and uncertain men.

Awash in the rhythms of folklore and storytelling and rich with Hairston’s characteristic lush prose, Master of Poisons is epic fantasy that will bleed your mind with its turns of phrase and leave you aching for the world it burns into being.

[Bisexual characters]

Burning Roses by S.L HuangBurning Roses by S.L Huang (Fantasy)

From Hugo Award Winner S. L. Huang

“S. L. Huang is amazing.”―Patrick Rothfuss

Burning Roses is a gorgeous fairy tale of love and family, of demons and lost gods, for fans of Zen Cho and JY Yang.

Rosa, also known as Red Riding Hood, is done with wolves and woods.

Hou Yi the Archer is tired, and knows she’s past her prime.

They would both rather just be retired, but that’s not what the world has ready for them.

When deadly sunbirds begin to ravage the countryside, threatening everything they’ve both grown to love, the two must join forces. Now blessed and burdened with the hindsight of middle age, they begin a quest that’s a reckoning of sacrifices made and mistakes mourned, of choices and family and the quest for immortality.

[lesbian main characters]

Architects of Memory by Karen OsborneArchitects of Memory by Karen Osborne (Science Fiction)

Millions died after the first contact. An alien weapon holds the key to redemption―or annihilation. Experience Karen Osborne’s unforgettable science fiction debut, Architects of Memory.

SyFY Wire SFF Reads to pick up in September

Terminally ill salvage pilot Ash Jackson lost everything in the war with the alien Vai, but she’ll be damned if she loses her future. Her plan: to buy, beg, or lie her way out of corporate indenture and find a cure. When her crew salvages a genocidal weapon from a ravaged starship above a dead colony, Ash uncovers a conspiracy of corporate intrigue and betrayal that threatens to turn her into a living weapon.

[Bisexual main character, f/f romance]

Hench by Natalie Zina WalschotsHench by Natalie Zina Walschots (Superheros)

Anna does boring things for terrible people because even criminals need office help and she needs a job. Working for a monster lurking beneath the surface of the world isn’t glamorous. But is it really worse than working for an oil conglomerate or an insurance company? In this economy?

As a temp, she’s just a cog in the machine. But when she finally gets a promising assignment, everything goes very wrong, and an encounter with the so-called “hero” leaves her badly injured.  And, to her horror, compared to the other bodies strewn about, she’s the lucky one.

So, of course, then she gets laid off.

With no money and no mobility, with only her anger and internet research acumen, she discovers her suffering at the hands of a hero is far from unique. When people start listening to the story that her data tells, she realizes she might not be as powerless as she thinks.

Because the key to everything is data: knowing how to collate it, how to manipulate it, and how to weaponize it. By tallying up the human cost these caped forces of nature wreak upon the world, she discovers that the line between good and evil is mostly marketing.  And with social media and viral videos, she can control that appearance.

It’s not too long before she’s employed once more, this time by one of the worst villains on earth. As she becomes an increasingly valuable lieutenant, she might just save the world.

A sharp, witty, modern debut, Hench explores the individual cost of justice through a fascinating mix of Millennial office politics, heroism measured through data science, body horror, and a profound misunderstanding of quantum mechanics.

Glitter + Ashes cover  Broken Reign (The Odium Trilogy #2) by Sam Ledel   Yellow Jessamine by Caitlin Starling   Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart  Lady of Stone by Barbara Ann Wright

Comics & Manga

The Contradictions by Sophie YanowThe Contradictions by Sophie Yanow (Comics)

The Eisner Award–winning story about a student figuring out radical politics in a messy world

Sophie is young and queer and into feminist theory. She decides to study abroad, choosing Paris for no firm reason beyond liking French comics. Feeling a bit lonely and out of place, she’s desperate for community and a sense of belonging. She stumbles into what/who she’s looking for when she meets Zena. An anarchist student-activist committed to veganism and shoplifting, Zena offers Sophie a whole new political ideology that feels electric. Enamored―of Zena, of the idea of living more righteously―Sophie finds herself swept up in a whirlwind friendship that blows her even further from her rural California roots as they embark on a disastrous hitchhiking trip to Amsterdam and Berlin, full of couch surfing, drug tripping, and radical book fairs.

Capturing that time in your life where you’re meeting new people and learning about the world―when everything feels vital and urgent―The Contradictions is Sophie Yanow’s fictionalized coming-of-age story. Sophie’s attempts at ideological purity are challenged time and again, putting into question the plausibility of a life of dogma in a world filled with contradictions. Keenly observed, frank, and very funny, The Contradictions speaks to a specific reality while also being incredibly relatable, reminding us that we are all imperfect people in an imperfect world.

Éclair Rouge A Girls’ Love Anthology That Resonates in Your HeartÉclair Rouge: A Girls’ Love Anthology That Resonates in Your Heart (Manga)

The emotions of girls burn bright, but love can be especially intense…Éclair is back in this fourth installment with an exciting new collection of impassioned romances. With chapters from returning artists like Canno (Kiss and White Lily for My Dearest Girl) and Kabocha (Kemono Friends à la Carte), plus fresh additions like Akiko Morishima (The Conditions of Paradise), this volume is sure to thrill.

 

 

Devil Within by Stephanie Phillips, Maan House, Dee Cunniffe  Sexiled: My Sexist Party Leader Kicked Me Out, So I Teamed Up With a Mythical Sorceress! Vol. 2 by Ameko Kaeruda, illustrated by Kazutomo Miya, translated by Molly Lee  If I Could Reach You, Volume 5 by tMnR

Poetry

The World That Belongs To Us: An Anthology of Queer Poetry from South Asia by Aditi Angiras and Akhil KatyalThe World That Belongs To Us: An Anthology of Queer Poetry from South Asia by Aditi Angiras and Akhil Katyal (Poetry)

This first-of-its-kind anthology brings together the best of contemporary queer poetry from South Asia, both from the subcontinent and its many diasporas.The anthology features well-known voices like Hoshang Merchant, Ruth Vanita, Suniti Namjoshi, Kazim Ali, Rajiv Mohabir as well as a host of new poets. The themes range from desire and loneliness, sexual intimacy and struggles, caste and language, activism both on the streets and in the homes, the role of family both given and chosen, and heartbreaks and heartjoins. Writing from Bangalore, Baroda, Benares, Boston, Chennai, Colombo, Dhaka, Delhi, Dublin, Karachi, Kathmandu, Lahore, London, New York City, and writing in languages including Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Urdu, Manipuri, Malayalam, Marathi, Punjabi, Tamil, and, of course, English, the result is an urgent, imaginative and beautiful testament to the diversity, politics, aesthetics and ethics of queer life in South Asia today.

Semiotics: Poems by Chekwube Danladi 

Nonfiction

If These Ovaries Could Talk by Jaimie Kelton and Robin HopkinsIf These Ovaries Could Talk: The Things We’ve Learned About Making An LGBTQ Family by Jaimie Kelton and Robin Hopkins (Nonfiction)

JAIMIE KELTON and ROBIN HOPKINS, the creators and hosts of the popular podcast If These Ovaries Could Talk, realized the world needed to know there was more than one way to make an LGBTQ family. Each of their families came about in different ways, so how many other stories were out there? Turns out, lots. Inspired, the two friends launched their podcast asking LGTBQ families every question imaginable about their journeys to parenthood.

Now the two hosts have written a book based on dozens of interviews to help address recurring questions that came up during their podcast. Is it important to have a child with your genetics? How does one pick a sperm donor? How will you talk to your children about where they came from? And just how does one pay for a baby because rumor has it, it costs a lot? With insights and stories from guests such as StaceyAnn Chin, Judy Gold, and State Senator Zach Wahls, Jaimie and Robin go humorously in-depth and guide you on a journey that is equal parts funny, serious, happy, sad, celebratory, cautionary, and powerful. You can read this book cover-to-cover or skip around like your very own LGBTQ choose your own baby adventure book. You’ll learn a lot and laugh even more along the way! Who knew making a baby could be this much fun?

A Wild Kindness: A Psilocybin Odyssey by Bett WilliamsA Wild Kindness: A Psilocybin Odyssey by Bett Williams (Nonfiction)

The Wild Kindness: A Psilocybin Odyssey is the lyrical, unforgettable memoir of Bett Williams’s relationship with psilocybin mushrooms, otherwise known as magic mushrooms. In pursuit of self-healing, she begins experimenting with mushrooms in solitary ceremonies by the fire. Word soon gets out about her New Mexican desert mushroom farm, though, and people arrive in droves. Not long after, the police read her her Miranda Rights, her relationships fall out of whack, and her dog Rosie just might be CIA.

On a quest to find help through the psychedelic community, Bett is led to Cleveland to meet Kai Wingo, an African American leader within a high-dose psilocybin community, and to Huautla de Jiménez, home of well-known, well-respected curandera María Sabina. Back home, Bett begins a solid ritual practice with the help of her partner and friends, bearing in mind the medicine’s indigenous roots and power to transform one’s life.

Amidst the mainstream flood of New Age practices and products, The Wild Kindness: A Psilocybin Odyssey is a dreamlike reminder that psilocybin mushrooms are a medicine of the people, not to be neatly packaged, marketed, or appropriated.

[Lesbian author: she also wrote and article called “The Inherent Queerness of Psychedelics”]

Self-Evident Truths: 10,000 Portraits of Queer America by iO Tillet WrightSelf-Evident Truths: 10,000 Portraits of Queer America by iO Tillet Wright (Nonfiction)

In the spirit of Richard Avedon, this book contains striking photographic portraits of 10,000 people from across the US, bringing readers face to face with LGBTQ America.

The Declaration of Independence states that it is self-evident that we are all created equal. Millions of people in the US, however, are deprived of basic rights merely because they aren’t heteronormative. Believing that it’s impossible to deny the humanity of anyone once you look into their eyes, iO Tillett Wright embarked on an ambitious project to photograph the faces of people across the country who identify as anything other than 100% straight or cisgender. This enormous undertaking–10,000 people from all fifty states, shot over a nearly ten-year period–is presented in its entirety in this aweinspiring book. In these pages readers will encounter faces of every complexion, lined with age or punctuated with piercings, smiling broadly or deadly serious. While some faces are famous, most are familiar. They may look like your grandmother, your neighbor, your mail carrier, or your doctor. Each of these images tells a personal story. And each of these stories has the power to transform stereotypes into complex views of a multifaceted group of people. Self Evident Truths asks fundamental questions about identity and freedom while proving that the concepts of sexuality and gender are not black and white. They are 10,000 beautiful, bold, and unapologetic shades of queer.

  For Now by Eileen Myles  Serpent in the Garden: Amish Sexuality in a Changing World by James A. Cates  Queer Representations in Chinese-Language Film and the Cultural Landscape by Shi-Yan Chao   A Queer New York: Geographies of Lesbians, Dykes, and Queers by Jen Jack Gieseking

Female Identities in Lesbian Web Series by Julia Obermayr   Prismatic Performances: Queer South Africa and the Fragmentation of the Rainbow Nation by April Sizemore-Barber   Coming Out, Moving Forward Wisconsin's Recent Gay History by R. Richard Wagner  New Queer Photography

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Landice interviews Anna Burke about her book Spindrift

Spindrift by Anna Burke

Anna Burke is not just one of my favorite lesfic authors—she’s one of my all time favorite authors, period. I love her dystopian lesbian pirate debut novel so much that I’ve convinced 6+ different friends to read it, essentially turning my Sapphic Bookstagram group chat into the unofficial Compass Rose fan club, and I credit Burke’s 2019 Goldie Award winning book, Thorn (an F/F Beauty & the Beast re-imagining), with reigniting my long dormant love for reading.

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Burke about her newest book, Spindrift. A contemporary romance, Spindrift is definitely a departure from her previous work, but I found it to be equally delightful!

Landice: Thank you so much for agreeing to speak with me, Anna! Would you like to introduce yourself to readers not yet familiar with you or your work?

Anna Burke: Sure! I am predominately a speculative fiction writer. My first book, Compass Rose, is a dystopian high-seas lesbian pirate novel, and my next two books, Thorn and Nottingham, are retold fairytales (Beauty and the Beast and the legend of Robin Hood, respectively). But most people know me as Artemis’s dog mom.

Landice: That’s certainly how I know you! [laughs] But, speaking of dogs, Spindrift is a romance between two dog moms, which I loved. I mean, there’s a lot more to Emilia and Morgan than their dogs, but Nell and Kraken do play an important part in the novel! Is Kraken (a German Shepherd) based off of your own pup? These are the sort of hard-hitting questions Lesbrary readers are here for, obviously.

Anna: Kraken is absolutely based on my GSD, and another dog, who will appear in later books, is inspired by my Cocker Spaniel. I couldn’t resist! I love writing animals into my work–and not just because I love animals, though that admittedly might have a lot to do with it. From a craft perspective, how characters interact with their pets can reveal a great deal about them, and they can also serve as a humanizing influence on characters who might otherwise be irredeemable. And, let’s face it—us queers love our pets.

Landice: Very true! Emilia is definitely a bit of an ice queen at first—or, we can tell that’s how she wants to be seen, at least, because she’s still very fragile and sort of cagey post-breakdown. But her interactions with Nell and with other animals in the first part of the novel really help us glimpse past the emotional walls she puts up! And as someone who also struggles with anxiety and other mental illnesses, I really appreciated the care you took in writing Emilia’s own mental health issues. What, if any, were some of the challenges you faced in writing that aspect of the novel?

Anna: This is a great question. Mental health is a topic that is close to my heart, and is something that I–as well as most of the people I know—struggle with. Not only is it a major issue in the veterinary profession, but it also is something that the queer community faces disproportionately. I’m queer and married to a veterinarian (laughs). By far the biggest challenge I faced in writing Emilia’s character was figuring out how to faithfully portray her struggles while also conveying a sense of hope. She’s faced some tough shit, and will continue to deal with that, but she’s also learning how to live with it, and that’s where I wanted to put the focus of the novel. Sometimes surviving is the bravest thing we can do. Emilia is brave, and because I write fiction, her reward is new friends, old love, lots of dogs, and, well… a few boat scenes, let’s just say.

Landice: And what excellent boat scenes they are! The steamier sections of Spindrift are stellar, some of the best I’ve read in a long time, but honestly, the mental health aspects were what really stood out to me. You know that meme that’s gone around lately, “Sure sex is great, but…”? Spindrift reminds me of that. “Sure, sex is great, but have you ever read a romance novel that also has phenomenal mental health rep?” [laughs]

Anna: Omg, that’s amazing. And then there’s Morgan, who is in total denial about her own issues… As a reader (and a writer and a human), I really do think that the deeper the emotional connection, the better the sex/the bigger the payoff. For these characters, an emotional connection isn’t possible without navigating the emotional depths they’ve both sunk to, which also offers such good potential for conflict. And, you know. Some good flannel ripping.

Landice: Flannel ripper! Oh, my god. That is the best possible way to describe this novel, honestly. Why aren’t flannel rippers a thing in the lesfic community, yet? Can we make them a thing? Anyway, I know you’re currently working on the second Seal Cove romance, Night Tide. What are the biggest differences, you’ve found, between writing both speculative fiction and contemporary romance?

Anna: I feel like #flannelripper has to already be a thing, but it clearly needs to be a BIGGER thing. Let’s make it happen. Honestly, I love hopping genres. It’s like solving different puzzles, and it lets me explore different storylines and settings. It also keeps me from getting stuck—I work on multiple projects simultaneously, and working in different genres often gets me out of writer’s block.

It’s funny—I thought there would be larger differences. I did enjoy not having to create entire worlds and societies, and there was less research involved (though again, being married to a vet made the veterinary research component easy). But characterization and world-building are the same regardless of genre. [laughs] Probably the biggest difference is that I wanted the characters in these stories to be happy. Anyone who follows me on social media knows this is a big departure from the norm!

Landice: It’s a nice change from your other books, I must say. I love the others, but they definitely hurt. [laughs] I’d love to have you back once Sea Wolf (Compass Rose sequel) is out in the world, that’d be a very different conversation. But to wrap up, how would you describe Spindrift to a potential reader in a couple sentences or so? Aside from #FlannelRipper, what’s your elevator pitch?

Anna: [laughs] Okay. Butch bottom falls for femme top/flex, plus dogs.

Landice: Yeah, I’d say that pretty much sums things up! [laughs] Thank you so much for speaking with me!

Spindrift’s official release date is August 25th, but you can snag your copy now, exclusively through the Bywater Books website!

Spindrift Description:

Can a hot summer fling mend the hearts of two broken women?

Morgan Donovan had everything she ever wanted: a dream job as a large animal veterinarian, awesome friends, and a loving and supportive fiancée. But it all comes crashing down when her fiancée dumps her after realizing that Morgan’s job will always come first. And, while Morgan still has the job and friends, her heart is broken into a million tiny pieces.

Emilia Russo is a burned-out shelter vet. When the unexpected death of her father triggers a mental breakdown that hastens the end of her relationship, she retreats to his house in Seal Cove, Maine. She plans on spending the summer renovating it while she figures out how to pull the pieces of her life back together. But when she runs into Morgan at the dock where her father’s sailboat is moored, her plans for a quiet summer of healing and reflection sink like a stone—the attraction is immediate and obvious, and Emilia finds herself slipping seamlessly into Morgan’s world.

Each woman knows this fling will end when Emilia returns to Boston at the end of the summer, but they’re unprepared for the intensity and depth of their attraction. And, as the gales of fall begin to drive leaves like spindrift upon Seal Cove, Morgan and Emilia must each come to terms with how much they’re willing to give up to stay together.

Content Warnings: past suicidality, death of a parent (off page), mentions of animal euthanasia

Anna Burke with her dog!Anna Burke was the inaugural recipient of the Sandra Moran Scholarship from the GCLS Writing Academy and is currently pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing at Emerson College. Her queer feminist novel, Thorn, was named 2019 LGBTQ+ book of the year by Foreword Reviews. When she isn’t writing or reading, she can usually be found drinking tea or playing with her dogs.

You can find her as annaburkeauthor on Patreon, Instagram, Twitter, or on her website, annahburke.com.

Landice is an autistic lesbian graphic design student who lives on a tiny farm outside of a tiny town in rural Texas. Her favorite genres are sci-fi, fantasy & speculative fiction, and her favorite tropes are enemies-to-lovers, thawing the ice queen, & age gap romances. Landice drinks way too much caffeine, buys more books than she’ll ever be able to read, and dreams of starting her own queer book cover design studio one day.

You can find her as manicfemme on Bookstagram & Goodreads, and as manic_femme on Twitter. Her personal book blog is Manic Femme Reviews.

The 9 Books of Sappho and Other Queer Lit Lost in the Fire

There’s a famous photograph of a Nazi book burning. A mound of books are spread in the street, some smoldering, some still aflame. Surrounding it are people raising the Nazi salute. It’s an eerie image.

By Bundesarchiv, Bild 102-14597 / Georg Pahl / CC-BY-SA 3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0 de, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5415527

I’m sure I was shown it in school. It’s an example of the censorship and the violent intolerance of Nazi Germany. It wasn’t until I was teaching myself, though, that I found out what books those are. This is outside the Institut für Sexualwissenschaft in Berlin. It began in 1919, and it collected all kinds of materials on sexology, including pro-LGBT documents, images, and books. It was one of the first of its kind and was an invaluable trove of information, which people used to lobby for LGBT rights. Berlin would become famous for its gay-friendly reputation. In 1933, the Nazi party raided the library and archive, pulling 20,000 books and journals out into the street and burning them, along with thousands of photographs and other materials.

It’s breathtaking to fathom how much was lost in that fire. How many decades of progress was reversed, both by the outright attempted genocide of the Nazi party and their erasure of history. How many of those books, journals, and images were irreplaceable? What really horrified me, though, is that I had never learned about this act of hatred—at least, not who this hatred was directed towards. I had been told books were burned, but not which books. I didn’t know they were part of queer history. Likely, talking about sexology in school would have been considered inappropriate when I was learning about this history. Which means that the coverage of censorship was censored. That as I looked at books being burned, the real history was being whitewashed at that very same moment.

The most exciting thing about learning queer history is discovering stories that have been hidden or obscured. So many queer stories have been buried, so many gender outlaws have been rewritten in historical accounts. Unearthing them is exciting. The worst thing about exploring queer history, though, is learning how much has been lost forever. The statues in Hindu temples that were destroyed so their homoeroticism wouldn’t be associated with Indian culture. Pre-Colombian pottery depicting sex between men. Entire Aztec and Mayan libraries by Spanish Jesuits, erasing any of their recorded queer history.

The first book of lesbian poetry was Quelques Portraits-Sonnets de Femmes [Some Portrait-Sonnets of Women] by Natalie Clifford Barney, published in 1900. They were all love poems to women. Her mother did the watercolour illustrations—but probably didn’t know just what she was illustrating. The first papers to review her poetry assumed that she was writing from a male persona, oblivious to what was in front of their faces. When newspapers did begin to comment on the scandal, Barney’s father bought up all the remaining copies and burned them.

The correspondence between Eleanor Roosevelt and Lorena Hickok that we have is already pretty scandalous, and definitely romantic. Unfortunately, we’re missing a whole lot of it. Hickok burned any of the more scandalous letters, likely to protect Eleanor’s reputation.

Miriam Van Waters was a prison reformer in the 1940s. With political opponents closing in, she decided to destroy anything that might be used against her. She wrote in her journal, “The Burning of Letters continues. One can have no personal life in this battle, so I have destroyed many letters of over 22 years.” The letters were between her and her partner/patron, Geraldine Thompson. They wrote almost daily. (Read more about her in The Burning of Letters Continues: Elusive Identities and the Historical Construction of Sexuality by Estelle B. Freedman.)

Queer writers often left instructions for their personal letters and journals to be destroyed after their death. Winifred Ashton, using the pen name Clemence Dane, wrote The Regiment of Women in 1917. It’s a depressing lesbian book, but is dedicated to E.A., who is most likely Elsie Arnold, a woman she knew for 40 years and lived with for some time.  She was known for her malapropisms, calling herself “randy” when meaning “full of life and creative energy.” A playwright as well as an author, Radclyffe Hall requested she adapt The Well of Loneliness. She was also friends with Vita Sackville-West. Unfortunately, there is very little we know about her: in her will, she appointed literary executors to destroy all personal information about her after her death. None of her personal papers survive.

Painting of Sappho

The destruction of Sappho’s work has become a legend in itself: Gregory Nazianzen Bishop of Constantinople destroyed most of it in the 4th century. Pope Gregory VII destroyed what survived. The Library of Alexandria, which contained her nine volumes of poetry, was burned by Caesar. Or by Christians in the 5th century. Or Caliph Omar. Sappho’s books were burned not for homosexuality, but for being too sexual. Or they were targeted for being gay. Or they were never targeted at all, but didn’t get copied over because they were written in an obscure dialect. Or they’re actually much more preserved than most poets were from that time period. They were burned maliciously, or accidentally, or they simply were neglected. In any case, they were lost. What remains is pieced together from Egyptian mummies’ wrapping and quotations in other works.

Queer history has been forcibly erased—destroyed, defaced, burned. When it wasn’t burned, it was buried, hidden from sight. It’s been rewritten and censored, like T.S. Eliot’s poetry, which Ezra Pound edited to have less gay subtext. Authors hid and disguised their own work, even having their personal information burned after their death. It’s a history of erasure, of having to read between the lines and look for what’s missing. (If you’re looking for more on this topic, definitely check out The Suppression of Lesbian and Gay History by Rictor Norton.) I’m grateful for what had survived—for the artists, authors, and everyday people who risked their own well-being to represent their authentic selves any way they can. For the queer historians digging out queer history from the archives, like Anne Lister’s diaries. I mourn what we lost, celebrate what we have, and look forward to what we will carve out in the future.

This post originally ran on Book Riot.