For the first week of Pride, we’ve got nine sapphic book releases to highlight in a range of genres. There’s translated fiction, a historical suspense novel, fantasy romance, and some summery YA to pick from, to name just a few.
Personally, I loved Moby Dyke: An Obsessive Quest To Hunt Down The Last Remaining Lesbian Bars In America by Krista Burton (review to come), and I’m eagerly anticipating my library hold coming up for Basil and Oregano by Melissa Capriglione, which looks like an adorable YA graphic novel about two girls falling for each other at a magical cooking school!
The Road to Dalton by Shannon Bowring (Queer Fiction)
From debut author Shannon Bowring comes a novel of small town America that Pulitzer-winner Richard Russo calls, “measured, wise, and beautiful.”
In most small towns, the private is also public. In the town of Dalton, one local makes an unthinkable decision that leaves the community reeling. In the aftermath, their problems, both small and large, reveal a deeper understanding of the lives of their neighbors, and remind us all that no one is exactly who we think they are.
It’s 1990. In Dalton, Maine, life goes on. Rose goes to work at the diner every day, her bruises hidden from both the customers and her two young boys. At a table she waits, Dr. Richard Haskell looks back on the one choice that’s charted his entire life, before his thoughts wander back to his wife, Trudy, and her best friend.
Trudy and Bev have been friends for longer than they can count, and something more than lovers to each other for some time now—a fact both accepted and ignored by their husbands. Across town, new mother Bridget lives with her high school sweetheart Nate, and is struggling with postpartum after a traumatic birth. And nearer still is teenager Greg, trying to define the complicated feelings he has about himself and his two close friends.
The Road to Dalton offers valuable understandings of what it means to be alive in the world—of pain and joy, conflict and love, and the endurance that comes from living.
My Mother Says by Stine Pilgaard, translated by Hunter Simpson (Sapphic Fiction)
The narrator’s long-term girlfriend has just broken things off, forcing her to move back in with her father, a Pink Floyd–loving priest. While she desperately tries to convince her girlfriend to reconsider, the rest of the world bombards her with advice: from her childhood friend Mulle to her kindly therapist to her overbearing mother and card-playing father. Bumbling through the fog of disillusionment, the narrator gives herself permission to grieve, philosophize, and be generally outrageous until at last she sees a light at the end of the tunnel. My Mother Says is a compendium of conversations between people who talk past one another in a universe of misplaced good intentions. In this whirlwind of memories, confessions, temper tantrums, and declarations of love Pilgaard’s sheer affection for her characters turns the pain of a broken heart into a heartwarming comedy of errors.
Mysteries and Thrillers
Killingly by Katharine Beutner (Queer Historical Suspense Novel)
Based on the unsolved real-life disappearance of a Mount Holyoke student in 1897—a haunting novel of intrigue, longing, and terror, perfect for fans of Donna Tartt and Sarah Waters
Massachusetts, 1897: Bertha Mellish, “the most peculiar, quiet, reserved girl” at Mount Holyoke College, is missing.
As a search team dredges the pond where Bertha might have drowned, her panicked father and sister arrive desperate to find some clue to her fate or state of mind. Bertha’s best friend, Agnes, a scholarly loner studying medicine, might know the truth, but she is being unhelpfully tightlipped, inciting the suspicions of Bertha’s family, her classmates, and the private investigator hired by the Mellish family doctor. As secrets from Agnes’s and Bertha’s lives come to light, so do the competing agendas driving each person who is searching for Bertha.
Where did Bertha go? Who would want to hurt her? And could she still be alive?
Edmund White Award–winning author Katharine Beutner takes a real-life unsolved mystery and crafts it into an unforgettable historical portrait of academia, family trauma, and the risks faced by women who dared to pursue unconventional paths at the end of the 19th century.
Mortal Follies by Alexis Hall (F/F Historical Fantasy Romance)
A young noblewoman must pair up with an alleged witch to ward off a curse in this irresistible sapphic romance from the bestselling author of Boyfriend Material.
It is the year 1814, and life for a young lady of good breeding has many difficulties. There are balls to attend, fashions to follow, marriages to consider, and, of course, the tiny complication of existing in a world swarming with fairy spirits, interfering deities, and actual straight-up sorcerers.
Miss Maelys Mitchelmore finds her entry into high society hindered by an irritating curse. It begins innocuously enough with her dress slowly unmaking itself over the course of an evening at a high-profile ball, a scandal she narrowly manages to escape.
However, as the curse progresses to more fatal proportions, Miss Mitchelmore must seek out aid, even if that means mixing with undesirable company. And there are few less desirable than Lady Georgiana Landrake—a brooding, alluring young woman sardonically nicknamed “the Duke of Annadale”—who may or may not have murdered her own father and brothers to inherit their fortune. If one is to believe the gossip, she might be some kind of malign enchantress. Then again, a malign enchantress might be exactly what Miss Mitchelmore needs.
With the Duke’s help, Miss Mitchelmore delves into a world of angry gods and vindictive magic, keen to unmask the perpetrator of these otherworldly attacks. But Miss Mitchelmore’s reputation is not the only thing at risk in spending time with her new ally. For the reputed witch has her own secrets that may prove dangerous to Miss Mitchelmore’s heart—not to mention her life.
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The Secret Summer Promise by Keah Brown (Sapphic YA Contemporary)
THE BSE (Best Summer Ever) LIST!
2. Art show in ShoeHorn
3. Lizzo concert
4. Thrift shop pop-up
5. Skinny Dipping at the lake house
6. Amusement Park Day!
7. Drew Barrymarathon
8. Paintball day
Oh, and ….
9. Fall out of love with Hailee
Andrea Williams has got this. The Best Summer Ever. Two summers ago, she spent all her time in bed, recovering from the latest surgery for her cerebral palsy. She’s waited too long for adventure and thrills to enter her life. Together with her crew of ride-or-die friends, and the best parents anyone could ask for (just don’t tell them that), she’s going to live it up.
There’s just one thing that could ruin it: Her best friend, Hailee, finding out Andrea’s true feelings. So Andrea WILL fall out of love with Hailee – even if it means dating the cute boy George who keeps showing up everywhere with a smile.
Do we want Andrea to succeed? No! Does she? We’re not telling!
Keah Brown is a journalist, screenwriter, and author who has written for places such as Teen Vogue, Elle, Harper’s Bazaar, and the New York Times. She is also the creator of #DisabledAndCute. Now, in her YA debut of nerdy queer love, Keah gives us the perfect summer read and cast of characters to fall in love with.
Things I’ll Never Say by Cassandra Newbould (Bisexual YA Contemporary)
A beautifully raw coming-of-age story for fans of Becky Albertalli and Julie Murphy, examining what it means to crush on your two best friends at the same time.
Ten years ago, the Scar Squad promised each other nothing would tear them apart. Even when Casey Jones Caruso lost her twin brother Sammy to an overdose, and their foursome became a threesome, the squad picked each other up. But when Casey’s feeling for the remaining members—Francesca and Benjamin—develop into romantic attraction, she worries the truth will dissolve them.
Casey tries to ignore her heart, until Ben kisses her at a summer party, and Frankie kisses another girl. Now Casey must confront all the complicated feelings she’s buried—for her friends and for the brother she’s totally pissed at for dying. Since Sammy’s death, Casey has spilled all the things she can no longer say to him in journals, and now more than ever, she wishes he were here to help her decide whether she should guard her heart or bet it all on love, before someone else decides for her.
A Spark in the Cinders by Jenny Elder Moke (F/F YA Fantasy)
The story has reached it’s happily ever after, the peasant girl has married her prince and become queen, all is well in the kingdom… But for Aralyn, the princess’s stepsister, the story is only just beginning.
The kingdom of Novador has had a streak of misfortunes, with drought, famine, and disease plaguing the lands. According to a prophecy, restoring an ancient magical artifact—the Protector’s Blade—is the only thing that can pull the kingdom back from the brink of destruction. With inside information from her fairy godmother, Aralyn teams up with lady knight Vee to go questing for the shattered pieces of the blade that have been scattered to the furthest reached of Novador. To win each element of the dagger, the girls must prove themselves by using their strengths to conquer their greatest fear. Aralyn uses wisdom, Vee physical prowess, and Queen Ellarose who is ruling the kingdom, uses benevolence. Together, these three powerful women fight to take their place as the rightful heirs to the kingdom.
Comics, Graphic Novels, and Manga
Basil and Oregano by Melissa Capriglione (F/F YA Fantasy Graphic Novel)
Mix two parts The Great British Bake Off with one-part magical boarding school plus a generous dash of romance and you’ve got Basil and Oregano, a sweetly delicious lower young adult graphic novel.
Porta Bella Magiculinary Academy is the finest school for the art of cooking with magic, and Basil Eyres is determined to be the top student. On the first day of her senior year, Arabella Oregano, the daughter of a renowned chef, joins the academy for her senior year as well. The two are instantly smitten with each other, but Basil senses there’s something Arabella is hiding from her. Still, the two work together to stand out from the class as the end of year culinary festival approaches. But when Arabella’s secret is reveled, Basil is faced with the hardest decision of her life, which has the potential to throw her future aspirations in jeopardy.
Moby Dyke: An Obsessive Quest To Hunt Down The Last Remaining Lesbian Bars In America by Krista Burton (Lesbian Nonfiction)
A former Rookie contributor and creator of the popular blog Effing Dykes investigates the disappearance of America’s lesbian bars by visiting the last few in existence.
Lesbian bars have always been treasured safe spaces for their customers, providing not only a good time but a shelter from societal alienation and outright persecution. In 1987, there were 206 of them in America. Today, only a couple dozen remain. How and why did this happen? What has been lost—or possibly gained—by such a decline? What transpires when marginalized communities become more accepted and mainstream?
In Moby Dyke, Krista Burton attempts to answer these questions firsthand, venturing on an epic cross-country pilgrimage to the last few remaining dyke bars. Her pilgrimage includes taking in her first drag show since the onset of the pandemic at The Back Door in Bloomington, Indiana; competing in dildo races at Houston’s Pearl Bar; and, despite her deep-seated hatred of karaoke, joining a group serenade at Nashville’s Lipstick Lounge and enjoying the dreaded pastime for the first time in her life. While Burton sets out on the excursion to assess the current state of lesbian bars, she also winds up examining her own personal journey, from coming out to her Mormon parents to recently marrying her husband, a trans man whose presence on the trip underscores the important conversation about who precisely is welcome in certain queer spaces—and how they and their occupants continue to evolve.
Moby Dyke is an insightful and hilarious travelogue that celebrates the kind of community that can only be found in windowless rooms soundtracked by Britney Spears-heavy playlists and illuminated by overhead holiday lights no matter the time of year.