July might be a little quieter for queer new releases than Pride month was, but there are still lots of great sapphic books out that deserve a place on your TBR! This post is just a few of the ones I’m most excited about. They Drown Our Daughters by Katrina Monroe is at the top of my list, and I’ve heard it on good authority (by which I mean Liberty Hardy, who reads 600+ books a year) that it’s one of the best books out this year.
The book descriptions below are from the publishers, because as much as I would like to, I don’t actually read every sapphic book as it comes out. That’s the dream!
Sirens & Muses by Antonia Angress (Sapphic Fiction)
It’s 2011: America is in a deep recession and Occupy Wall Street is escalating. But at the elite Wrynn College of Art, students paint and sculpt in a rarefied bubble. Louisa Arceneaux is a thoughtful, observant nineteen-year-old when she transfers to Wrynn as a scholarship student, but she soon finds herself adrift in an environment that prizes novelty over beauty. Complicating matters is Louisa’s unexpected attraction to her charismatic roommate, Karina Piontek, the preternaturally gifted but mercurial daughter of wealthy art collectors. Gradually, Louisa and Karina are drawn into an intense sensual and artistic relationship, one that forces them to confront their deepest desires and fears. But Karina also can’t shake her fascination with Preston Utley, a senior and anti-capitalist Internet provocateur, who is publicly feuding with visiting professor and political painter Robert Berger—a once-controversial figurehead seeking to regain relevance.
When Preston concocts an explosive hoax, the fates of all four artists are upended as each is unexpectedly thrust into the cutthroat New York art world. Now all must struggle to find new identities in art, in society, and among each other. In the process, they must find either their most authentic terms of life—of success, failure, and joy—or risk losing themselves altogether.
With a canny, critical eye, Sirens & Muses overturns notions of class, money, art, youth, and a generation’s fight to own their future.
Gods of Want: Stories by K-Ming Chang (Sapphic Short Stories)
Startling stories that center the bodies, memories, myths, and relationships of Asian American women, in the vein of the electrifying relationships in Killing Eve and Yellowjackets—from the National Book Award “5 Under 35” honoree and author of Bestiary
In “Auntland,” a steady stream of aunts adjust to American life by sneaking surreptitious kisses from women at temple, buying tubs of vanilla ice cream to prepare for citizenship tests, and hatching plans to name their daughters “Dog.” In “The Chorus of Dead Cousins,” ghost-cousins cross space, seas, and skies to haunt their live-cousin, wife to a storm chaser. In “Xífù,” a mother-in-law tortures a wife in increasingly unsuccessful attempts to rid the house of her. In “Mariela,” two girls explore one another’s bodies for the first time in the belly of a plastic shark, while in “Virginia Slims,” a woman from a cigarette ad comes to life. And in “Resident Aliens,” a former slaughterhouse serves as a residence to a series of widows, each harboring her own calamitous secrets.
With each tale, K-Ming Chang gives us her own take on a surrealism that mixes myth and migration, corporeality and ghostliness, queerness and the quotidian. Stunningly told in her feminist fabulist style, these are uncanny stories peeling back greater questions of power and memory.
The Romance Recipe by Ruby Barrett (F/F Romance)
A fiery restaurant owner falls for her enigmatic head chef in this charming, emotional romance
Amy Chambers: restaurant owner, micromanager, control freak.
Amy will do anything to revive her ailing restaurant, including hiring a former reality-show finalist with good connections and a lot to prove. But her hopes that Sophie’s skills and celebrity status would bring her restaurant back from the brink of failure are beginning to wane…
Sophie Brunet: grump in the kitchen/sunshine in the streets, took thirty years to figure out she was queer.
Sophie just wants to cook. She doesn’t want to constantly post on social media for her dead-in-the-water reality TV career, she doesn’t want to deal with Amy’s take-charge personality and she doesn’t want to think about what her attraction to her boss might mean…
Then, an opportunity: a new foodie TV show might provide the exposure they need. An uneasy truce is fine for starters, but making their dreams come true means making some personal and painful sacrifices and soon, there’s more than just the restaurant at stake.
They Drown Our Daughters by Katrina Monroe (Lesbian Gothic/Horror)
If you can hear the call of the water,
It’s already far too late.
They say Cape Disappointment is haunted. That’s why tourists used to flock there in droves. They’d visit the rocky shoreline under the old lighthouse’s watchful eye and fish shells from the water as they pretended to spot dark shapes in the surf. Now the tourists are long gone, and when Meredith Strand and her young daughter return to Meredith’s childhood home after an acrimonious split from her wife, the Cape seems more haunted by regret than any malevolent force.
But her mother, suffering from early stages of Alzheimer’s, is convinced the ghost stories are real. Not only is there something in the water, but it’s watching them. Waiting for them. Reaching out to Meredith’s daughter the way it has to every woman in their line for generations—and if Meredith isn’t careful, all three women, bound by blood and heartbreak, will be lost one by one to the ocean’s mournful call.
Part queer modern gothic, part ghost story, They Drown Our Daughters explores the depths of motherhood, identity, and the lengths a woman will go to hold on to both.
Pretty Baby by Chris Belcher (Queer Memoir)
A queer teen rebel escapes small-town Appalachia and becomes Los Angeles’s Renowned Lesbian Dominatrix in this searing and darkly funny memoir that upends our ideas about desire, class, and power.
“Pretty Baby is a muscular, canny memoir about labor and power and gender; it shimmers with rage and insight and I couldn’t put it down. What a fucking gorgeous book.” —Carmen Maria Machado, author of In the Dream House
The dominatrix is the id of American femininity. She says the words that we all wish we could say when we find ourselves frozen in the presence of men. No is principal among them.
So writes Chris Belcher, who appeared destined for a life of conventional femininity after she took first place in an infant beauty contest—a minor glory that can follow you around a working-class town of 1,600 people in rural West Virginia. But when she came out as queer, the conservative community that had once celebrated its prettiest baby turned on her.
A decade later, living in Los Angeles and trying to stay afloat in the early years of a PhD program, Belcher plunges into the work of a pro domme. Branding herself as LA’s Renowned Lesbian Dominatrix, she specializes in male clients who want a domme to make them feel worthless, shameful, and weak—all the abuse regularly heaped upon women for free. A queer woman whom men can trust with the unorthodox sides of their sexualities, Belcher is paid to be the keeper of the fantasies that they can’t enact in their everyday relationships. But moonlighting as a sex worker also carries risks, like the not-so-submissive who tries to turn the tables and the jealous client out for revenge.
As Belcher moves between the embodied world of the pro domme and the abstract realm of academia, she discovers how lessons from the classroom apply to the dungeon, and vice versa. Still, fear that her doctoral program won’t approve burdens her with a double life. Pretty Baby is her second coming out.
In this sharp and discerning memoir, we see through Belcher’s eyes how power and desire can be renegotiated—or reinforced.