I really wanted to do a recommended reads post this week, and I spent hours trying to come up with a topic that included a decent number of books I wanted to recommend. And then it hit me: in light of recent events, this is the perfect time to share some of the books that really helped open my eyes to the LGBTQIA community. Personally, I identify as straight, cisgender, and female. And though I was (unfortunately) raised with the belief that any deviation from this was wrong, I’ve come to realize that it’s not. People are people. Love is love. And hate is hate, regardless of where it’s directed. Since books are a big part of what helped shape my personal beliefs on this topic, I thought I’d share some of the ones that affected me most, or just books I love that happen to include LGBTQIA characters. It’s worth noting that I enjoyed all of these books based on plot, characters, and/or writing. The inclusion of LGBTQIA characters is just a bonus.
(I hate that I feel the need to mention this, but: please don’t use this post as a platform for hate. If you don’t agree with me, that is totally fine – though you might want to read this post – you can unfollow me, or respectfully present your argument, but I would really appreciate it if you refrained from posting anything that could be construed as hateful or purposefully offensive. We are all entitled to our opinions. THANK YOU.)
- Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides. I read this for the first time in college, and was surprised to find how much I loved it. The main character, Calliope, is transgender, and struggles with her sexuality all through childhood, until eventually coming to the realization that she – he – is actually a Cal. I loved that this is a coming of age that most people can identify with, even if they are not struggling with their sexuality. It’s a really great, adult novel for anyone looking to explore more diverse literature.
- Fun Home by Alison Bechdel. This is a great coming of age graphic memoir (and by graphic, I do mean graphic). It’s a really great story about Bechdel finding herself and exploring her sexuality. And I love that it was done in a graphic novel format! This was actually assigned in the same college class for which I read Middlesex (my professor was really effective at choosing relevant contemporary American literature).
- Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli. I loved that this was a cute love story with gay main characters. While Simon’s sexuality does play a part in the story, it is, ultimately, just a love story. I feel like LGBTQIA characters are often defined by their LGBTQIA-ness, so I really enjoy books that treat them like the multi-dimensional people they are.
- A Darker Shade of Magic and A Gathering of Shadows by V. E. Schwab. Speaking of characters who aren’t defined by their sexuality… I love that Schwab created gay and bi characters without feeling the need to explain them. They just are. And they’re really great, complex characters! This is how LGBTQIA characters should be included in literature.
- The Color Purple by Alice Walker. I was so surprised by how sexuality is treated in this book, because it wasn’t really defined. Which was pretty cool. People just love who they love, and everyone (well, almost everyone) was fine with it. It’s also just a fantastic book overall, so you should definitely read it. (Side note: I haven’t watched the movie, but I understand that the lesbian relationships were left out of it, which is interesting.)
- Beauty Queens by Libba Bray. I have to admit, this isn’t exactly my favorite book of all time. But I did enjoy it, and if you’re looking for LGBTQIA representation in young adult literature, you need look no further. This book has more diversity than I think any other book I’ve ever read – in regards to both ethnicity and sexual orientation. It’s one of the things I really appreciated about this book!
- The Danish Girl by David Ebershoff. I might have liked the movie a bit more than the book, but I still LOVED the book. This is the true story about Lily Elbe, one of the first people to have gender-reassignment surgery. It’s poignant and devastating, and just a really great story.
- A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. Again, I truly enjoyed how the gay characters are addressed in this book. They just are. And, within both the major and minor characters, there is a wonderful gay community. I loved this book for so many reasons, and this was definitely one of them!