Looking to add some quality reads to your bookshelf? While World Book Day may have passed, there’s no reason not to keep celebrating LGBTQ+ authors. So let’s take look at some novels, memoirs, and comic books by and about queer women!
By no means an exhaustive list, here’s a small selection of recommendations.
The Miseducation of Cameron Post (2012) – Emily M. Danforth
Influenced by the 2005 Zach Stark controversy, The Miseducation of Cameron Post follows the title character as she discovers her homosexuality in the wake of her parents’ death. Living with her conservative aunt and grandmother, Cameron is sent to a conversion therapy camp after her relationship with her best friend is discovered. Adapted for the screen in 2016, Cameron Post is a must-read.
Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic (2006) – Alison Bechdel
Alison Bechdel, author of the wildly successful lesbian comic strip, ‘Dykes to Watch Out For,’ brings her artistry and narrative stylings to her 2006 graphic memoir, Fun Home. The memoir explores Bechdel’s relationship with her distant father. After his death. Bechdel unearths her father’s hidden gay past on a journey to discovering her own sexuality. Fun Home was adapted into a Tony award-winning musical in 2013.
People In Trouble (1990) – Sarah Schulman
Schulman’s novel, People in Trouble follows a dynamic love triangle through the turbulent streets of 1980’s NYC during the HIV and AIDS crisis. The novel follows Kate, an established artist, and her affair with Molly, a young lesbian who dedicates her life to befriending and caring for her HIV Positive friends. A tale of romance and activism, People in Trouble was recently picked up for re-publication in the UK.
The Color Purple (1982) – Alice Walker
Winner of the 1983 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, The Color Purple follows the story of Celie, a poor girl from the American South as she endures the abuse of her father and, eventually, her husband, Mister. However, when Mister falls ill, his mistress, a jazz singer named Shug, comes to stay with Celie while he recovers. During their time together Celie and Shug develop an intimate relationship with one another. Groundbreaking for its portrayal of black sexuality between women, Walker’s novel has since become one of the hallmark books about queer women.
Fingersmith (2002) – Sarah Waters
A foray into historical fiction, Water’s Fingersmith follows orphan and pick-pocket Sue through the streets of Victorian London. When Sure is hired to pose as a maid in an attempt to defraud a wealthy heiress, she quickly agrees to the job. However, when the two women start to form a romantic bond, Sue begins to regret her involvement in the scheme, though it may already be too late.
Her Body and Other Parties (2018) – Carmen Mario Machado
While Carman Mario Machado’s 2018 collection of short stories is not exclusively queer, it features many lesbian narratives as it focuses the female body as the subject of each of its stories. Whether it is as a site of sexuality, sensuality, or violence, Her Body and Other Parties combines multiple genres to establish women and their experiences in society as the focal point of her collection.
Lumberjanes (2014) – Shannon Watters, Grace Ellis, Brooklyn A. Allen, Noelle Stevenson
Gravity Falls meets Girl Scouts in the Lumberjanes comic book series. The whimsical comics follow a diverse cast of girls as they discover mythical beasts and paranormal mysteries lurking in the woods surrounding their summer camp. Together the Lumberjanes must band together to solve the mystery, save the day, and earn scout badges all while discovering themselves and each other.
You Should See Me In A Crown (2020) – Leah Johnson
In Leah Johnson’s 2020 debut novel, we are introduced to Liz, a girl with aspirations of becoming a doctor and musician after college. Liz has always felt “too black, too poor, too awkward” for her small hometown and is anxious to finally escape to college. But when Liz’s college financial aid falls through just months before graduation, a last ditch effort to secure funding lands Liz in the race for Prom Queen at her Prom-obsessed high school. Competing against Liz for the crown is her new best friend, Mack, who Liz is starting to develop feelings for. Liz must balance her future and her burgeoning feelings for Mack if she has any chance of holding on to either of them.
Gideon the Ninth (2019) – Tamsyn Muir
Gideon is an orphan, but that’s the least of her worries. Raised by unfriendly nuns in the necromantic cult of the Ninth House, Gideon just wants to relax with her sword and her dirty magazines. But Gideon is a servant, under the watchful eye of Harrowhawk, princess of the Ninth and the most powerful necromancer of her age. In order to escape, Gideon must perform one last act of service with Harrowhawk, though it may cost her more than just her freedom. Described as “lesbian necromancers explore a haunted gothic palace in space,” Gideon the Ninth promises to entertain with every page.
Under the Udala Trees (2015) – Chinelo Okparanta
Set in 1960’s Nigeria, Under the Udala Trees follows Ijeoma and her family as they navigate the Nigerian Civil War. Ijeoma must come to terms with her own sexuality in the wake of her father’s death, mirroring writer Okparanta’s own childhood experiences. Under the Udala Trees was awarded the Lambda Literary Award for Best Lesbian Fiction in 2016.
The Well of Loneliness (1928) – Radclyffe Hall
No list of books for queer women would be complete without this classic piece of lesbian fiction. It follows Stephen Gordon, an Englishwoman whose ‘sexual inversion’ (homosexuality) has been obvious since her youth. Despite her struggles through adolescence, Stephen is able to find love with Mary, a woman she meets while driving ambulances during World War I. Their life together is marred by prejudice and forced isolation. The novel is one of the first of its kind to assert that LGBTQ+ sexuality is natural and ‘God-given,’ making the explicit plea: “Give us also the right to existence.”
In At the Deep End (2019) – Kate Davies
Julia hasn’t had a proper orgasm in three years. Surrounding by disappointing sexual encounters with the men in her life, when she is invited to a warehouse party in London where sex is on the menu, she readily accepts. At the party Julia meets Sam, a conceptual artist who happens to be a woman. Through Sam, Julia unlocks a sexual awakening she never expected as she is whisked away on a journey through London’s gay bars and BDSM clubs. However, it isn’t long before Julia’s new lover turns from a beacon of liberation to a harbinger of entrapment.
Perfect on Paper (2021) – Sophie Gonzales
Sophie Gonzales’ Perfect on Paper is hot off the presses! The novel follows Darcy Phillips, a bisexual girl who gives anonymous dating advice to her classmates. When the new kid, an Australian jock named Broughman, discovers Darcy’s secret identity, he blackmails her into helping him win back his ex – or else. Desperate to keep her secret, lest she lose her best friend, Brooke, Darcy agrees to help Broughman with his plan.
These Witches Don’t Burn (2019) – Isabel Sterling
Hannah is a powerful witch with power over the elements. However, despite living in Salem, Massachusetts, Hannah must keep her magic hidden from the outside world, or else risk losing her powers forever. But when dark magic starts cropping up all over town, Hannah must join forces with her arch-enemy, ex-witch-girlfriend Veronica, and put a stop to it before it’s too late.
These are just a handful of suggestions of books by and about queer women for you to enjoy. What would you add to the list?
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