It’s June, which means it is Pride Month! I knew I wanted to do a post about some of my favorite books with LGBTQIA+ representation in them but wasn’t quite sure how to frame it. I thought about just doing a list but also wanted it to have a bit more depth. I decided to explore how my eyes as a straight cis person have been opened through the books I have read over the last 10 or so years.
The other day I got to thinking about how my reading habits have changed and expanded as I have gotten older. I then began thinking about the books that have become available in the last few years. It amazed me to think about how representation has expanded in books recently and how encouraging that is to see. While we have a long way to go there has been serious positive progress.
I remember the first book I read that had a gay character in it was The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare. I was in high school when I started that series and I chose it become it seemed like it had Harry Potter vibes to it. I really got into the story and found that one of my favorite characters was Magnus Bane.
I remember reading about Alec and his journey of coming out and his relationship with Magnus and thought it was adorable. It became one of my favorite aspects of the books because I really enjoyed their relationship together. But it was quite a while until I found another book that had any characters that weren’t straight in them.
Where I went to college you were required to take what was called a “Thematic Sequence.” I went to a liberal arts college so this was another way to get us to take classes outside of our major and explore other areas more. (In reality it was probably just a way to get more money out of us because you had to do this to graduate but that isn’t the point).
I chose to take “Family and Sexuality.” At this point being gay and part of the LGBT (these were the only letters in that acryonm that I knew of) community was becoming something I was hearing about more and realizing was a bigger part of our world than I previously had known.
When I grew up I knew about being gay or a lesbian but it was not something that I heard about often. Once I entered college in 2007-2011 I heard more and more and became very interested in the history of the LGBT community and how it related to our society at the time. I identify as straight and female but I still found myself very intrigued so I took three course that centered around family and sexuality and how they intersected with one another.
I learned a lot about different sexualities but I still noticed that what I was reading was very one note. Representation in the literature I read was lacking any characters that were not straight and I wanted to find more diverse stories. While I enjoyed what I was reading I realized there was something lacking.
So I took a course called “Queer Theory,” which was extremely fascinating. (It is also interesting and possibly a post for the future that my mom had a trouble with the name of the course. For her the word “queer” was always a very negative term. It was used a serious insult for gay people when she was growing up. She still has trouble seeing it as anything but that now, even with the way my brother (who is gay) have tried to explain to her how it is used today. But as I said that is probably a future post about how words have changed and been reclaimed over time.)
The course focused on the history of queer culture and how it has been represented in literature, more so in essays but still in some stories. I remember one book standing out and that was The Case of the Not-So-Nice Nurse by Mabel Maney. It was a lesbian mystery, along the lines of Nancy Drew. It was funny and different.
While I enjoyed the course I noticed that it still didn’t give me a plethora of literature to choose from that had any LGBT representation. So I started googling books on my own. I realized after taking these classes that I needed to expand my reading horizons.
I pride myself on making every attempt to understand the world around me. I want to learn about all life styles, culture, and religions that are not my own. I want to be able to understand how different the world is. One of the primary ways I do this is by reading so when I realized how limited my reading had been I knew I needed to try to learn more.
The books I found while doing my research was David Levithan’s books Boy Meets Boy and Two Boys Kissing. They both had story lines that intrigued me and focused on the stories of people I hadn’t read about before. Boy Meets Boy, I remember being plain fun. I do think it is time for a re-read of that one.
Two Boys Kissing was a deeper book. This was the first one that really exposed me to the trials of being gay. It was interesting because if focused on a handful of different stories. There were the boys trying to protest and make a point, there was a budding romance and there was the boy who was thrown out of his family because of who he was. I wrote a review for it and you can read that here. I really enjoyed the book especially the manner of storytelling.
Once I stated blogging I found a way to find much more diverse books. It became easierfor me to find books that were outside of what I grew up reading. While I adored the books I read in my childhood I realized how important some of these other books were becoming.
The next author I found that I enjoyed was Adam Silver. I read More Happy Than Notand it was such a fantastic story. It was painful and it hurt but it told a very important tale. I put him on my list of authors to watch right away. If you have not read History is All you Left Me or They Both Die at the End you are definitely missing out. They are all emotional and will hurt your heart but they are fantastic reads.
Victoria Schwab was the next author I discovered that had queer representation in her books. In “her Gathering of Magic” of series there is a gay relationship. I actually didn’t know that was part of the series when I started to read it. It was just a added bonus to an already fantastic story.
I came across Sean David Hutchinson next and if you have read any of my tags or reviews you will know that he is one my all time favorite authors. we are the ants, is one my top 10 books of all time. It is such a great story with some of the richest characters I have ever read. It was not what I expected and I think that is what made it so great. Edge of the Universe and Apocalypse Elena Mendoza are also fantastic.
One of the things I remember from Edge of the Universe was reading about a gender queer character. This was not a type of character I had encountered before. I only had a very basic understanding of what being gender non-conforming meant when I was reading this book. But because of the inclusion and the addition I began to do my research and understand it more.
That is one of the things I love about reading. You are exposed to all new lives and ways of living that you may not be able to see in your every day life. I don’t know if I would have the understanding I do now of what gender non-conforming or gender fluid means without reading that character in Edge of the Universe. I didn’t understand so I did my research. I learned about someone different than me, one of the gifts that reading provides you.
Once I learned what gender fluid meant I kept my eye out for books with that representation. I found Mask of Shadows, which is a fantasy book where the main character is gender fluid. It was a fast paced and exciting story. It was brutal but it gave me a lot to think about and I enjoyed it.
I also picked up David Levithan’s book Every Day. It is about someone who switches bodies every single day. They never live inside the same life. While it doesn’t have a specific type of sexuality that the character identifies with it does explore sexualities and gender identities in a very interesting way. It was different and I thought it opened up interesting thoughts about how people identify. Like the idea of if you didn’t have a specific body of your own would you be attached to labels and definitions?
I began a new job where part of our mission involves sports, specifically soccer. I heard about a book called Running with Lions by Julian Winters which is a love story between soccer players, one gay, the other bisexual. I was intrigued because it was rare to see a story with LGBTQUIA+ characters who are athletic. I enjoyed it and I enjoyed the look at a world that we tend to shy away from talking about sexuality through.
This was a look at how my reading has diversified over the years and how books have helped me see life in a broader way while also recommending some of my favorite books with LGBTQIA+ representation in them. This is a short list and I have more that I enjoyed over time.
I also know that many of these focus on gay characters and I am in the process of finding more books that go beyond just gay characters. If you have recommendations of good stories with trans, bi-sexual, asexual, aromantic or genderfluid characters please pass them along.
Reading is powerful. Reading is one way we can help the world see that all love matters and is beautiful. Reading can help expose us to other live sand help us to understand how we are more the same than different.
What are some of your LGBTQIA+ recommendations?