Hello! If there’s one thing you should know about me, it is that I am an advocate for marginalised representation in books and here’s a post where I try to explain to you exactly why it matters so much by bringing to you some great bloggers who talk about the queer books that they read and loved and felt represented in – they talk about what it made them feel and that is exactly what matters, so I hope you all can understand it better through this.
I have always been a romantic- the cliched teenager that read steamy forbidden romances, and hid them from my mother, and before I knew it, it had been seven years and over a thousand novels, and everything melded into one grotesque pot of rinse repeat romance. Somewhere along the way, it started leaving me feeling empty, because I just couldn’t relate to the stories I was reading– they were straight, white and fictional to the extent that they might as well have been a dystopian fantasy. I found Mo Dao Zu Shi by Mo Xiang TongXiu when I was questioning not just my sexuality, but also my sense of identity. And that I found both of them in a book about ancient Chinese cultivators and zombies surprises me as much as it might surprise you.
When Mo Dao Zu Shi happened, something changed inside of me because it reminded me that romance is not always about wham-bam-thank-you-mam, and can also be a 20 year long love story filled with fighting and wars and dying and grieving and resurrection and smart-assery and solving a murder mystery and getting drunk and gifting chickens to the your love of your life, and somewhere along the lines I’d forgotten that. It reminded me of the simple joy of a companion, not necessarily a sexual one, but just someone who takes joy in the idea of you, and whose simple presence you take joy in. I have always been queer, and have been mocked for that by a society that does not understand, or perhaps just does not want to, and although MDZS did not change the way I look at the world or at myself, it did help me expand my skin so that everything I am fit inside snugly without being suffocating and out of place.
I’m so excited to be here on Jayati’s blog today to tell you about two of my favourite queer books that you should pick up this Pride Month! First up is Honey Girl by Morgan Rogers which, yes, does deserve all the hype it gets! Not only does it showcase a gorgeous relationship between two queer women of colour, but it is a real gem among the real dearth of queer new adult fiction. It deals with the sense of feeling lost post-graduation and the pressure of growing up to meet your parents’ expectations, and I read it at a time in which Grace’s story just felt so similar to my own that it solidified its place in my heart forever. It’s a book in which you’re sure to get lost in the dreaminess of Rogers’ prose, and will also make you sob your heart out because are you reading the book or is the book reading you?!
Secondly, is All the Paths to You by Morgan Lee Miller – another amazing sapphic new adult book that is a sequel but can also easily be read as a standalone. This is one of the first books I read where anxiety, depression and therapy were discussed in such a raw and realistic manner and that representation really just struck me. It’s one of those books that, as soon as you finish reading it, you just want to pick it up and devour it all over again. Queer indie publishers have been the backbone of queer literature for years, so now is the perfect time to show support for them by reading this wonderful sapphic romance!
Books featuring any marginalized identity will always feel special to me, but I still can’t help thinking how far behind publishers is in terms of fully representing any marginalized identity that isn’t a white, abled, cishet white woman’s view?
Even Queer books still have a long way to go. All the books I’m seeing is normally Bisexual (that’s normally the same gender), Gay, Lesbian, but very little books that doesn’t really intersect those identities too much. Every letter beyond that is very few, but when it comes to what the A stands for (Agender, Aromantic, Asexual) there is little to none.
Of course, it doesn’t help if people don’t think we exist. Like, somehow people who cannot often feel sexual attraction or any romantic feelings are therefore “not human.” It’s exhausting to see people constantly erasing us even in the queer communties because of our lack of sexual attraction or romantic interest doesn’t make us queer enough and consider us “invalid.”
Many of us think that we’re broken because the way society places the importance on sex and romance, which mirrors the exact same way books do. The amount of times I’ve seen arophobe and acephobia language in books, and the constant erasure in books particularly hurts. The ones that do exist are oftentimes, under the radar and I love them a lot. I don’t often see aspec people as the protagonists in a story, if they exist at all. Every time I pick up one, I immediately want to cry because here’s a story that almost mirrors my experience, yet often times never gets hyped or people never put any books featuring aspec people on their pride TBRs.
I still remember reading Tarnished Are the Stars by Rosiee Thor and saw that one of the MC’s was aspec and made me cry because his experience mirrored mine when I was questioning who I was. Here was a hero was questioning how romance happened, if he was broken since he never experienced romantic feelings and still saved the world. Everything I’ve ever really wanted in a fantasy world.
Sadly, I could still count the number of aspec protagonists in books, but each year the number is growing and I hope that there will be more that features the identities that fall under the asexual and aromantic spectrum in the coming years.
As someone who is bisexual, I’ve never seen such an honest and validating representation of a bisexual character that openly discusses internalized biphobia, and it was very healing for me to read. There isn’t one universal bisexual experience, but the bisexual representation in Perfect on Paper is one that really resonated with me. Perfect on Paper addresses internalized and externalized biphobia in such an authentic way; how we’re told that we have to just choose a gender, how much it hurts when we get weird looks for telling someone we have feelings for someone of another gender when we’ve been mostly having feelings for someone of the same gender, and how sometimes those comments can come from within the queer community.
Just like Darcy, I’ve also been told that I’m not “gay enough”, and that being bisexual is easier than being a lesbian by a close friend of mine. Perfect on Paper was the first time where I’ve read a book that addresses this head-on, and a book that will forever have a place in my heart for this reason. Perfect on Paper is also a beautiful celebration of bisexuality, with Darcy finding solidarity within the Queer and Questioning (Q&Q) club at her school.
And now, let’s talk about the books that made me feel seen! I could probably go on about them forever but I’ll sum it up for you in just one sentence: they showed the all the bare parts of me. If you’re white and cishet, this may not mean as much because you’ve been able to find characters just like you in media all the time, but that hasn’t been true for me and many other people, just like the ones I have featured in this post and I hope it helps you understand why our stories matter.
This book has a place in my heart not just because of the sapphic romance (which was lovely!) but because of the mental health rep and the feeling of loneliness that was so accurately described in this book!
I felt so seen in certain parts as someone who struggles with her mental health. I often feel lost and like nothing I do will be good enough, and seeing Grace go through so many of the same things as she tries to find herself again hit me very hard. I’m glad to find a book like this not only for me, but for so many others who are going through similar things.
I also loved the romance and how love isn’t a cure all and how you have to work for it and how there was a queer found family, which is something I hope to have for myself one day.
Ishu is a sapphic Indian and I can not tell you how much that means to me as one myself. Not only that, our personalities are quite similar as well and so, this book means everything to me. It’s a cute, fun read and there’s fake dating so I was bound to enjoy it and I am very glad to tell you I did – it exceeded all my expectations and made me laugh, smile and get mad at some of the characters all while seeing a character that looked like me and belonged to the same place as me get her happy ever after. This book warmed my heart and thinking of it always brings a smile to my face.
What are some queer books you love? Are you a part of any marginalised community? What are some books you felt seen in? Let me know in the comments below!