Celebrating queerness* and supporting our friends in the LGBTQIAP+ community is something we definitely ought to do all year round, but it doesn’t hurt to cheer a little louder and to go the extra mile whenever our calendars hit the month of June!
Otherwise known as Pride Month, June is an incredibly meaningful time for several reasons. It is a celebration of three of the most beautiful things: love, identity, and expression. It recognizes the many hard-earned triumphs of the LGBTQIAP+ community and its allies. Most of all, amidst all the parades and colorful festivals, Pride Month is a continued protest that seeks and clamors for true equality. Lest we forget, the month of June was selected to commemorate the 1969 Stonewall riots, which have played a very pivotal role in the progress we’ve made as a society in dismantling the prejudice, discrimination, and oppression experienced by our LGBTQIAP+ friends.
Needless to say, as someone who believes in the importance of diversity and representation in all forms of media (including books and literature), I just could not let this month pass by without writing at least one tiny tribute to the historical relevance and meaningfulness of Pride — and what better way to do that than to share a list of wonderfully written stories spearheaded by queer characters?
For this list, I’ve selected a whopping total of sixteen (16) queer books that, in my opinion, need to be picked up by more readers! Undiscovered, underrated, or underhyped — call these titles whatever you like, but one thing is clear: y’all better stop sleeping on these hidden gems and start reading.**
* Just a quick note that “queer” is a reclaimed umbrella term, but I don’t mean to individually label all LGBTQIAP+ members as queer, especially if it causes them discomfort.
** Admittedly, I am calling myself out on this, too, because some of these books are still gathering dust on the top of my mountainous TBR pile.
🌟 Start Here anthology edited by Brigitte Bautista & Ronald S. Lim
Me being me, I just had to… start here. All my terrible attempts at making jokes aside, Start Here remains to be my all-time favorite release from the #romanceclass authors. Comprised of delightful meet-cute stories with Filipino characters (all #ownvoices!), this anthology is proudly queer and guaranteed to make even the coldest of hearts melt. It features F/F, M/M and F/NB pairings — all of whom get the beautiful happy endings they deserve! I honestly cannot recommend this anthology enough times.
🌟 The Alchemists of Loom by Elise Kova
I have read several books authored by Elise Kova, but I definitely love The Alchemists of Loom the most! This action-packed steampunk fantasy is set in an entirely pansexual society*. If that little tidbit completely blew your mind the way it made mine explode in the most wondrous way, here are some other elements to look forward to: dragons as cruel oppressors, an engineer-turned-thief as a heroine, alchemy and clockwork machinery, heists pulled off by unlikely allies, and ridiculously magnificent world-building. (If you need further convincing, may I just add that this book is on sale on Amazon Kindle? Buy it for only $0.99!)
* According to the author’s tweet: “Fenthri on Loom have no notion of families/marriage as we do. So they’re romantically/physically involved with whoever they want to be with – man, woman, otherwise.”
🌟 Secondhand Origin Stories by Lee Blauersouth
Honest to all the gods out there, whenever I encounter a person whining about “too much” or “forced” diversity in books (and yes, this does occasionally happen, I regret to say), my knee-jerk reaction is
mentally slapping them in the face. Hard. With a paperback copy of this book.
LISTEN UP! Secondhand Origin Stories has given the world a truly tremendous gift: teenage superheroes of color, with disabilities, and fall within the beautiful queer spectrum. I won’t be delving into the specifics, but I will say that there’s a certain gender-fluid shapeshifter who will steal the heck out of your hearts!
Related: Unveiling the cover for Secondhand Origin Stories by Lee Blauersouth (ft. an INT’L giveaway!)
🌟 No Two Ways by Chi Yu Rodriguez
No Two Ways follows the story of a STEM heroine who somehow ends up on national television, where she is reacquainted with a previous one-night stand and an ex-boyfriend who still thinks she left him because she’s a lesbian.
I am ashamed to say that this has been gathering virtual specks of dust on my Kindle reader, but I am very excited to eventually pick this #romanceclass novel up! I mean, we’ve got a bisexual Filipino woman as our main character! Y’ALL I’M HYPED AND READY FOR THIS. (By the way, this little beauty of a book only costs $1.99 on Kindle! Buy it and let’s do a buddy read!)
🌟 Another Word for Happy by Agay Llanera
Another #romanceclass title that I haven’t read yet? Oof. But in any case, Another Word for Happy is a poignant story that deals with a young gay boy learning about his sexuality and the hardships come with it, especially in an extremely conservative, predominantly Catholic community. Knowing how deeply rooted these prejudices are in the Philippines, I believe that this short novel is extremely important and would touch the hearts of so many people.
🌟 Soft on Soft by Mina Waheed
Soft on Soft is Mira Waheed’s debut novel and it follows the lives of an anxious, pansexual, Middle Eastern makeup artist rising to Instagram fame and a black demisexual model with her own established following.
This is a contemporary novella about two fat, queer women of color falling in love with each other in a delightfully soft and fluffy way. With Soft on Soft, you get exactly what the title suggests — a light story you can easily sink your teeth into. (Have I mentioned that this sweetness in book form only costs $2.99? What a steal!)
🌟 Come Drink With Me by Michelle Kan
Among all the titles on this list, Come Drink With Me is the book I know the least about. I only know vague elements that this quaint novella has: a dragon, a phoenix, and an opera house. STILL. Described as an “aromantic Chinese fairytale” written by a Chinese author, I was immediately intrigued and added this to my TBR without any further questions. It does not hurt that Michelle Kan’s Come Drink With Me has been highly praised by my good friend and trusted source of quality recommendations, CW @ The Quiet Pond.
🌟 Learning Curves by Ceillie Simkiss
Learning Curves is a New Adult novella that revolves around the love story between two graduate students — a biracial lesbian of color and a panromantic asexual diagnosed with ADHD. Both remarkably career-driven and ambitious, these two women slowly go from studying together in the library to becoming permanent fixtures in each other’s story. This is a lighthearted Sapphic romance I definitely don’t want to miss out on!
🌟 She of the Mountains by Vivek Shraya
Written by a South Asian trans woman, She of the Mountains is an award-winning illustrated novel that tackles two main narratives, namely, a nuanced queer love story and a reimagining of Hindu mythology. This book really delves into the damaging effects that stem from policing gender and sexuality, which remains to be a very timely and relevant discussion in this day and age.
I think it is also worth noting that She of the Mountains has been selected as one of the 2019 Year of the Asian Reading Challenge recommended reads for June!
🌟 Knit One, Girl Two by Shira Glassman
This book was personally recommended to me by Laura @ bbliophile, whom I trust for soft and light romance recommendations. Knit One, Girl Two is described as a “fluffy Jewish f/f contemporary set in the author’s childhood home of South Florida.” Its story revolves around two artists, namely, a yarn dryer seeking inspiration and a passionate painter. Art has always been an interest of mine, and I love that it plays such a huge role in this Sapphic romance.
🌟 In the Vanishers’ Palace by Aliette de Bodard
When I first heard of In the Vanishers’ Palace and I learned that it’s a Vietnamese-inspired fantasy reimagining of Beauty and the Beast with a wonderful Sapphic twist, I immediately seized the opportunity to read it! Unfortunately, I did not love this book as much as I hoped I would — which might make it seem weird for me to include this title on my list.
However, although I am personally not a fan of this story, I did appreciate how intuitive and well-integrated the diversity is (if that makes any sense). Aside from two queer women falling in love, it also features non-binary characters of color. I do think that In the Vanishers’ Palace would highly appeal to a niche audience, especially to those who are interested in a read that’s speculative, no-holds-barred, and unapologetically unconventional.
🌟 The Lost Coast by Amy Rose Capetta
If there’s anything you can count on from Amy Rose Capetta’s work, it’s unapologetic in-your-face queerness. I recently added one of her latest novels, The Lost Coast, into my TBR after reading the first sentence of its synopsis: “The spellbinding tale of six queer witches forging their own paths, shrouded in the mist, magic, and secrets of the ancient California redwoods.” Just like that, I was completely, utterly sold and I look forward to picking this one up!
🌟 Graham’s Delicacies by Mina Waheed
This contemporary novella revolves around six queer characters and tells a total of three love stories that happen inside the same bakery. This small collection of stories features F/NB, M/M, and M/NB pairings that are sure to have you cheering them on!
Much like her debut Soft on Soft, Mina Waheed’s Graham’s Delicacies promises nothing but light and fluffy, sweet and syrupy romance-y goodness.
🌟 Falling into Place by Sheryn Munir
To put it simply, Falling into Place is a slow-burn contemporary Sapphic romance set in urban Indian. In less than 60,000 words, we witness a convincing romantic development between two South Asian women, namely, a semi-closeted lesbian sports journalist and a bisexual commissioning editor with a larger-than-life personality.
I vaguely remember Falling into Place being recommended to me, but it’s high up on my TBR and I can’t wait to give Munir’s debut novella a go!
🌟 Amelia Westlake Was Never Here by Erin Gough
When I first glanced at its book cover, I cringed so hard. The colors are spectacularly awful, if I may say so quite bluntly. However, Erin Gough’s Amelia Westlake Was Never Here was another case of read-the-first-sentence-of-the-synopsis-and-I-just-had-to: “A fiercely funny, queer romantic comedy about two girls who can’t stand each other, but join forces in a grand feminist plan to expose harassment and inequality at their elite private school.”
Give me my wonderfully Sapphic enemies-to-lovers who are both highly passionate about dismantling the sexist, misogynist and generally prejudiced cultures in elitist academic institutions!
🌟 Kings, Queens, and In-Betweens by Tanya Boteju
When I learned that Kings, Queens, and In-Betweens follows the journey of a perpetually awkward half-Indian queer girl who stumbles into the exhilarating world of drag culture, this immediately became a 2019 release I greatly looked forward to. I am stunned and disappointed to see that this title sort of flew past a lot of readers’ radars. I really cannot wait to pick this up!
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I’d love to hear from you!
🌻 Did you find any new queer titles featured in this list? Which ones are you adding to your TBR?
🌻 What are some well-written books with LGBTQIAP+ representation that you think deserves more attention? Recommend them below so I can check them out!
🌻 How are you celebrating this year’s Pride Month?