Need some bookspiration?
BY BRODIE CRELLIN, IMAGE VIA SHUTTERSTOCK
Just like the selection of lez/bi films on Netflix, lesbian fiction can be a bit disappointing…
Hugely underrepresented, queer female characters have the tendency to end up either dead or completely straightened out. Which means we end up returning to old classics to find some genuinely good queer stories about women.
Realistically though, getting through the Well Of Loneliness more than once is a hefty feat and not recommendable to anyone who wants to maintain their emotional stability. A lesbian bible it may be, but it’s time to find some books that celebrate self-love rather than self-pathologization.
And as wonderful as they are, there’s only so many times we can read Rubyfruit Jungle, The Price of Salt aka Carol, Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit and Tipping the Velvet. So, here are a few novels featuring non-hetero women that you might not have heard of to queer up your bookshelf…
Under The Udala Trees – Chinelo Okparanta
Written after Nigeria’s president reinstated the law criminalising same-sex relationships in 2014, this book attempts to “give Nigeria’s marginalised LGBTQ citizens a more powerful voice.” The story is set in Nigeria during the Civil War and by doing so, Okparanta offers us the lesbian version of Half Of A Yellow Sun.
The story is tragic, healing, sexy and offers an important glimpse into Nigeria’s forbidden lesbian clubs, underground queer culture, as well as describing the lived realities that many queer Nigerian women face. (It also has some of the hottest sex scenes in les/bi fiction…)
The Argonauts – Maggie Nelson
A book to make you feel clever. Maggie Nelson’s autobiographical/novel/essay/general musings on all things queer and bodily, explores the complexities of queer family making, letting us in on a glimpse of the realities of building a family with genderqueer parents.
In the book Nelson likens her pregnancy to her partner Harry’s FTM transition, emphasising how both their bodies are changing – shining an unfamiliar light on pregnancy and motherhood. It all sounds very academic, but it’s really super sexy and I’m pretty sure that never before has the act of giving birth been described in such perversely wonderful detail.
There’s also a whole section devoted to an art exhibition about puppies, babies and joyful sensuality, summed up as an “orgy of adoration” which includes a lesson in how to breastfeed whilst doing a handstand. Academia just got interesting.
The First Bad Man: A Novel – Miranda July
Quirky, extremely weird and an aggressive sexual awakening to say the least. These oddly matched female lovers come from very different worlds. Clee is a teenager with bad hygiene and a sulky demeanor. Whilst Cheryl is in the midst of a midlife crisis, obsessed with her misogynistic boss and forced to contend with a young person (Clee) disturbing her domestic life. Weirdly the two bond over simulated self defense videos, a baby, and some unexpectedly steamy role play.
the bricks that built the houses – Kate Tempest
A love letter to South London and a thrilling page turner complete with underground clubs, shark tanks, and a drug deal gone wrong, that results in a quick escape and a luxurious month long les/bi-romance in Europe.
If you haven’t heard of her, Tempest is a radical spoken word performer whose second album provides the narrative for this novel. Told at a pace that rivals how quickly Shane can walk into a room and make a girl leave crying, Tempest creates an absorbing world revolving around Becky, an aspiring dancer who works nights as a masseuse and Harry, a gender non-conforming gangster.
Conversations With Friends – Sally Rooney
Bobbi is a lesbian and Frances is a communist. The couple went out for two years while they were at school, performed poetry together and couldn’t care less about what anyone else thought of them. (I wish there had been two girls like this in my year at school…) Now they’re at university together but not together, their friendship is put under strain.
The novel tests the boundaries of how much a friendship – especially between exes – can take and gives a voice to the experiences of young, queer women without making their sexuality the defining thing about them.
Stir-Fry- Emma Donoghue
“Two women seek flatmate. No bigots.” Sheltered country girl heads to the big city for university and discovers that lesbianism is a thing. A classic narrative of an innocent abroad, but this time the wide-eyed traveller is a seventeen-year-old in Dublin who accidentally moves in with a lesbian couple. Expect love triangles, friendship drama, and coming-of-age trials and tribulations. The L Word set in the 80s?
Written On The Body – Jeanette Winterson
If Kate Tempest is writing a love letter to London then Jeanette’s novel is definitely a love letter to all things bodily and tangible. A dissection of the body and all it’s curves and crevices this book is a reflection on love and its abundant cliches. It also makes some important points about bisexuality, fantasy, obsession and illness.
Better get reading, huh?
DIVA magazine celebrates 26 years on the newsstands in 2020. Get behind LGBTQI media and help us celebrate another 26, at least. Your support is invaluable. Get the latest issue here now.