Queer fiction is not a single genre. Queer characters can and should appear in everything from Sci-Fi and fantasy to crime fiction. Queerness is not some “other” that can be ignored. Nor should it be ignored.
I’ve spoken before about what queerness in literature, TV, film and music meant to my young gay self. And what they meant to my twenty-something self, when I realised I was bisexual. Representation matters.
Younger me was particularly drawn to female queer characters, so the majority of this list is compiled of lesbian and bisexual women.
Pages for You by Sylvia Brownrigg
Pages for You is a story about lust, love and heartache.
When 17 year-old Flannery Jansen sees a graduate student reading in a diner, she is immediately drawn to her. Surprised by the extent of her feelings, Flannery decides to see where they will take her no matter the cost.
I’m looking forward to revisiting Flannery and Anne, in the follow-up Pages for Her, and seeing what they’re up to now.
Kissing the Witch by Emma Donoghue
A collection of fairytale retellings with a feminist twist, the 13 stories in Kissing the Witch interconnect as each girl and woman tells her own story. But “what has this got to do with queerness?” I hear you ask. Well, when each heroine is the master of her own story it makes for some interesting twists on the “girl meets boy, girl falls in love with boy” narrative.
Paulina & Fran by Rachel B. Glaser*
Paulina is not afraid to go after who and what she wants. Rumour has it she slept with most of the women at Smith, the elite ladies’ college she attended before transferring. Fran is more sexually innocent and focused on artistic work.
They bond on a school trip to Norway, their connection is instant. It’s not without complications. In an effort to deal with her confusing feelings for Paulina, Fran begins dating an ex-boyfriend of Paulina’s, Julian.
To discuss the second half of the book is to give too much away. But, it’s safe to say, their experience at art school isn’t something Paulina or Fran have easily forgotten.
Good Girls Don’t by Claire Hennessy
Good Girls Don’t is a story about teenagers getting to grips with friendship, sex, sexuality and everything that entails.
Emily Keating should probably spend more time doing her homework, but instead she is busy trying to figure out her place in the world. Something that isn’t easy for a 17 year-old, especially when you’re trying to help your friends.
The sexuality of the characters is entwined with the plot, the story isn’t all “So and so is gay or bisexual, shock horror”. There is normality to it all. This, somewhat depressingly, is as refreshing today as it was in 2004.
Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters
Anything written by Sarah Waters deserves a place on this list, but Tipping the Velvet was the first novel of hers I read so it holds a special place in my heart.
When Nan King becomes Kitty Butler’s, a male impersonator, dresser their attraction to each other becomes difficult to ignore and so their affair begins. Queer historical fiction is my favourite kind of historical fiction.
Orlando by Virginia Woolf
Presented as a biography, Orlando spans three centuries. Orlando is a young nobleman in Elizabethan England, but halfway through the novel he awakes one morning as a woman. Woolf’s exploration of role of women ends in 1928, the year of the Equal Franchise Act and full suffrage for women.
Dedicated to Vita Sackville-West, Woolf’s close friend and lover, Orlando is a story about life, love and gender.