This blog post was written by Spencer George, Communications Intern.
As if finding a good book with strong female characters isn’t hard enough, finding books by and about LGBTQ+ female characters is even harder. But with more and more authors writing and publishing diverse books, representation for LGBTQ+ identifying females continues to expand. From cult-classics to essay collections to breakout new stories, here are some of our favorite books from and about LGBTQ+ women, just in time to celebrate Pride Month!
Surpassing Certainty by Janet Mock: Janet Mock’s recently released new memoir is a courageous tale of her journey from a young, first-generation college student in Hawaii who spends her nights as a dancer at a strip club to a powerful and respected magazine editor in New York City. Unique in her experience as a trans, biracial woman, Mock is fueled by an inimitable drive to achieve her dreams. Surpassing Certainty is a story about a young woman navigating the uncertain ground that is one’s twenties, but it is also a story of hard-won success and hope, painful failure, and of letting oneself be truly seen– despite the consequences.
Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera: Juliet Takes a Breath follows teen girl Juliet Milagros Palante as she leaves the Bronx for Portland, Oregon following coming out to her parents. Over the course of a summer internship with her favorite author, Juliet is forced to face all the aspects of her identity and come to terms with who she is: a queer Puerto Rican woman. Juliet Takes a Breath is a poignant, dazzling, and often-funny novel for anyone wondering who they are and what they might be running from.
The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth: Set in rural Montana in the early 1990’s Emily M. Danforth’s The Miseducation of Cameron Post tells the story of recently-orphaned Cameron Post, who feels a strange, guilty relief that her parents’ deaths mean they will never learn that she’s gay. But her troubles are far from over; sent to live with her ultra-conservative aunt and grandmother, Cameron falls in love with her best friend and is ultimately outed before being sent by her aunt to a religious conversion camp. There, she is forced to come to terms with the costs of denying her true self — a valuable lesson for us all.
Difficult Women by Roxane Gay: Roxane Gay — a queer-identifying, bisexual Haitian-American female writer — is best known for her powerfully honest essays on femininity, womanhood, and culture. In Difficult Women, Gay delves deeper into what it means to be a woman than ever before, resulting in a wry, relatable, and often haunting collection of stories of women from both privilege and poverty, relationships both strong and broken. Difficult Women paints a new vision of the modern American woman: one that isn’t always triumphant, but that will keep rising and fighting regardless of the odds.
The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith: A cult-classic in the realm of lesbian literature, The Price of Salt (or Carol), focuses on the relationship between lonely housewife Carol and young sales-clerk, Therese. In the midst of divorce, Carol meets Therese and their connection is instant, leading them down the path of romance — at least until Carol is forced to choose between pursuing love and freedom with Therese or remaining to care for her child. Published in 1952, The Price of Salt continues to defy cultural perceptions of female queerness and emphasizes the importance of staying true to oneself, even against dismal odds.
Borderlands by Gloria Anzaldúa: Gloria Anzaldúa’s powerful essay collection on her experiences as a Chicana, lesbian, activist, and writer, Borderlands, explores and challenges the way we perceive identity. By examining our understanding of borders not as a divide between two entities but rather as a social, cultural, and emotional terrain we all experience, Anzaldúa forces us to take a second look at our perceptions of identity and consciousness, from the contemporary and ideological to the physical and cultural.
Under the Udala Trees by Chinelo Okparanta: A powerful tale of living and loving openly, Under the Udala Trees follows Nigerian teen Ijeoma as she flees civil war, escaping to safety. There, she meets another displaced child — a girl — who comes from a different ethnic community. Despite their differences, the two fall quickly in love. But they can only hide their relationship for so long; when their love is discovered, Ijeoma is forced to face the consequences of living a life that deviates from the norm. In Under the Udala Trees, Okparanta paints a world torn apart by violence and destruction — but one that, if Ijeoma can learn to overcome fear and prejudice, might hold a glimpse into a future shaped around truth, love, and freedom.
Keeping You a Secret by Julie Ann Peters: A finalist for the National Book Award, Keeping You a Secret follows high school senior Holland Jaeger, who seems to have it all: a steady boyfriend, the position of Student Council President, and the chance to attend an Ivy League college. But when new student Cece comes to school, Holland’s world is tipped on its head. A classic Young Adult love story, Keeping You a Secret captures the pull of young love — and what it means to love despite what others think.
Rubyfruit Jungle by Rita Mae Brown: Perhaps one of the most well-known LGBTQ+ female novels out there, Rubyfruit Jungle follows Molly Bolt, an adopted daughter of a poor, Southern couple, as she ventures out into 20th century America in search of her own path. Beautiful and witty, Molly draws women to her everywhere she goes — and she is drawn to them back. A powerful book about pursuing your own happily-ever-after, Rubyfruit Jungle continues to be a milestone in the world of lesbian literature, even almost fifty years after its original publication.
Girl Walking Backwards by Bett Williams: Williams’ anti-coming-of-age novel about Southern California high-school student Skye is all about the pursuit of authenticity and truth in a New Age world. With her mother obsessed with New Age culture, Skye is forced to attend consciousness workshops and hypnotherapy sessions, all while battling her conflicting feelings for troubled punk teen Jessica. Just when things seem at their worst, however, Skye meets Mol and Lorri, true friends who help her feel like her most authentic self in a culture which seems to do everything it can to prevent it. A complex, often-heavy novel about the strange culture of America’s new teenagers, Girl Walking Backwards tells an important story of finding connection in an unstable world.
Her Name in the Sky by Kelly Quindlen: Quindlen’s Young Adult story follows seventeen-year old Hannah, who just wants to spend her senior year of high school hanging out with friends and attending football games, making memories before everyone she knows leaves for college. But there’s a small problem with her plan: the fact that Hannah has fallen madly in love with her best friend, Baker. She knows she should stay quiet and follow the rules of her home, conservative Louisiana, but she longs to be with Baker more than anything. Her Name in the Sky is a powerful story about overcoming shame and prejudice and opening yourself up to the possibility — and even the realization — of true love.
Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour: When Emi Price is gifted her brother’s Los Angeles apartment for the summer as a graduation present on the condition that “something great must take place there”, she isn’t sure what to do. Despite her success as a young production designer in the film industry, Emi can’t get past the fact that she feels like every other teen: average and bad at romance. But after discovering a mystery letter at an old Hollywood film legend’s estate sale, Emi must tear down the borders of her carefully constructed world and pursue the strange fragments of a movie icon’s life in search of a decades-old secret — and, if she can overcome her own fears, she might just find love along the way.
Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel by Sara Farizan: Sara Farizan’s powerful coming-of-age novel follows Iranian-American teen Leila, a student at Armstead Academy, who has almost graduated without a single person finding out that she likes girls. But when new student Saskia arrives, Leila starts to wonder if the risk of admitting the truth would be worth the potential relationship the two might share. The more she begins to confide in her other classmates, the more she discovers that she’s not the only one with a secret– and that everyone is more complicated than they initially appear to be.