Self-isolation, day eleventy-million (or so it feels): You’re stuck inside and way over watching “Tiger King.” Social media is sometimes uplifting but mostly a cesspool of COVID-19 doom. While it’s important to stay safe and follow CDC and WHO guidelines, you need escapism now more than ever. What better time to get lost in a hella queer book or 10?
Libraries might not be open, but thank goddess for ebooks. And if you’re one of the lucky lesbians who still has a job, independent bookstores would love your support to help stay afloat.
Check out this list of my favorite queer-antine reads in a variety of genres! Most titles are linked to IndieBound, a great site where you can track down local bookshops who might even ship to you for free. Whether your bag is coming-of-age graphic novels with magical realism and unrequited girl crushes or rival queer-leaders, these 10 reads have something for each and every gay!
If you were obsessed with “Cheer” but wished it had lesbians: Check out Chelsea M. Cameron’s “Bring Her On.” Rival coaches Kiri and Echo are hell-bent on their teams placing at Nationals, and as former cheer camp hookup buddies, they have serious skin in the game. But when Echo’s gym burns down, Kiri’s forced to host both her ex and her team, and sparks fly among the basket tosses. Both lighthearted and romantic, it’s a perfect read from a nonbinary author and former cheerleader.
If you always meant to read “Carol:” Now’s the time to pick up Patricia Highsmith’s lesbian classic originally published as “The Price of Salt.” Highsmith released this lady-love novel in 1952 under the pseudonym Claire Morgan because, in the era of lesbian pulp fiction, it was unheard of for the protagonists to actually — gay gasp! — end up together. Relish Highsmith’s beautiful words and see why the movie adaptation was just so damn good.
If you were a “Sword in the Stone” stan as a kid: Peep the “Once & Future” duology, a gay young adult space-fantasy spin on the King Arthur myth whose second book “Sword in the Stars” was just released. You may want to start with the first book, “Once & Future”, for a true mini-binge. Fun fact: Co-authors Amy Rose Capetta and Cori McCarthy are partners in lit and in life, and last year Cori popped the question at a “space prom” book event.
If you wonder what Sophie was reading at her grandma’s bedside on “Gen Q:” I have the answer: Chloe Caldwell’s new lesbian classic “Women”! This short but sweet novella has everything, from a 20-something protagonist wrestling with her sexuality (is she straight? Spoiler: no!) to funny but sad OKCupid dates, to plenty of angst and heartbreak along the way. Relatable queer content, am I right?
If you’re craving smutty short stories: Look no further than “Best Lesbian Erotica of the Year, Volume 4.” Butch erotica author Sinclair Sexsmith edited this diverse collection of shorts about all kinds of pleasure from all kinds of people. A femme gangbang, an elderly couple having fun at a sewing table, a dress-up doll scenario that becomes a sensual voyage of self-discovery, and a naughty 1960s birthday surprise — this anthology has it all. Grab your favorite toy and/or queer-antine partner and dive in!
If you want a stirring memoir of Internet fame and first love: “Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls” is the one you need. T. Kira Madden (niece of Steve Madden, whose shoes were it in the late ‘90s and early aughts) takes the reader through her star-studded childhood — at one point her dad worked for “Wolf of Wall Street” Jordan Belfort — and her navigation of multiracial and gay identity. A bookseller describes Madden’s writing as “a Lisa Frank-racetrack-Hawaiian shirt phantasmagoria,” and, well, yes.
If sci-fi graphic novels about girl-girl crushes sound about right: Try “SuperMutant Magic Academy.” Bestselling illustrator Jillian Tamaki, who also coauthored the gorgeously queer “This One Summer” with her cousin Mariko, serialized this tale of a high school for mutants and witches online, and now you can enjoy the whole collection in print. At the story’s angsty center is Marsha, deep in the closet and hopelessly in love with the cat-eared Wendy. Tamaki’s drawings are straight from the heart, and her characters even more so.
If you can’t get enough of bisexual star Gaby Dunn: Check out “Bad With Money,” the literary expansion of her wildly popular podcast. Subtitled “The Imperfect Art of Getting Your Financial Sh*t Together,” this guide aimed at millennials and Gen Z is both relatable and hilarious. As layoffs increase and stimulus checks may or may not be distributed, getting more comfortable with the most uncomfortable of topics is more important than ever. Why not take your advice from one of pop culture’s foremost queers?
If you love speculative fiction and anti-capitalist rhetoric: “Finna” is both — with a queer twist. The debut novel of queer and trans/nonbinary author Nino Cipri, this small book packs a gay punch. Ava and Jules are recent exes and current coworkers at a big-box store who must band together when an elderly customer falls into a parallel world. The road from romantic to platonic has never been so delightfully weird.
If you want a one-two punch of intimacy and political history: Grab “Before the Rain.” In the 1980s, newspaper editor Luisita Lòpez Torregrosa fell hard and fast for Elizabeth, a stunning but mysterious writer. As the couple traveled to the Philippines to cover the fall of dictator Ferdinand Marcos, they were forced to confront both dangerous revolution and their own tentative relationship. Read Torregrosa’s beautiful prose and witness how relationships can change in the face of a harsh and unpredictable environment.
Bonus titles: Because who knows when this is going to end? If you’re in a preordering mood or your gay teen sister needs a summer birthday present, look up Kylie Schachte’s “You’re Next” (a queer YA murder mystery described as “’Riverdale’ meets ‘Fight Club’”) and Leah Johnson’s “You Should See Me in a Crown” (a romance about a young black woman in the running for prom queen and a college scholarship, who falls for the new girl in school).
Happy queer-antine reading!