Notice your book collection wearing a little thin? Instead of rereading Lord of the Rings for the millionth time or trying to get through Kafka because you feel like you should, try something new (and with a little more representation). The literary world holds a plethora of underrated LGBT+ authors you’ll be dying to read. Whether you want to immerse yourself in fantastical realms or find your escape in the tangles of high school romance, these LGBT authors have got your back.
1. Erica Cameron
When it comes to incredible immersive and inclusive novels, you can’t do better than author and asexual advocate Erica Cameron. “While it may not be my right or place to speak to the experience of another group, including characters who respectfully and accurately represent the world we live in is…I don’t even know the right word. Important? Necessary? The way it always should’ve been?” said Cameron. “Fiction can be used to reveal powerful, universal, and often inalienable truths about the human experience, and it’s important that the people we use as vehicles to tell those stories and live those truths not only reflect one group.” Cameron continued, “In Ryogan Chronicles, I was able to create a society that utterly lacked many of the social and sexual prejudices and misconceptions that we hold today, and I love that. Sagen sy Itagami is a society in which a bisexual/pansexual orientation is the expectation. Asexuality is equally as accepted, and none of the three sexes are held up as better than any of the others.” Amen to that.
2. Jia Qing Wilson-Yang
Writer and musician Jia Qing Wilson-Yang made her long-form literary debut in 2016 with her novel Small Beauty. Small Beauty tells the story of a young mixed-race Canadian transwoman (like Wilson Yang) who returns home after a death in the family. While home, Mei meets a rich cast of characters who reflect the experiences of real LGBTQ+ women Wilson-Yang met through her research and advocacy work with transwomen across Canada. In only 170-some pages, she manages to weave an intricate tale full of well-rounded characters that explores trans identity in a rural town, underscores the importance of ancestry and paints a vivid picture of a rural Canadian landscape. The novel even tackles the complex and fraught relationship between intergenerational feminists, particularly concerning trans-exclusionary radical feminism. Is it any wonder Small Beauty won the 2017 Lambda Award for Best Transgender Fiction?
3. TJ Klune
Need a laugh? Try TJ Klune. “Klune’s one of the few authors who actually had me laughing out loud,” shared Berkeley resident Jenny Gauvin. “I was recommended his book How to Be a Normal Person and I couldn’t put it down. It was so funny but still so touching.” Klune’s How to Be a Normal Person tells the story of Gustavo Tiberius, a self-identified weirdo in a small town in Oregon. However, things change when Gus meets asexual stoner Casey and decides he needs to be “normal” to be deserving of Casey’s companionship. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll never put it down. Klune’s also got a whole lotta books out, so don’t worry – Klune will keep you entertained for months to come (even if you can’t put the books down).
4. Malinda Lo
Whether you want a new novel to dive headfirst in or short stories to keep you intrigued, Malinda Lo’s got a story for you. In desperate need of a gay fairytale? Lo’s debut novel Ash, published in 2009, is a lesbian-retelling of Cinderella that earned her a finalist spot for five literary awards (plus a whole bunch of other accolades). In this retelling, Ash (aka Cinderella) finds herself torn between a dangerous fairy named Sidhean and Kaisa, the King’s Huntress. Who ever really wanted to see Cinderella end up with a foot-fetishist?
5. Derrick Austin
If poetry is more your style, check out Derrick Austin. Austin got his MFA in poetry from the esteemed Helen Zell Writer’s Program at the University of Michigan. His debut collection Trouble the Water intimately explores what it means to be a queer black man in today’s society. “Such a beautiful collection that I highly recommend to anyone, even people who aren’t poetry nuts like myself. I can’t get over how Austin so clearly takes inspiration from multiple sources, but still keeps the collection cohesive and centered around race, sexuality and religion,” commented University of Michigan graduate Leslie Summers. “Also on a totally biased note, I love that he got his MFA from Michigan. Go blue!”
6. Lisa Jenn Bigelow
Wishing you had more LGBT+ representation growing up? Children’s and Young Adult author Lisa Jenn Bigelow is working on it. “Might be a bit out of your major audience reach, but [Bigelow] writes middle grade f/f [female/female] novels which I think is really important and most don't get enough recognition (since older generations "don't care" about them) but they're still really good stories and should be more talked about for the sake of younger lgbt/questioning readers,” said Lara M. of Sapphic Book Club, an online book club that reads and discusses a new book about women who love women each month. Check out Bigelow’s debut novel Starting From Here which centers around 16-year-old Colby Bingham as she navigates life trying to avoid more loss in her life. Colby also takes care of an injured dog named Mo, so animal lovers of all ages will be captivated.
7. Garrard Conley
Garrard Conley’s memoir Boy Erased may be coming to theaters near you soon, but you’re going to want to make sure you actually read it too. Conley survived conversion therapy and has since spent his time as an advocate and speaker on compassion. He even gave a TedTalk that manages to be laugh-out-loud funny while remaining deeply moving. Boy Erased documents Conley’s life growing up as the son of a Baptist father in Arkansas and the trials he went through as a gay man at a church-supported conversion therapy program. The movie version of Conley’s life will hit theaters this September and will star big-names like Russell Crowe and Nicole Kidman.
Looking to mix-up your mediums? Give webcomics a shot. Specifically, check out Midwest writer and artist G.H.S.T.’s webcomic Autophobia. The plot centers around a high school junior struggling with a neglectful father, a secret love affair and the perils that come with finding yourself in the chaos of high school. Standing apart from other coming-of-age stories, Autophobia features a wide array of sexual orientation and body types. Plus, G.H.S.T. also covers a bunch of topics most authors tend to steer clear of (or handle poorly) when writing about teenagers, including sexuality, substance abuse and mental illness. Autophobia updates Sundays, so now you’ll have one good reason to not dread the last day before the work/school work.
9. Laura Lam
Hailing from the sunny state of California, speculative fiction author Laura Lam now resides in Scotland and moonlights (or daylights) as a Creative Writing lecturer at Edinburgh Napier University. Her debut novel Pantomime features an intersex character who runs away to become a circus aerialist. “I knew I wanted to bring in a different voice and explore gender and sexuality in a pseudo-Victorian world,” said Lam. “The more I researched, the more I realised that it was a huge gap in representation, especially in science fiction and fantasy. I researched a lot about intersex rights and am now a vocal activist and hope that in our lifetime we’ll stop performing non-essential surgery on intersex infants and let the child choose when they are old enough.” What does Lam have in the works for 2018? “I’m considering self-publishing some geeky romance novellas this year as well, so we’ll see how those go,” she said.
10. K.F. Bradshaw
Forget Harry Potter— if magic’s what you’re after, give K.F. Bradshaw’s Enchanters a shot. The novel centers around a society in which magic is interwoven into the fabric of everyday life. When the magic starts to die and take the society down with it, an enchanter’s apprentice named Andrea fights to bring it back. “Enchanters (and soon the sequel Conduit) is a fantasy series with a f/f couple (two main characters) and other multiple nonstraight characters (confirmed by the author, but no actual words in the book). I highly recommend it because the story is a fantasy, plot driven, and all sexualities are just accepted. That tends to be a rare find these days,” shared Lara. Sad, but true. “They also have official art and maps on the book's website so they put a lot of effort into this which I think is great for an unknown author.” How dope is that?
Featured image by Christin Hume via Unsplash