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Why must queer characters in a story mean that a narrative of romance or sex is a must? 4 extraordinary books that throw away this assumption.
When I have come across books with queer characters in the past, they have almost always been specifically about the romantic/ sexual relationship between the queer characters, almost as if LGBTQIA+ themes are only about the relationships.
Not so, as I found out when I checked out some recent publications. The queerness of the characters in these books is just a character trait, like having black hair or being a sportsperson might be. There might be romance, but it isn’t the focus of these books.
Representation matters. And more so when it is of marginalised communities. This Pride Month, let’s look at a few books recently published, that I have enjoyed.
Lucy Holland, Published April 2021, retelling of ancient legend
Quote from book: Someone once told me that the only names that matter are the ones we take for ourselves.
Historical fiction based in ancient, pre-Saxon Britain, this is a retelling of the legend of the Twa Sisters. In this re-telling, there are three sisters, but one of them is actually a trans man assigned female at birth, who struggles with his identity. That one of the characters is Tristan – of the Tristan and Iseult fame, places the tale in Arthurian times.
A tale of magic and betrayal and murder.
Buy it here.
Kristin Lambert, Published May 2020, murder mystery
Quote from book: “Don’t worry, Millie.” He tugged on a pair of long white gloves and turned, smoothing his dress in the full-length mir ror on the open door of the armoire. Side by side, our reflections were almost the same height, with the same lanky arms and an gular hips. With him in a red dress and me in a black tailcoat and wide-legged trousers, there wasn’t much to say which of us was born a girl and which a boy.
A YA murder mystery at a party in a speakeasy, in the pre-WW2 New Orleans French Quarter, what’s not to like? Especially when there’s some wonderful representation of a whole roomful of queer characters, and a bisexual girl detective.
So pick it up, and tell us how it was.
Sarah Gailey, February 2020, feminist dystopia
Quote from book: “When there’s people around that we don’t trust, we let them think we’re the kinds of people who are allowed to exist. And the only kind of Librarian that’s allowed to exist is one who answers to she.”
An alternative near-future American Southwest with subversive, queer, antifascist librarians – wow. A feminist book of speculative fiction that set in a dystopian reality.
Do check out this multiple award winning book.
Anna-Marie McLemore, Published March 2021, magic realism, historical fiction
Quote from book: My story was not a fairy tale of a cruel-hearted girl whose shoes danced her to death, or a kindhearted one who threw her red shoes into the river. This was not a story about a wicked queen made to wear iron heels, or a lovely, golden-haired girl in slippers of glass. This had been about a fever, a nightmare, a dance made into a curse. It was about women turning their own fears into their sharpest blades.
Historical fiction and magic realism, along two timelines, this is a fresh take on the Hans Christian Anderson story The Red Shoes. The author are queer, Latinx, and non-binary author (they/them), and have written an own voice book.
The blurb says – “Summer, 1518. A strange sickness sweeps through Strasbourg: women dance in the streets, some until they fall down dead. As rumors of witchcraft spread, suspicion turns toward Lavinia and her family, and Lavinia may have to do the unimaginable to save herself and everyone she loves. Five centuries later, a pair of red shoes seal to Rosella Oliva’s feet, making her dance uncontrollably.”
The story of the ‘dancing plague of 1518’ is real, and while there are many theories for this weird event, the book beautifully weaves in fact and fiction, along with a fairy tale.
Please do suggest more of such books, if you know of them. Would love to find out.
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