I’d like to wish a happy National Coming Out Day to all of you, and give a reminder: you choose when, how, and to whom you share who you are! This is the first year I’m proudly “out” as asexual; what is asexuality, you might ask? The Asexuality Visability and Education Network defines it as, “An asexual person does not experience sexual attraction – they are not drawn to people sexually and do not desire to act upon attraction to others in a sexual way. Unlike celibacy, which is a choice to abstain from sexual activity, asexuality is an intrinsic part of who we are, just like other sexual orientations. Asexuality does not make our lives any worse or better; we just face a different set of needs and challenges than most sexual people do.”
Asexuality and aromanticism are two different things; asexuality refers to sexual attraction, aromanticism refers to romantic attraction. Someone can be both aromantic and asexual, or one or the other, or neither. I, for instance, am asexual but not aromantic.
It’s been a long journey to get to this point in my life. I spent many, many, many years believing I was defective, abnormal, and unlovable for not feeling the same feelings as other, and it wasn’t until I read Let’s Talk About Love and was exposed to asexual characters whose experiences mirrored mine that I was able to come to terms with and wholly embrace my identity as an asexual woman. I’m still figuring out what that all means to me in terms of dating and my daily life (especially because I’m not quite sure where I am on the romantic spectrum), but I’m in a much better place now than I’ve been before.
Now, one gripe I have with the publishing world? There is a HUGE lack of novels (that I can find, of course) featuring asexual main characters- even less of those are #ownvoices. In fact, I’ve read books (YES PLURAL) where asexual people have been compared to cactuses, ice, and other negative comparisons. If I had been exposed to an asexual main character or asexuality in general in a book as a tween or teen, things might have been a little less difficult or painful.
So I thought on this #NationalComingOutDay, I’d feature books I’ve read that I feel are authentic representations of asexuality in main characters. Without further ado, here are my ace-positive picks:
Let’s Talk About Love by Claire Kann
Alice had her whole summer planned. Non-stop all-you-can-eat buffets while marathoning her favorite TV shows (best friends totally included) with the smallest dash of adulting–working at the library to pay her share of the rent. The only thing missing from her perfect plan? Her girlfriend (who ended things when Alice confessed she’s asexual). Alice is done with dating–no thank you, do not pass go, stick a fork in her, done.
But then Alice meets Takumi and she can’t stop thinking about him or the rom com-grade romance feels she did not ask for (uncertainty, butterflies, and swoons, oh my!).
When her blissful summer takes an unexpected turn, and Takumi becomes her knight with a shiny library employee badge (close enough), Alice has to decide if she’s willing to risk their friendship for a love that might not be reciprocated—or understood.
Sawkill Girls by Claire Legrand
Who are the Sawkill Girls?
Marion: the new girl. Awkward and plain, steady and dependable. Weighed down by tragedy and hungry for love she’s sure she’ll never find.
Zoey: the pariah. Luckless and lonely, hurting but hiding it. Aching with grief and dreaming of vanished girls. Maybe she’s broken—or maybe everyone else is.
Val: the queen bee. Gorgeous and privileged, ruthless and regal. Words like silk and eyes like knives, a heart made of secrets and a mouth full of lies.
Their stories come together on the island of Sawkill Rock, where gleaming horses graze in rolling pastures and cold waves crash against black cliffs. Where kids whisper the legend of an insidious monster at parties and around campfires.
Where girls have been disappearing for decades, stolen away by a ravenous evil no one has dared to fight… until now.
Tash Hearts Tolstoy by Kathryn Ormsbee
After a shout-out from one of the Internet’s superstar vloggers, Natasha “Tash” Zelenka finds herself and her obscure, amateur web series, Unhappy Families, thrust into the limelight: She’s gone viral.
Her show is a modern adaptation of Anna Karenina—written by Tash’s literary love Count Lev Nikolayevich “Leo” Tolstoy. Tash is a fan of the forty thousand new subscribers, their gushing tweets, and flashy Tumblr GIFs. Not so much the pressure to deliver the best web series ever.
And when Unhappy Families is nominated for a Golden Tuba award, Tash’s cyber-flirtation with Thom Causer, a fellow award nominee, suddenly has the potential to become something IRL—if she can figure out how to tell said crush that she’s romantic asexual.
Tash wants to enjoy her newfound fame, but will she lose her friends in her rise to the top? What would Tolstoy do?
Jughead, Vol. 1 by Chip Zdarsky & Erica Henderson
In the grand tradition of comic book reboots like Archie Vol. 1, Archie Comics proudly presents… Jughead, Vol. 1—from the comics dream team of Chip Zdarsky (Howard the Duck) and Erica Henderson (The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl)!
Riverdale High provides a quality education and quality hot lunches, but when one of those is tampered with, Jughead Jones swears vengeance! Well, I mean, he doesn’t “swear”-this is still Archie Comics, after all. Jughead, Vol. 1 collects Jughead issues #1-6.
Now, that’s an awfully short list ,isn’t it?
Well, I’ve added a few more books to my TBR that come highly recommended and feature authentic asexual main characters. Here’s some more ace-positive reads:
Summer Bird Blue by Akemi Dawn Bowman
Rumi Seto spends a lot of time worrying she doesn’t have the answers to everything. What to eat, where to go, whom to love. But there is one thing she is absolutely sure of—she wants to spend the rest of her life writing music with her younger sister, Lea.
Then Lea dies in a car accident, and her mother sends her away to live with her aunt in Hawaii while she deals with her own grief. Now thousands of miles from home, Rumi struggles to navigate the loss of her sister, being abandoned by her mother, and the absence of music in her life. With the help of the “boys next door”—a teenage surfer named Kai, who smiles too much and doesn’t take anything seriously, and an eighty-year-old named George Watanabe, who succumbed to his own grief years ago—Rumi attempts to find her way back to her music, to write the song she and Lea never had the chance to finish.
That’s Not What Happened by Kody Keplinger
It’s been three years since the Virgil County High School Massacre. Three years since my best friend, Sarah, was killed in a bathroom stall during the mass shooting. Everyone knows Sarah’s story–that she died proclaiming her faith.
But it’s not true.
I know because I was with her when she died. I didn’t say anything then, and people got hurt because of it. Now Sarah’s parents are publishing a book about her, so this might be my last chance to set the record straight . . . but I’m not the only survivor with a story to tell about what did–and didn’t–happen that day.
Except Sarah’s martyrdom is important to a lot of people, people who don’t take kindly to what I’m trying to do. And the more I learn, the less certain I am about what’s right. I don’t know what will be worse: the guilt of staying silent or the consequences of speaking up…
Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire
Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children: No Solicitations, No Visitors, No Quests
Children have always disappeared under the right conditions; slipping through the shadows under a bed or at the back of a wardrobe, tumbling down rabbit holes and into old wells, and emerging somewhere… else.
But magical lands have little need for used-up miracle children.
Nancy tumbled once, but now she’s back. The things she’s experienced… they change a person. The children under Miss West’s care understand all too well. And each of them is seeking a way back to their own fantasy world.
But Nancy’s arrival marks a change at the Home. There’s a darkness just around each corner, and when tragedy strikes, it’s up to Nancy and her new-found schoolmates to get to the heart of the matter. No matter the cost.
Radio Silence by Alice Oseman
What if everything you set yourself up to be was wrong?
Frances is been a study machine with one goal. Nothing will stand in her way; not friends, not a guilty secret – not even the person she is on the inside. Then Frances meets Aled, and for the first time she’s unafraid to be herself.
So when the fragile trust between them is broken, Frances is caught between who she was and who she longs to be. Now Frances knows that she has to confront her past. To confess why Carys disappeared…
Frances is going to need every bit of courage she has.
What are your favorite LGBTQ+ reads for National Coming Out Day? Put them in the comments below- I’d love to read more across the sexual and romantic spectrums!
Until next time…