Today I’m so pleased to share the top 10 LGBTQIAP+ narratives I read this year!
This has been one of the hardest lists to do this year because I read SO MANY queer books and they were mostly all fabulous. These were the creme de la creme for me, so enjoy this list that runs the gambit of the LGBTQIAP+ spectrum!
The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta
Summary: Michael is a mixed-race gay teen growing up in London. All his life, he’s navigated what it means to be Greek-Cypriot and Jamaican—but never quite feeling Greek or Black enough.
As he gets older, Michael’s coming out is only the start of learning who he is and where he fits in. When he discovers the Drag Society, he finally finds where he belongs—and the Black Flamingo is born.
Told with raw honesty, insight, and lyricism, this debut explores the layers of identity that make us who we are—and allow us to shine.
Thoughts: I don’t normally read novels in verse in print, if at all, but when this book won the Stonewall Book Award before even being published in America, I knew it was going to be a special one. And special it was- it burrowed into my heart and hasn’t let go since June. The poems are raw and real, and any people who has tried to understand their place in this world will find something to identify with in this one.
Readalikes: Kings, Queens, and In-Betweens by Tanya Boteju, Every Body Looking by Candice Iloh, Aristotle & Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Grease Bats by Archie Bongiovanni
Summary: Andy and Scout are best buds, roommates, and gay disasters. Along with their friends and plenty of beer, they’re just trying to make it through their 20s, survive late capitalism, and navigate the dating world.
Tough and loving Andy is a genderqueer trans individual, who dates like there’s no tomorrow, while Scout, an all-feelings-all-the-time mistake-maker, is still languishing over her ex-girlfriend…from like two years ago.
Thoughts: This volume was a laugh a panel, really. It’s utterly impossible to not fall in love with each of these wonderful, unique characters and the relationships they have with each other, and any queer pal should pick this up quick!
Readalikes: The Essential Dykes to Watch Out For by Alison Bechdel, Be Gay, Do Comics edited by The Nib, Kim & Kim by Magdalene Visaggio, Eva Cabrera, & Claudia Aguirre
Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender
Summary: Felix Love has never been in love—and, yes, he’s painfully aware of the irony. He desperately wants to know what it’s like and why it seems so easy for everyone but him to find someone. What’s worse is that, even though he is proud of his identity, Felix also secretly fears that he’s one marginalization too many—Black, queer, and transgender—to ever get his own happily-ever-after.
When an anonymous student begins sending him transphobic messages—after publicly posting Felix’s deadname alongside images of him before he transitioned—Felix comes up with a plan for revenge. What he didn’t count on: his catfish scenario landing him in a quasi–love triangle….
But as he navigates his complicated feelings, Felix begins a journey of questioning and self-discovery that helps redefine his most important relationship: how he feels about himself.
Thoughts: Will I ever finish singing this book’s praises? Yeah, no I won’t. I knew this was going to be a great one, as Kacen Callender is an undeniable talent and that COVER- wowee! Pals, there’s a reason that this is so hyped- the story, the characters…are true perfection. Seriously I just love this book so dang much and you should too!
Readalikes: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli, I Wish You All the Best by Mason Deaver, The Past and Other Things That Should Stay Buried by Shaun David Hutchinson
Ace by Angela Chen
Summary: What exactly is sexual attraction and what is it like to go through the world not experiencing it? What does asexuality reveal about consent, about compromise, about the structures of society? This exceedingly accessible guide to asexuality shows that the issues that aces face—confusion around sexual activity, the intersection of sexuality and identity, navigating different needs in relationships—are conflicts that all of us need to address as we move through the world.
Through interviews, cultural criticism, and memoir, Ace invites all readers to consider big-picture issues through the lens of asexuality, because every place that sexuality touches our world, asexuality does too.
Thoughts: If you follow me on Instagram, you know I haven’t been able to shut up about this book since I received an advanced reader’s copy earlier this year. Truly this is the book I want to hand each of my friends and family to give them a glimpse into my and other aces’ experiences, and I’m so thankful that people who are questioning their identity (especially teens) have this one as a reference point. I couldn’t be more grateful for Angela Chen and her work on this.
Readalikes: How to Be Ace by Rebecca Burgess, The Invisible Orientation by Julie Sondra Decker, Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe
Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey
Summary: Esther is a stowaway. She’s hidden herself away in the Librarian’s book wagon in an attempt to escape the marriage her father has arranged for her–a marriage to the man who was previously engaged to her best friend. Her best friend who she was in love with. Her best friend who was just executed for possession of resistance propaganda.
The future American Southwest is full of bandits, fascists, and queer librarian spies on horseback trying to do the right thing.
Thoughts: Queer librarians fighting against a fascist power? Wowee, was this book made for me! I loved getting to know these characters along their travels- really the relationships formed between all of them was one of my favorite things about this one. I don’t often read westerns but this was a revelation and if you’re looking for something to satisfy you in the way The Gunslinger never could, Upright Women Wanted is for you.
Readalikes: Stage Dreams by Melanie Gillman, Outlawed by Anna North, The Ventriloquists by E.R. Ramzipoor
Rick by Alex Gino
Summary: Rick’s never questioned much. He’s gone along with his best friend Jeff even when Jeff’s acted like a bully and a jerk. He’s let his father joke with him about which hot girls he might want to date even though that kind of talk always makes him uncomfortable. And he hasn’t given his own identity much thought, because everyone else around him seemed to have figured it out.
But now Rick’s gotten to middle school, and new doors are opening. One of them leads to the school’s Rainbow Spectrum club, where kids of many genders and identities congregate, including Melissa, the girl who sits in front of Rick in class and seems to have her life together. Rick wants his own life to be that…understood. Even if it means breaking some old friendships and making some new ones.
Thoughts: This is the first middle grade I’ve read with ace rep and it blew me away! Of course I read George before by the same author and adored it- I was happy to see a Rick redemption arc and that a book like this is being published now- it makes me hopeful for young ones like me exploring their identity have representation at an early age!
Readalikes: Hazel’s Theory of Evolution by Lisa Jenn Bigelow, Zenobia July by Lisa Bunker, The Best at It by Maulik Pancholy
Here the Whole Time by Vitor Martins
Summary: What would you do if you had to spend the next 15 days with your lifelong crush?
Felipe gets it — he’s fat. Not chubby. Not big-boned. Fat. And he doesn’t need anyone to remind him, which is, of course, what everyone does. That’s why he’s been waiting for this moment ever since the school year began: school break. Finally, he’ll be able to spend some time far away from school and the classmates who tease him incessantly. His plans include catching up on his favorite TV shows, finishing his to-be-read pile, and watching YouTube tutorials on skills he’ll never actually put into practice.
But things get a little out of hand when Felipe’s mom informs him that Caio, the neighbor kid from apartment 57, will be spending the next 15 days with them while his parents are on vacation. Felipe is distraught because A) he’s had a crush on Caio since, well, forever, and B) Felipe has a list of body image insecurities and absolutely NO idea how he’s going to entertain his neighbor for two full weeks.
Suddenly, the days ahead of him that once promised rest and relaxation (not to mention some epic Netflix bingeing) end up bringing a whirlwind of feelings, forcing Felipe to dive head-first into every unresolved issue he has had with himself — but maybe, just maybe, he’ll manage to win over Caio, too.
Thoughts: You had me at queer and fat rep. Seriously, that’s my jam…and a gorgeous cover to boot? I was sold before this was even released. When I finally got my hands on a copy, I read it in one sitting because Felipe and I are soul siblings and Becky is everything I want to be in life. Truly this story is so sweet and touching, and I hope more of Vitor Martins’ works are translated into English!
Readalikes: Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli, Where We Go From Here by Lucas Rocha, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Be Gay, Do Comics, edited by The Nib
Summary: Be Gay, Do Comics is filled with dozens of comics about LGBTQIA experiences, ranging from personal stories to queer history to cutting satire about pronoun panic and brands desperate to co-opt pride.
Brimming with resilience, inspiration, and humor, an incredible lineup of top indie cartoonists takes you from the American Revolution through Stonewall to today’s fights for equality and representation.
Featuring more than 30 cartoonists including Hazel Newlevant, Joey Alison Sayers, Maia Kobabe, Matt Lubchansky, Breena Nuñez, Sasha Velour, Shing Yin Khor, Levi Hastings, Mady G, Bianca Xunise, Kazimir Lee, and many, many more!
Thoughts: Reading this comic anthology was like wrapping myself in a warm hug. It made me laugh, it made me want to cry, and more importantly- it made me feel seen and accepted by the queer community (what an ace person always seeks!) If you need some warmth this holiday season, this one will fit the ticket nicely.
Readalikes: Grease Bats by Archie Bongiovanni, Love is Love edited by DC Comics & IDW Publishing, All Out edited by Saundra Mitchell
Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera
Summary: Juliet Milagros Palante is leaving the Bronx and headed to Portland, Oregon. She just came out to her family and isn’t sure if her mom will ever speak to her again. But Juliet has a plan, sort of, one that’s going to help her figure out this whole “Puerto Rican lesbian” thing. She’s interning with the author of her favorite book: Harlowe Brisbane, the ultimate authority on feminism, women’s bodies, and other gay-sounding stuff.
Will Juliet be able to figure out her life over the course of one magical summer? Is that even possible? Or is she running away from all the problems that seem too big to handle?
With more questions than answers, Juliet takes on Portland, Harlowe, and most importantly, herself.
Thoughts: Meeting Gabby Rivera was one of the highlights of my 2019, so truly I don’t understand why it took me so long to read her debut…but it did. And of course I loved it, because queer coming-of-age stories are like catnip to me and I love a strong, authentic narrative voice. If you haven’t picked this one up pals, read it IMMEDIATELY.
Readalikes: Little and Lion by Brandy Colbert, Girl Mans Up by M.E. Girard, The Summer of Everything by Julian Winters
Tarnished Are the Stars by Rosiee Thor
Summary: A secret beats inside Anna Thatcher’s chest: an illegal clockwork heart. Anna works cog by cog — donning the moniker Technician — to supply black market medical technology to the sick and injured, against the Commissioner’s tyrannical laws.
Nathaniel Fremont, the Commissioner’s son, has never had to fear the law. Determined to earn his father’s respect, Nathaniel sets out to capture the Technician. But the more he learns about the outlaw, the more he questions whether his father’s elusive affection is worth chasing at all.
Their game of cat and mouse takes an abrupt turn when Eliza, a skilled assassin and spy, arrives. Her mission is to learn the Commissioner’s secrets at any cost — even if it means betraying her own heart.
When these uneasy allies discover the most dangerous secret of all, they must work together despite their differences and put an end to a deadly epidemic — before the Commissioner ends them first.
Thoughts: I’ve been wanting to read this one since I moderated a panel of aro-ace spec authors, which included Rosiee, and I did it! This one was a beautiful, dark, genre-defying story of some of my favorite queer characters of all time and truly I cannot wait to see what Rosiee comes out with next. Also pals, it’s got aro-ace rep. It’s glorious.
Readalikes: Spellhacker by M.K. England, Cinder by Marissa Meyer, Bonds of Brass by Emily Skrutskie
What LGBTQIAP+ rep in books have made you cry this year? Share them in the comments below!
Pals, tomorrow is the big one! I announce my top 10 books of 2020 and I hope you’ll check it out. Until next time…