Representation for different identities will always be important. Queer representation was something that popular literature was lacking for many years – it was present but not as frequent as heterosexual representation. In modern times we may think that queer representation is standard based on the many queer books that have been published. This rise in representation is a positive change but readers should not forget why this representation is so important, and why increasing this representation still matters.
Queer representation is still incredibly important in literature. Reading about people who are like you and have similar lives to you is an important experience, an experience that leaves people feeling seen and heard. Being able to identify with a character in a book is an experience that many straight people take for granted, but it is an experience that many queer people do not get to have.
When certain groups are not represented, this may lead to that group feeling like outsiders in their own world, and to feeling as though they do not belong. Books that represent queer lives and experiences are important reads for both the queer community, as well as those outside of it who want to learn. Here are some recommendations of books that feature queer characters or storylines:
The Song Of Achillies- Madeline Miller (2011)
This novel is a queer retelling of Homer’s The Illiad. The novel follows the characters of Patroclus and Achillies as they grow into young men trained for war. Their friendship deepens and soon turns into something more. This story is an original take on the trojan war and a queer retelling that feels both necessary and realistic. This book is rated 4.35/5 on Goodreads.
“Queer representation is still incredibly important in literature.“
Let’s Talk About Love- Claire Kann (2018)
Asexuality probably gets the least amount of representation out of all of the LGBTQ+ identities, making any book that features an asexual character very important. This novel is a new adult romance that follows Alice, the asexual biromantic protagonist, during her summer. This book is rated 3.8/5 on Goodreads.
Carry On- Rainbow Rowell (2017)
This queer fantasy has received many comparisons to J.K Rowling’s Harry Potter series. This Young Adult fantasy novel follows protagonist Simon Snow and his roommate Baz. The book is filled magic and is a fun read. The book is perfect for anyone who’s favorite trope is the enemies to lovers. Although the book is compared to Harry Potter, it adds the queer representation that the series was lacking. This book is rated 4.2 /5 on Goodreads.
The Year of Blue Water- Yanyi (2019)
This poetry book deals with many themes and topics from mental health to racism from the perspective of the queer and trans poet Yanyi. This book is filled a lot of different types of poems as well. The collection is highly original and received critical acclaim when it was released. This poetry collection is rated 4.2/5 on Goodreads.
“This poetry book deals with many themes and topics from mental health to racism from the perspective of the queer and trans poet Yanyi.“
Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me- Mariko Tamaki (2019)
This is a popular graphic novel that depicts the rocky relationship between two young girls, Laura Dean and Freddy. The novel also deals with ideas around toxic relationships. The art style is very eye-catching and adds to the experience of the story. This graphic novel is rated 4/5 stars on Goodreads.
The Black Flamingo- Dean Atta (2019)
The Black Flamingo is a coming of age story that follows a young mixed-race gay teenager. The book does wonderful representation for gay teens but it also represents the drag community. The protagonist finds himself and embraces his identity through his drag persona The Black Flamingo. This book is also told in verse, making it a very unique read. This book is rated 4.48/5 on Goodreads.
Trans: Transgender Life Stories from South Africa- Editors: Ruth Morgan, Charl Marais, Joy Rosemary Wellbeloved (2010)
This collection of stories and discussions from more than 20 South African trans voices is an important look into the lives of transgender people in South Africa. There are true stories that deal with the darker experiences of being trans and the prejudices faced in South Africa. This book is rated 3.7/5 on Goodreads.
Illustration: Cassandra Eardley