Just kidding, it stands for bisexual/biromatic/bigender. Let’s talk about queer books, kids!
It is that lovely time of year again – PRIDEEEEEEE!! So in honour of Pride, and in celebration of LGBTQIA+ people, let’s talk about BOOKS!
Before we begin, I do want to put a little disclaimer that this list is more sexuality-focused than gender-focused. I’m in the process of building up my genderqueer book repertoire, and I’m planning a series of posts on gender in books in the future, so watch this space!
Black Flamingo by Dean Atta
This is the most gorgeous book. Not only is the cover stunning, but the book is equal parts novel, poetry and graphic novel, so there are illustrations throughout.
I was lucky enough to meet Dean Atta at a symposium on Queering Children’s Literature, so my copy of this beautiful book is signed!
Atta manages to talk openly and honestly about his experience of growing up a gay man of colour in Britain. He discusses how he managed to form an identity despite often feeling like an outsider. This is a story about finding yourself and loving yourself.
And no spoilers, but it can sometimes be hard to read about difficult experiences without coming away questioning if there is any good in the world, and yet Atta manages to finish on such an optimistic note. I came away feeling good after reading Black Flamingo.
GO READ THIS BOOK! You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll learn, and you’ll want to buy a plushie of a black flamingo.
Atta also writes spoken word poetry, so feel free to yell the poetry in this book at the sky/passersby.
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
You know how bisexuals have to choose if they want to use their invisibility for crime or for evil? Well not in this book!
It has bisexuals, it has lesbians, it has gay men and found family, and tragedy, and old school Hollywood glam. So much happens in this book, and it takes you on such a rollercoaster of emotions, that I can’t even begin to describe it in a way that does it justice (but we know that won’t stop me from trying).
It’s about a recently-seperated journalist, Monique, who is tasked with interviewing one of the most famous actresses from the sixties: Evelyn Hugo.
Evelyn has been married to seven men, but Monique is about to discover the real loves (and losses) of Evelyn’s life.
It’s like watching a feature-length movie in your mind. This book leaves you wondering what to do with yourself afterwards. That is how good it is.
Also, we all love a green dress moment, right?
The World’s Wife by Carol Ann Duffy
Let’s talk about the brilliant poet Carol Ann Duffy, who also happens to be a Scottish lesbian, and the first ever Scot, first ever female, and first ever (known) queer person to hold the position of Poet Laureate. Let’s be honest she has CREDENTIALS.
I studied this book of poetry for A-Level with a teacher who might have been her biggest-ever fan. He really encouraged us to think about the historical and queer subtext in her work.
My favourite poem in this collection is ‘The Devil’s Wife’. I’ll forewarn you – the subject matter is extremely dark, but the symbolism in it is spectacular.
Basically, you know all of the famous men in history and fiction? Well this is how Duffy imagines their female counterparts felt.
You feel particularly bad for Icarus’ wife. And also that she might be well rid.
Brings new meaning to the saying, ‘Behind every great man is a woman rolling her eyes.’
The Iliad by Homer
Okay, so technically this is an epic poem, not a book, but I’m solely putting this in here to annoy one of my secondary school teachers who thought Achilles and Patroclus were just guys being dudes.
🎵Two guys chilling in the Trojan War sharing a tent and cooking food because they’re not gay🎵
This is a good example of extremely early queer coding. Everyone in Ancient Greece was like “Yeah, of course, totally in love. Tragic queer love story. Fancy some olive oil?” But modern scholars are like “Well it doesn’t explicitly say they were in love. I mean yeah they canonically shared a bed but there were girls in it sometimes too, so??”
The Ancient Greeks were pretty free wheeling when it came to sexuality. Basically if you weren’t pansexual, you were the modern equivalent of those people who wear high-heeled crocs.
Whatever you do, DON’T read The Song of Achilles. Madeline Miller is a brilliant writer, but WOW will you cry.
Let’s also give a wee shout out to Mary Oliver, a beautiful poet. Read ‘Why I Wake Early’ on a Sunday morning and feel your brain grow quiet.
And let’s also mention Sappho. The Epic, The Original, The TITULAR lesbian. I’m not even kidding – she was so gay that the words sapphic and lesbian were named after her and her place of birth respectively. ICONIQUE.
And that’s a wrap my darlings! This list is by no means exhaustive. There is a whole world of queer literature in different genres, forms and settings. But for those of you just dipping your toe into the water of queer literature, some of these might be a good place to start.
Happy Pride! Support queer people, read queer books, champion queer causes, and eat your veggies!
Finally, we can’t talk about Pride without mentioning Marsha P. Johnson. She is a Stonewall veteran who is a terrible reminder of what we fight for when we fight for LGBTQIA+ rights, but also a brilliant reminder of who we fight for when we fight for LGBTQIA+ rights.