It’s no secret that I love a good book with a lesbian or bisexual storyline. In fact, back in June, I put together a list of 5 Books to Help You Celebrate This Pride Month. However, we’re now well into August and June is long gone, but there are still so many sapphic stories that deserve recognition.
Perhaps we should be asking ourselves: “should we need an occasion to pick up a queer title?”
LGBTQ+ representation in books is so important (as it also is in cinema, television or any other form of media), and helps to normalise LGBTQ+ identity and relationships for children, teens, and even adults. Queer people exist outside of Pride Month and so representation should too.
Check out these 5 sapphic stories and help spread the word about great LGBTQ+ books all year round!
1. ‘Annie on My Mind’, by Nancy Garden
First published in 1982, Annie on My Mind was one of the first young adult books to portray a romantic relationship between two teenage girls. Seventeen-year-old Liza, the protagonist of the novel, is living in an upscale neighbourhood in New York City when she meets Annie and romance blossoms against all odds.
Despite being received with some controversy upon its publication almost 40 years ago, this queer story from Nancy Garden defined a generation of women-loving-women. With its ever-relevant themes of love, acceptance, and discrimination it isn’t difficult to identify with the protagonists decades later.
2. ‘The Paying Guests’, by Sarah Waters
A sapphic recommendation list wouldn’t be complete without a title from Sarah Waters. In her sixth book Waters masterfully crosses the genres bringing us the queer, romantic, crime novel we never knew we needed.
Set in 1920s London, The Paying Guests follows Frances Wray, a young woman who lives alone with her widowed mother, as she falls in love and her carefully wrought life begins to unravel.
This slow-burning tale of Frances and Lillian — and its unexpected twists — is a must-read for any queer reader looking for a novel that offers a thrilling spin on the classic, queer ‘forbidden love’ story.
3. ‘The Well of Loneliness’, by Radclyffe Hall
The oldest on the list, first published in 1928, The Well of Loneliness is considered the first English language novel with explicitly lesbian themes. Stephen Gordon, the protagonist, is aware of her queerness from an early age and eventually finds love with a woman.
However, in true sapphic story style, their relationship is marred by the social rejection they experience and their happy ending begins to slip out of reach. This story is perhaps one of the most famous sapphic novels to date, and despite its divided critiques, the way in which it tackled themes of gender and sexuality almost a century ago continue to inspire debate today.
4. ‘You Should See Me in a Crown’, by Leah Johnson
Published just last year, Leah Johnson’s debut young adult novel follows teenager Liz Lighty as she vies for a college scholarship by becoming Prom Queen. However, her plan to win the funding begins to unfold when she falls for her fellow competitor, new girl Mack.
You Should See Me in a Crown is the heartwarming sapphic story every young, queer person needed growing up. If you’re looking for an easy, feel-good, yet relatable read, this is the book for you this summer!
Content warnings: death of a parent, anxiety, panic attacks, homophobia
5. ‘The Girls’, by Emma Cline
Despite disclaimers, Emma Cline’s The Girls is a fictionalised version of the Manson murders told from the perspective of 14-year-old Evie Boyd. Whilst this book has critics divided and the topic is a weighted one, I chose to include it because it’s always refreshing to discover a queer novel in which the story isn’t focused solely on the protagonist’s queerness.
Full of vivid imagery and expressive language The Girls tackles themes of love, belonging, and girlhood whilst capably reimagining grisly true events that shocked a nation. A must-read for those interested in both queer and historical fiction!
Content warnings: drug use, murder, sexual depictions, abuse
LGBTQ+ people have existed — whether openly or not — for as long as heterosexual people, yet queer stories aren’t told nearly as often as heterosexual ones.
That isn’t to say that queer literature hasn’t improved in terms of diversity of stories, abundance, and accessibility in recent decades, but we still have a long way to go. So why not pick up a book with a queer protagonist or a novel by an LGBTQ+ author?
Stuck for what to read next? Check out our Reading Recs page. And if you’d like to support our work, please consider making a donation via our Donations page. We’re trying to raise money for paid commissions, so we can support and work with more writers from underrepresented backgrounds, who cannot afford to write for free. Thank you for reading!