With Pride Month fast approaching, I thought now may be a good time to talk about novels with LGBTQ+ representation so that you readers are set for the holiday. When it comes to representation, countless shows, films and books have certainly let down the LGBTQ+ community, as the characters in question usually end up fulfilling stereotypes or getting killed off; rarely are there characters in the media who truly embody the life experiences of LGBTQ+ individuals, nor do they often end up with happy endings. Time after time we are left disappointed as the representation we’re “given” fails to live up to our hopes. Nevertheless, as LGBTQ+ individuals have become more accepted into society, authors have started incorporating these types of characters into their stories more often. In this edition, I want to highlight some of this newfound representation we’re getting, so that you all have some new reading material for this upcoming Pride Month.
One of the first novels I want to discuss is “Iron Widow” by Xiran Jay Zhao, which has been circulating on “BookTok” for quite some time and is revered for its bi main character as well as the polyamorous relationship present in the book. The story follows Zetian, a pilot of a Chrysalise, which is a robot used to battle the monsters roaming the outskirts of her home, Huaxia. Basically, picture the robots in “Pacific Rim” and you’ll be on the right track. When powering a Chrysalise, the girl pilots usually find themselves dying from the mental strain of completing such a feat. However, Zetian miraculously survives, and manages to assassinate her sister’s killer via the pilots’ psychic link within the Chyrsalise. Zetian is soon labelled as the titular Iron Widow, a rare type of female pilot who can sacrifice boys to power up Chrysalises instead. The book has been given rave reviews for including genuine LGBTQ+ representation; rather than creating the typical YA love triangle one sees in “Twilight” or “The Hunger Games,” Zhao has slowly developed a polyamorous relationship between her characters, giving a highly unrepresented group some voice for once.
The next LGBTQ+ book I want to mention is “Last Night at the Telegraph Club” by Malinda Lo. This novel has also found its way onto “BookTok,” and focuses on a Chinese American girl’s sapphic awakening during the Red Scare of the 1950s. The main character, Lily Hu, finds herself falling in love with Kathleen Miller, the girl she met under the flashing sign of the Telegraph Club – aka the local lesbian bar. However, Chinatown is a dangerous place for LGBTQ+ individuals, forcing the girls to hide their relationship despite the risks of deportation looming over their families. It’s a story of love, identity and coming-of-age in a world set against you. The novel has been given wonderful reviews for interweaving Lily’s identity as an immigrant, a Chinese American and, of course, a lesbian. Lo manages to beautifully capture the culture and complications surrounding these overlapping identities, creating representation sure to please numerous communities.
The final book I want to mention is “One Last Stop” by Casey McQuiston, who you may recognize as the author of “Red, White and Royal Blue,” another title that has been charting on “BookTok.” August moves to New York City, insistent that going through life alone is the way to go; that is, until she meets Jane, the gorgeous punk rocker on the train. As her train ride, and train crush, soon become August’s favorite part of her day, she slowly begins to realize that Jane isn’t quite what she seems. Her old school leather look isn’t for show – Jane happens to be displaced in time from the 1970s and needs August’s help to get back home. The story is a sapphic romantic comedy filled with queer found families, giving the LGBTQ+ community some light-hearted representation.
While decent LGBTQ+ representation may seem hard to come by, some authors have gone above and beyond to make sure that the community feels represented in literature, such as the ones I’ve mentioned in this article. Hopefully these books, for those who plan on trying them out, will live up to our expectations and do the LGBTQ+ community proud and provide us with the representation we’ve been hoping for.