Happy Pride! I know it’s been a hot minute since I posted on this blog, but to be honest I’ve been feeling pretty drained, physically, spiritually, emotionally, etc. But it’s Pride Month, and I’ve been burying my feelings by watching Heartstopper on repeat, alternating with re-reading the comics… you know, normal coping strategies!
In all seriousness, I have come to this humble blog to offer you, out of the goodness of my heart, a 7ish recommendations of queer books you might want to read this month. (Why 7? Because it’s my favorite number, and everyone always makes lists of either 5 or 10 and that’s basic. Do you want me to be basic during Pride Month??)
These aren’t full reviews, because I don’t quite have those in me these days (Though keep your eye out for an exciting project coming out next month 👀) but in any case, sit back, relax, and scroll to hear about some fantastic books.
Note: This page contains affiliate links. If you choose to purchase after clicking a link, I may receive a commission at no extra cost to you.
Heartstopper by Alice Oseman
Those of you who know me know that I have been obsessed with Heartstopper for a HOT MINUTE and cannot shut up about it so let me step up on my soapbox for a second. The Heartstopper TV show on Netflix is honestly one of the best things to happen to television right now, and if you have access to a Netflix account and haven’t seen it yet I highly recommend you do so post-haste. It’s heartwarming and will give you so many warm and fuzzy feelings this Pride Month! BUT I also recommend that you read the comics, because the comics have just as much great content in them, and are in some ways even better than the show. Admittedly it is unfair to compare such different mediums, and to be honest I love both equally—but differently.
The Heartstopper comics are wonderful. They tell the story of two boys, Nick and Charlie, who are in year 11 and year 10 respectively, and are assigned to the same form group and to sit next to each other in class. Over time, they become friends, and eventually quite a bit more. It’s a sweet high school romance, but it’s also unafraid in later volumes to deal with tough topics like homophobia, mental health, and eating disorders.
In some ways Heartstopper can be seen as unrealistic—for many of us who are queer, we never had romances like Nick and Charlie’s in high school, and may never have romances like that as adults either. There is a purity in the escapism, but also a jealousy that may arise, and a sadness at what it feels like one can’t have. I want to respect that many people feel that way, but I also live in the hope that as more people read Nick and Charlie’s story it can also inspire people to treat each other with the same kindness that is extended by all the characters in Heartstopper. We might not currently live in the same world as them, but we can create a world like it.
The Henna Wars by Adiba Jaigirdar
I did not know what to expect when I started reading The Henna Wars, because I did not actually know what it was about. Someone told me it was about brown girls in love, so I picked up a copy, opened it, and I’ll tell you I had no regrets! The book is set in Dublin, where a Nishat, a Bangladeshi teenager who has recently come out to her less-than-understanding parents, reconnects with her primary school friend and crush Flávia as they enter a school competition and inadvertently end up on opposite sides.
There is so much I loved about this book—the romance between Nishat and Flávia was a large part of it, but Nishat’s relationship with her sister Priti is a core driving force of the novel and just as, if not more important. The way Nishat mends her relationship with her parents, the way that Henna connects her to her Nanu, how she has deep bonds with her friends—all of these connections show how there are more dynamic and important kinds of love in life than just the romantic, and that’s the kind of ish I like to see! This Pride Month, and every month, we are celebrating all kinds of love!
Buy The Henna Wars on Bookshop.org (If this is out of stock try your local bookstore!)
Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao
This book had me in CHAINS. I loved it! I loved it! When I read it for the first time I stayed up half the night to finish it and then stayed up the rest of the night pacing my apartment thinking about it.
The world building of this story is just absolutely *chef’s kiss*. The plot is so intricate that every time a twist came I was shook but then once I reflected I realized it made perfect sense. At every point the dominos just fell into place and I adored it. The chaos, the betrayal, the intrigue! The way the characters fight so hard, and love each other so tenderly? It’s amazing.
Our protagonist, Zetian, has been through so much bullshit and yet still pulls through. She is ruthless, but also capable of such deep love when someone has earned her care and trust. Also, and this may be a spoiler, but it’s the spoiler that got me to read this book, so it may do so for others—the fact that this book finally answers the prayer I have been singing to the gods for as long as I have been reading romance novels that a love triangle can be solved with polyamory is just—amazing. I also loved how the romance happened so naturally it was almost an afterthought, which is part of the reason I’m including it on this Pride Month list—the characters involved don’t have a big coming out moment, they just fall in love because of mutual attraction without regard for gender, which is something I adore in media.
Buy Iron Widow on Bookshop.org (If this is out of stock try your local bookstore!)
The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers
This is the first book in The Wayfarer’s series—I’ve also read the second, which is equally good, though I haven’t read the other’s yet. This story is a Space Opera of massive proportions and I’m not sure that I can do it justice. What I will say is that the two things I loved most about the story is the combination of the massive world building and bottled intimacy of storytelling.
There were a few moments where the text got a little heavy on exposition, but in a story that takes place in a galaxy that is so expansively different from our own that is only natural. At the same time the story for the most part plowed on forward as though it expected the reader to know what was happening and be familiar with the world already—the small bits of exposition were only there when something was completely unexplainable without the added context.
This is helped by the framing of the story—it takes place on a ship called The Wayfarer, and the story starts just as the newest crew member, Rosemary, has come on board. Not only is Rosemary new to the Wayfarer, she has never traveled in space before, so absolutely everything has to be explained to her, and thus, to the reader. Because she has lived her entire life planetside on Mars, she is also unfamiliar with many different species, AIs, and customs on other planets, so that also needs to be explained.
Overall it’s a delightful and intriguing story, especially because of how it explores different types of behavior through the customs of other species. By using an alternative framework of how to live one’s life—a non-human, but equally valid framework—Chambers critiques many human behaviors, and also imagines alternative possibilities for romantic, platonic, and sexual partnerships, family and social dynamics, and societal and cultural shifts as a whole.
The book also dives into ethical and philosophical themes of what constitutes personhood, specifically when considering clones and artificial intelligence, something that is explored in even greater depth with the second book, A Closed and Common Orbit. The second book has a few overlapping characters, but is more of a companion novel than a sequel because it centers people who were side characters in the first book.
I highly recommend both of the first two books—there are an additional two others in the series, though I have yet to get a chance to read them! I’m hoping to finish the series soon partially because it would be poetic to finish something so delightfully queer during Pride Month, but also because I’ve loved getting to explore this universe!
Buy The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet on Bookshop.org (If this is out of stock try your local bookstore!)
Buy A Closed and Common Orbit on Bookshop.org (If this is out of stock try your local bookstore!)
The Love Study by Kris Ripper
This book is beautiful and wild and so sweet, and I love it. You have a protagonist (Declan) who is terrible at commitment and relationships and falls in love with a nonbinary YouTuber (Sidney) who is super confident on the surface and is good and drawing boundaries but at their core is very fragile.
The premise has Sidney setting Declan up on blind dates with other people and then spilling the tea on a YouTube livestream. It’s messy. It’s glorious. I’m in love with love. It’s a romcom so you know they will end up together at the end but there’s a twist that actually makes it so good. There are two follow up books to The Love Study but I haven’t gotten a chance to read them yet. They are on my TBR though! Even if I don’t get to them during Pride Month queer books should be read year round!
Loveless by Alice Oseman
Props to Alice Oseman for making it on this list twice! I told you I’ve been obsessed with her writing lately. Technically set in the same universe as Heartstopper, but completely unconnected, this standalone novel from Alice Oseman is probably one of my favorite books that I have read this year! I also think its important to include on this list because the “A” in LGBTQIA+ does not stand for “Ally”—Asexual and Aromantic people get overlooked and degraded far too often, even during Pride Month, which is supposed to be a celebration of everyone under the queer umbrella, though many try to exclude us.
Georgia, the protagonist, is someone I find deeply relatable, and I felt so at home as I read through her journey. Loveless takes place during her first year at university, her first time away from home—though luckily, her two best friends, Pip and Jason, are there with her. Over the course of the novel she makes mistakes but also has multiple successes as she finds her place and realizes that being asexual does not mean being loveless, or being alone.
Buy Loveless on Bookshop.org (If this is out of stock, try your local bookstore!)
This Poison Heart by Kaylnn Bayron
The only word I could think of after I finished this book for the first time was WOW. I loved This Poison Heart and I honestly can’t believe I slept on it for so long! Everyone is always talking about Cinderella is Dead (an amazing book—read my review of Cinderella is Dead here) but Kaylnn Bayron’s second novel is just as good, if not better, and I am so excited for its sequel This Wicked Fate to come out later this month. Fitting that it will be released during Pride Month!
This Poison Heart combines four of my favorite things, in no particular order: 1. Black girls doing witchcraft 2. Queer people 3. Greek mythology 4. Plants. Our protagonist, Briseis, has a way with plants that no one, not even she, fully understands. She has lived her whole life with her mothers in Brooklyn, helping them with their flower shop, when suddenly she receives an inheritance from her birth mother’s family—a strange house in a strange town in upstate New York where mysterious messages are waiting for her and nothing is as it seems.
There were a few things I predicted, but a couple of the twists took me by complete surprise and let me tell you I was SHOOK and nearly jumping out of my seat. This book was such a page turner I could not put it down for a single second, and I promise you won’t either!
Buy This Poison Heart on Bookshop.org (If this is out of stock, try your local bookstore!)
Pre-Order This Wicked Fate on Bookshop.org (Out June 21st 2022!)
I hope you enjoyed this list, and that if you learned about some books you haven’t read yet you give them a try this Pride Month. And even if you don’t read them this month, remember that queer narratives are important to uplift year round. We should be supporting queer folks every month and every day of the year, not just during Pride Month! So go on, happy reading!