Invisible Monsters by Chuck Palahniuk
Chuck Palahniuk is frequently known as the author of the revolutionary novel Fight Club. While it discusses and explores the ideas of toxic masculinity and consumerism, many readers fail to realize that the author behind the words is a gay man. For me, before I even knew what Fight Club was, Invisible Monsters by Palahniuk was the first queer novel I ever read. It’s very important to me in a way that is difficult to describe. I had only discovered it because of Panic at the Disco’s song Time to Dance, that featured quotes from the novel.
This was the first time I had ever read about trans people and about queer lives. I was 13 and it honestly opened the world up for me. While I may not have deeply understood the various themes explored within the novel like beauty standards, acceptance, addiction, and mental health, this book remains integral for exposing me to queer fiction in general.
You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson
You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson is a novel I connected with instantly. Our protagonist Liz already feels comfortable with herself as a queer BLPOC in a high school setting and seeing that made my heart soar with infinite happiness. When I was in high school, I was stared at whenever I had a girlfriend and I never knew how to articulate how invasive, scared, and vulnerable that made me. So much so, that I stopped attempting to date girls in high school because of how uncomfortable being queer was. I am so happy that many young adults will have access to a character like Liz in You Should See Me in a Crown to know they are not alone. I would have killed to have a book like this when I was younger.
Things like homophobia, racism, classism, and self-acceptance are explored in a manner that feels painfully authentic. However, Johnson still delivers a happy ending for Liz and I think stories about queer happiness are so important. This book feels like a breath of fresh air and I urge everyone to read it!
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo was a novel that moved me to tears. Specifically, a half hour of waterworks pouring over the writing of a bisexual woman. I identify as a genderqueer person whose pronouns are she/her/they/them and to see Evelyn Hugo’s character progression in discovering her bisexuality was deeply moving. Surprisingly, this was the first piece of prose I had read that wrote bisexuality in a way that did not seem fetishized or inauthentic. I have had relationships with both women and men and to see Evelyn consistently stand her ground within her own relationships was astounding.
Reid cultivated a powerful story exploring Evelyn’s marriages to seven different men throughout her golden years as a Hollywood starlet. However, she writes about how love is love and marriage in the 40’s-80’s doesn’t showcase the truth of what being queer was like. Reid writes queer characters with delicate precision. The Seven Lives of Evelyn Hugo is a character drama that sticks to you even months after you’ve finished it.
Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir
Gideon the Ninth has quickly become a new favorite book of mine. The first in the Locked Tomb trilogy, it explored Gideon Nav as she attempts to help a member of a Death Cult become a powerful Lychtor. What is so fascinating about this read is that the ideas of gender roles and sexuality are written inherently into the sci-fi heavy thriller. In Muir’s written universe, gender norms aren’t even a concept discussed amongst it’s characters or their culture; so Gideon being a strong, butch lesbian is amazing because she is written freely as one without the pain of heteronormative culture. It was so cool to read a book where our main characters don’t have to suffer with the troubles of coming out or being judged for their sexuality or their gender expression. Muir’s writing is hilarious and poignant at times making for one of the most riveting reads about lesbian space necromancers.
This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki
This One Summer is a graphic novel like no other. It explores queerness in a different way from other books on this list. Windy, the younger protagonist, is what Tamaki describes as queer girl isolated and finding herself. In a book about exploring the transition between young girl to woman and the in-between, it captures an experience that I think many can relate to.
As a young adult graphic novel, it does important work in showcasing how confusing it is to learn about changing bodies, sex, pregnancy, relationships, divorce, and mental health. Told through beautiful shades of blue, this is a must read.
Trixie and Katya’s Guide to Modern Womanhood by Trixie Mattel & Katya
Trixie Mattel and Katya are two drag queens that are more than important to me on so many different levels. Drag Race is one of few shows where I got to see a window into queer lives and culture; where the art of drag is celebrated and the concepts of gender identity made its way into my life. Trixie and Katya both helped shape and mold my exploration of gender identity and made me realize, “Hey! Maybe I’m not cisgender!” While it may have taken me a very long time to comfortably say out loud that I am genderqueer, Trixie and Katya, through this book and their many different projects together, have always been here for me.
Their Guide to Modern Womanhood is a comedy book where Trixie and Katya give all their in’s, outs, tips, and tricks on loving yourself as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, how to define your own version of beauty that honors yourself, and be able to live your life regardless of culture norms and rules. With their signature humor and lots of introspective bits about queerness, this is a fun read that feels like a warm hug.
One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston
This is the only novel on this list that I have not read but it was a definite must buy as it came out this month! One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston is a romance about time-traveling lesbians falling in love with New York City. Maybe it is the sitcom lover in me that always feels connected and enticed by stories taking place in The Big Apple, but I find Jane and August’s subway romance to be an absolute must read. Readers will follow August as she attempts to create a new and exciting life for herself in NYC, all while falling in love with a 1970’s punk rock chick. What’s not to love?