I’m a character-driven reader: it’s the characters that suck me into the plot and make me want to keep turning the pages. I especially love finding characters who resemble me in some way, from hair texture to musical inclinations. But what happens when you almost never see a key component of your identity mirrored in the characters you love?
I identify as bisexual, and I want to know where the queer characters are in mainstream literature.
To be clear, I’m not talking about the characters you find in the LGBTQ+ section of the bookstore. I hate browsing in that section and feeling that I have to seek out these characters, and that when I do their narratives are only focused on their sexual orientation or gender identity. I just want queer characters to exist organically in the books read by the mainstream public.
In honor of Pride Month coming to a close I have composed a list my favorite books with LGBTQ+ characters, spanning several genres and each presenting a unique view of what it means to be LGBTQ+. Happy reading!
*Warning: all of these pieces of literature contain adult themes and content*
1. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
A dark and disturbing mystery, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a fantastic read that keeps the reader on the edge of his or her seat. One of the main characters is Lisbeth Salander, an abrasive and unapologetic bisexual. What I like about her role in the novel is that her sexual orientation isn’t treated as a big deal (although it does play a role in subsequent novels). Salander simply does who she wants, when she wants, without Larsson making it a main plot point.
2. The Best Little Boy in the World by Andrew Tobias
The Best Little Boy in the World is an oldie but goodie, a classic coming-out story. I really enjoy the honesty of this memoir. Tobias, originally writing under the pen name John Reid, details discovering his sexuality without resorting to sensationalism. He quietly proves his point: gay people are just like everyone else.
3. Iron Council by China Miéville
Iron Council is a peculiar hybrid of western, steampunk, and fantasy genres. Much like the protagonist in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, the main character in Miéville’s novel is unobtrusively bisexual. This novel is a prime example of an LGBTQ+ character merely existing in literature; there is no fuss or hullabaloo because the character defies heteronormativity.
4. Rubyfruit Jungle by Rita Mae Brown
Rubyfruit Jungle is another coming of age/out story. However, unlike The Best Little Boy in the World, it is told from the point of view of a lesbian. Although problematic in some of its portrayal of the lesbian community and its sub-sects, the novel is an important read as it paved the way for other lesbian coming-out stories.
This list goes out to all the questioning readers who want to find themselves in literature.