Today’s Top 5 Wednesday topic is Favorite LGBTQ+ Reads: Talk about your favorite books that feature LGBTQ+ characters. I’ve been really looking forward to this topic, but it has also been really difficult to narrow it down to just five books!
1. Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner
Swordspoint features two male bisexual protagonists, swordsman Richard St. Vier and university student Alec Campion. I knew nothing about the book when I started reading it several years ago and remembered getting the strong impression that Richard and Alec were in a relationship from the writing and how comfortable these men were with one another, but the relationship wasn’t stated and I kept thinking to myself, “no, but this is canon. They wouldn’t actually be in a relationship, I must be reading too much into this” until they were actually in bed together, 80 pages into the book! How sad is it that representation sometimes feels so scarce that I doubt what’s right in front of my eyes until it’s explicitly stated?! Fortunately I think both fantasy as a genre and the book industry as a whole have improved their diversity and inclusion since then. Swordspoint remains a favourite of mine, for the dialogue between Alec and Richard, which is natural and shows how comfortable they are with one another. I also love that for both characters actions speak louder than words and their devotion to one another is demonstrated through their choices, rather than through words. Author Ellen Kushner (who identifies as bisexual) also creates a really interesting world of politics, class distinctions, and wit.
2. Runaways by Brian K. Vaughan & Adrian Alphona (Illustrator)
Runaways is one of the great underappreciated comic books in my opinion, and I’m a little baffled at how overlooked it has been because it is a poster child for diversity. The main cast of characters includes an African-American boy prodigy, a Japanese-American former alter-girl who is a powerful witch, a plus-sized, glasses wearing, ethnically Jewish but spiritually agnostic girl and her telepathically-linked dinosaur, a mutant, a Latino cyborg, an alien lesbian, and an alien who switches gender at will. The premise is that a set of kids find out their parents are actually supervillains, and that they in turn have powers or abilities, so they attempt to balance the scales by fighting evil. One of these kids is Karolina Dean, a blonde vegan who learns that she is Majesdanian, an alien race that absorbs solar energy and re-radiates it in the form of the colors of the rainbow. Karolina also deals with coming out, as she harbours a crush on her teammate Nico, attempts to kiss a boy in order to feel normal, and finally tells her team that she is a lesbian. Karolina later gets a girlfriend in Xavin, a member of the gender fluid Skrull race, who change gender like we change our hair style. Runaways is a fabulous series full of the kind of snarky, pop-culture referencing dialogue you’d find in Buffy the Vampire Slayer of Veronica Mars, and has characters who are diverse and relatable and endearing.
3. Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt
Tell the Wolves I’m Home was a selection for a book club that I’m in and probably not something I would have chosen to read on my own, but it was a really good book and completely different from anything I’ve ever read before. The book focuses on 14-year-old June, whose Uncle Finn, her confidant, dies of a mysterious illness. At the funeral she notices a strange man lingering who wants to speak with her. As she gets to know this stranger, Toby, she realizes she’s not the only one who misses Finn and the two connect over their shared loss. Set in 1987, the book provides a different perspective on the AIDS crisis, and the dynamic between June and Toby, her Uncle’s lover, as she experiences jealousy and the realization that she didn’t know everything there was to know about her beloved Uncle, is really fascinating. I found it a very moving novel and one that sheds light on a period and situation that isn’t often written about in fiction, particularly fiction appropriate for teens.
4. The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater
Ronan Lynch and Adam Parrish are two of my favourite characters in fiction, so of course this series had to make my list. Part of what I love about The Raven Cycle is its subtlety. Ronan’s sexuality is hinted at in the first book and confirmed in the second, and in many ways The Dream Thieves is Ronan’s book about coming to terms with his sexuality, something he hasn’t even put into words before. A character who is recovering from trauma (my favourite kind of character!), he has a lot to work through, from his abilities to take things from dreams, to his sexuality and his feelings for Adam Parrish. He’s raw, intense, fiercely loyal to the point where he can’t even comprehend the point of casual relationships of any kind. He is drawn to danger and fights and street-races, but also hand raises a baby raven and leaves thoughtful gifts of hand cream. I also adore bisexual Adam Parrish who has his own issues to work through, which include his abusive father, and poverty, which means he has to work multiple jobs to keep himself in school, as well as his feelings about Blue and later Ronan. Stiefvater writes such incredibly engaging characters that their trials and relationships made me laugh and cry and make high pitched squealing noises out loud. One of my all-time favourites series and with great LGBT representation.
5. The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
As far as LGBT historical figures go, is any tale better known than that of Achilles and Patroclus? In The Song of Achilles, Madeline Miller tells the story of their bond, from friendship to romance through the eyes of Patroclus as the Trojan War looms. I’m a huge fan of Greek mythology so this was something I really enjoyed reading, and I liked the foreshadowing throughout the book. The prose is lovely, and I thought the development of the relationship between Achilles and Patroclus was really well done and the story was very moving.
This Top Five Wednesdays is about books, but I cannot stress this enough, if you’re looking for a television show with great LGBT representation, I highly recommend Black Sails, which features 4 main characters who are gay or bisexual, and they are all treated with respect and given plotlines and romances.