The best not-the-same-old queer novels

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been reading queer fiction for, well, I guess about 50 years. First, brilliant novels by James Baldwin, Virginia Woolf’s Orlando, and cheesy lesbian pulp novels. In the eighties, feminist presses and a wealth of new queer literature sprung into existence. It’s easier now to find great queer fiction, if you dig a little. My approach is to read widely, all kinds of authors, from all kinds of backgrounds. So the whole idea of a “best 5” is hard for me to get my mind around. I could have listed 25 more. Thank you for reading!

I wrote...

Tell the Rest

By Lucy Jane Bledsoe,

Book cover of Tell the Rest

What is my book about?

When Delia and Ernest were teenagers, they ran away together from a Christian summer camp where they’d experienced a life-changing trauma. The two kids are separated shortly after their escape, and both work hard the next couple of decades to heal. But Delia’s rage catches up with her, and when as a result she loses both her wife and job, she returns to her hometown on the Oregon Coast to coach her high school alma mater’s basketball team.

Meanwhile, Ernest now lives in New York City, where he is an award-winning poet, but the poem he most wants to write, about that dangerous rebellion, eludes him. When he takes a temporary job teaching in Oregon, their two lives intersect.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Cantoras

Lucy Jane Bledsoe Why did I love this book?

I love a novel that introduces me to new settings.

Cantoras takes place in 1977 Uruguay, a time and place when queerness is dangerous. And yet De Robertis’s lesbian characters form a heartbreaking family and they find a beautiful secret place to meet. This group of women is so believable on the page, as they fall in and out of love, have their quarrels, and search for meaningful relationships with each other and their families.

A totally refreshing novel!

By Carolina De Robertis,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Cantoras as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Cantoras is a stunning lullaby to revolution—and each woman in this novel sings it with a deep ferocity. Again and again, I was lifted, then gently set down again—either through tears, rage, or laughter. Days later, I am still inside this song of a story." —Jacqueline Woodson, National Book Award–winning author

From the highly acclaimed, award-winning author of The Gods of Tango, a revolutionary new novel about five wildly different women who, in the midst of the Uruguayan dictatorship, find one another as lovers, friends, and ultimately, family.

In 1977 Uruguay, a military government crushed political dissent with ruthless force.…

Book cover of The Five Wounds

Lucy Jane Bledsoe Why did I love this book?

The Five Wounds does that beautiful thing fiction can sometimes do: show readers flawed characters and make you love them anyway.

I also love books that show the effects of religious fervor on individuals and communities, the way that spiritual communities can simultaneously cause pain and heal. Somehow Quade manages to write the deep contradictions that exist in community, and make you see it all with love. I also love how she portrays the complexity of communities that embrace both queer and straight characters.

A brilliant book.

By Kirstin Valdez Quade,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Five Wounds as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

It's Holy Week in the small town of Las Penas, New Mexico, and thirty-three-year-old unemployed Amadeo Padilla has been given the part of Jesus in the Good Friday procession. He is preparing feverishly for this role when his fifteen-year-old daughter Angel shows up pregnant on his doorstep and disrupts his plans for personal redemption. With weeks to go until her due date, tough, ebullient Angel has fled her mother's house, setting her life on a startling new path.

Vivid, tender, funny, and beautifully rendered, The Five Wounds spans the baby's first year as five generations of the Padilla family converge:…

Book cover of Real Life

Lucy Jane Bledsoe Why did I love this book?

A perfect fit for the not-the-same-old-queer novel list, Taylor’s story features a Black gay biochemist who is working on his degree at a Midwestern university.

I love this book for the intimacy in its portrayal of the protagonist, Wallace, the way his thoughts and feelings and decisions are revealed with such precision. I felt his joys and his pains so clearly.

A science nerd gay character! What’s not to love?

By Brandon Taylor,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Real Life as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A FINALIST for the Booker Prize, the National Book Critics Circle John Leonard Prize, the VCU/Cabell First Novelist Prize, the Lambda Literary Award, the NYPL Young Lions Award, and the Edmund White Debut Fiction Award 
“A blistering coming of age story” —O: The Oprah Magazine

Named a Best Book of the Year by The New York Times, The Washington Post, New York Public Library, Vanity Fair, Elle, NPR, The Guardian, The Paris Review, Harper's Bazaar, Financial Times, Huffington Post, BBC, Shondaland, Barnes & Noble, Vulture, Thrillist, Vice, Self, Electric Literature, and Shelf Awareness

A novel of startling intimacy, violence, and…

Book cover of Rainbow Rainbow

Lucy Jane Bledsoe Why did I love this book?

Conklin’s collection of short stories offers storylines that are utterly and marvelously original.

These queer characters are quirky, but not quirky for the sake of being quirky. They are so fully themselves, and their passions drive them through their relationships and actions so believably, that you don’t question the strangeness of the situations for a second.

Mainly I just love the big heart in Conklin’s stories. Their prose, the actual word choices, are a delight in the same way the characters are—they surprise you and yet are spot-on right.

By Lydia Conklin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Rainbow Rainbow as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A collection of stories that celebrate the humour, darkness and depth of emotion of the queer and trans experience that's not typically represented: liminal or uncertain identities, queer conception and queer joy.

In this delightful debut collection of prize-wining stories, queer, gender-nonconforming and trans characters struggle to find love and forgiveness, despite their sometimes comic, sometimes tragic mistakes. In one story, a young lesbian tries to have a baby with her lover using an unprofessional sperm donor and a high-powered, rainbow-coloured cocktail. In another, a fifth-grader explores gender identity by dressing as an ox - instead of a matriarch -…

Book cover of Nightcrawling

Lucy Jane Bledsoe Why did I love this book?

I can’t resist a book set in Oakland, very near to where I live.

I also love a novel that tells deep truths, and Nightcrawling does that, showing the horrors of police abuse and the failures of the justice system. However, this book isn’t “trauma porn.” On every page, protagonist Kiara owns her story, drives her agency, makes the best choices she can in the moment, and loves with a huge heart.

The way she finds her way to queer love is organic and beautiful.

By Leila Mottley,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Nightcrawling as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NEW YORK TIMES BEST SELLER • AN OPRAH BOOK CLUB PICK • BOOKER PRIZE LONGLIST • A dazzling novel about a young Black woman who walks the streets of Oakland and stumbles headlong into the failure of its justice system. This debut of a blazingly original voice “bursts at the seams of every page and swallows you whole” (Tommy Orange, author of There There).

A BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR: The New Yorker, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, TIME, GOODREADS

Kiara and her brother, Marcus, are scraping by in an East Oakland apartment complex optimistically called…

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The Wallace House of Pain: A Novelette

By S.M. Stevens,

Book cover of The Wallace House of Pain: A Novelette

S.M. Stevens Author Of The Wallace House of Pain: A Novelette

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Animal lover Renewable energy advocate Alternative music lover Mother

S.M.'s 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

Activist Xander Wallace and his straitlaced father do not have an easy relationship. Jim’s views on race, immigration, gender, sexuality, and even Millennials alienate his son no matter how hard Xander tries to find common ground. Toss in Jim’s second marriage ten months after Xander’s mother died, and it’s a volatile cocktail. How, against this backdrop, will Xander ever dare to bare his soul and reveal his greatest secret?

Winner of a 2023 American Fiction Award, a First Place prize in the Chanticleer International Book Awards, and a 5-Star Readers’ Favorite review.

The Wallace House of Pain: A Novelette

By S.M. Stevens,

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