Lesbian Visibility Week: 12 essential books you need to read including memoirs, YA fiction and classic novels
This year’s Lesbian Visibility Week takes place between 26 April and 2 May.
To celebrate the week-long event we’ve compiled a list of some essential books written by and about lesbians that you need to add to your bookshelf.
From inspirational memoirs to personal essays and feel-good stories to important historical texts, there’s plenty to get started with.
Lesbian Visibility Week was created by DIVA publisher Linda Riley “both to celebrate lesbians and show solidarity with all LGBT+ women and non-binary people in our community”.
PinkNews recently honoured 19 lesbians making the world a better place featuring the likes of Kehlani, Billie Jean King, Karine Jean-Pierre, Mhairi Black and Sarah Paulson.
Below you can find 12 books from contemporary to classic, written by or about lesbians and where to get them.
To find out more head to bookshop.org/PinkNews.
1. Funeral Diva
This collection of personal essays and poetry by Pamela Sneed details her coming of age in New York City during the late 1980s. The book captures the impact of AIDS on Black queer life and highlights the enduring bonds between the living, the dying and the dead. Sneed’s poems converse with lovers past and present as well as her literary forebears including Toni Morrison and Audre Lorde.
Funeral Diva also offers critical focus on matters from police brutality to LGBT+ rights and closes with a reflection on the two pandemics of her life time, AIDS and COVID-19 and the disproportionate impact of each on African American communities.
To purchase this book head to bookshop.org.
2. You Should See Me in a Crown
This rom-com young adult novel from Leah Johnson follows Liz who believes she’s too Black, too poor and too awkward to shine in her small, rich, prom-obsessed town. Her escape plan to attend an elite college and become a doctor falls through when the financial aid she’s counting on unexpectedly comes crashing down. When she remembers that her school gives scholarships for prom king and queen she realises she needs to do whatever it takes to get to college.
Despite the social media trolls and catty competitors a new girl in school, Mack who’s as much of an outsider as Liz makes it bearable. Mack is also running for prom queen, so will falling for the competition keep Liz from her dreams, or make them come true?
To purchase the feel-good You Should See Me in a Crown go to bookshop.org.
3. The Well of Loneliness
The Well of Loneliness is considered a groundbreaking lesbian novel. The 1928 novel by Radclyffe Hall rocked the British establishment when it was released for its exploration of a relationship between two women, which led to it being banned in bookshops.
The story follows Stephen Gordon, who has a talent for sport and a hatred of dresses which were not considered suitable for a young lady of the Victorian upper class. She grows up and falls passionately in love with another woman meaning her standing in the county and her place at the home she loves become untenable.
To purchase this classic novel head to bookshop.org.
4. Tipping the Velvet
Contemporary writer, Sarah Waters explores lesbian relationships within genres usually dedicated to heterosexual couples. Her novel Tipping the Velvet is set in the Victorian era and follows Nancy Astley, who sits in the audience at her local music hall and immediately falls in love with the thrill of the stage and with Kitty Butler, a girl who wears trousers.
Nancy follows Kitty to London where unimaginable adventures await in this unapologetic acknowledgement that lesbians have always existed, despite any erasure.
To purchase the novel go to bookshop.org.
5. Sister Outsider
This collection of essays and speeches from Black, lesbian, poet and feminist writer Audre Lorde takes on sexism, racism, ageism, homophobia, and class, and propounds social difference as a vehicle for action and change.
Lorde’s revolutionary writing gives voice to those “outside the circle of society’s definition of acceptable women”, and this particular collection is uncompromising, angry and full of hope as she explores sexuality, friendship, the erotic and the need for female solidarity. It also features her landmark piece, The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House.
To purchase the collection from Audre Lorde head to bookshop.org.
Trumpet is the acclaimed 1998 novel from lesbian writer Jackie Kay. The novel explores explores gender, cultural and racial identity through its characters including Joss Moody, a legendary jazz trumpeter who’s death exposes an extraordinary secret.
Joss was a woman living as a man, unbeknownst to everyone but his wife Millie. The discovery is most devastating for their adopted son Colman who’s fury brings the press to their doorstep and sends his grieving mother to the sanctuary of a remote Scottish village to seek solace in memories of her marriage to Joss.
To purchase the novel head to bookshop.org.
7. Under the Udala Trees
This novel from Chinelo Okparanta takes place in 1968, at the height of the Biafran civil war in West Africa. Central character, Ijeoma’s world is transformed forever after her father is killed and she becomes separated from her grief-stricken mother. She meets Amina, another young lost girl and the two become inseparable with their growing bond testing the foundations of Ijeoma’s faith.
The reader is taken from Ijeoma’s childhood in war-torn Biafra through the perils and pleasures of her blossoming sexuality and the conflicts this presents in society, and onto the joys of marriage and motherhood.
To get Under the Udala Trees go to bookshop.org.
8. The Stars and the Blackness Between Them
This novel from Junauda Petrus is the story of two Black girls from different backgrounds finding love and happiness in a world that seems determined to deny them both.
It follows Audre from Port of Spain, Trinidad who finds out she’s being sent to live in America with her father because her religious mother caught her with her secret girlfriend, the pastor’s daughter. The other is Mabel from Minneapolis, USA who is trying to figure out why she feels the way she does about her ex Terrell, her friend Jada and a moment they had in the woods and a vague feeling of illness.
When the pair meet Mabel quickly falls hard for Audre and wants to take care of her as she tries to navigate an American high school but when test results are returned it’s Audre who is caring for Mabel as she faces a deeply uncertain future.
It was recently confirmed by Petrus that a film adaption is in development, so you can read The Stars and the Blackness Between Them ahead of its release. You can purchase it from Amazon.
Before everyone’s fave Megan Rapinoe, there was US soccer icon Abby Wambach who’s been called an inspiration and “badass” by Barack Obama. Her memoir Forward sees her discuss how she went from joining an all-boy’s soccer team at agae seven to becoming the highest goal scorer – male or female – in the history of soccer by age 35.
She’s become a fierce advocate for equal opportunity and pushing to translate the success of her team to the real world – they won the 2015 World Cup Championship. In the honest and searching memoir she talks about how her professional success often masked her inner struggle to reconcile the various parts of herself: ferocious competitor, daughter, leader, wife.
To purchase the book head to bookshop.org.
10. With Teeth
This candid take on queer family dynamics by author Kristen Arnett is due for release on 1 June and follows up her breakout hit Mostly Dead Things.
It follows Sammie Lucas, her confident but absent wife Monika and their son Samson, an unknowable boy who resists Sammie’s every attempt to bond with him. She grows uncertain in her own feelings about motherhood and tries her best by driving, cooking, cleaning and helping him with school projects. Sammie’s life begins to deteriorate into a mess of unruly behaviour, and her struggle to create a picture-perfect queer family begins to unravel as the story unfolds.
With Teeth is available to pre-order from bookshop.org.
11. The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister
Anne Lister defied the role of 19th century womanhood as she was independent, a landowner, traveller and lesbian. Throughout her life she kept diaries that chronicled the details of her daily life, including her relationships. They contain more than four million words and many of them were written in elaborate code which allowed her to record her life in intimate and explicit detail.
Her personal diaries were first published in 1988 in a series of volumes and have since been hailed as a vital piece of lost lesbian history.
Lister was recently depicted in the acclaimed series Gentleman Jack which starred Suranne Jones as Anne Lister. The series was based on her collected diaries and has been renewed for a second season by BBC and HBO.
To purchase volume one of The Secret Diaries Of Miss Anne Lister and further volumes, go to bookshop.org.
12. Girl Meets Boy
A modern-day reinterpretation of Ovid’s myth of Iphis is Ali Smith’s Girl Meets Boy. The title is something we all know too well from heteronormative films and TV shows, but Smith takes an old story under a new set of circumstances.
It’s about girls and boys, girls and girls, love and transformation, following sisters Anthea and Imogen. Imogen works in the marketing department of a large company producing bottled water, Anthea is on work experience in the same department and suddenly falls in love with Robin, a genderqueer environmental activist.
To purchase this book head to bookshop.org.
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