This post is part of our International Women’s Day celebration. See all the posts here.
International Women’s Day has been marked for over 100 years, but the way we think about it has changed. Originally, the day was meant to be one where women would come together and present their demands to their governments. Where I grew up, this was never clear to me; instead, the day felt more like Token Appreciation Day, where women were given lip service (not the good kind) by politicians and celebrities. Now more than ever, though, we must protect the rights of women and gender-nonconforming folk, and with protection comes visibility. So for International Women’s Day, I’d like to share five incredible books by incredible LGBTQ women. Enjoy!
The Gilda Stories by Jewelle Gomez
Jewelle Gomez is an activist but also an author, and in The Gilda Stories she likewise portrays a protagonist who wears many hats and lives various lives. Gilda’s story travels in time, from her human life, where she was a runaway slave, to her time as a vampire adopted by a brothel madame. Gilda takes the name of the woman who turned her, and lives on, and on, and on – immortality is no joke. This erotic romance is not a mere bodice-ripper, but clearly explores sexuality and race through the lens of sexy vampire shenanigans.
S/He by Minnie Bruce Pratt
Minnie Bruce Pratt was famously the partner of the late Leslie Feinberg who wrote Stone Butch Blues, and much of this book is about her relationship with Feinberg. Pratt realized she was a lesbian after years of marriage to a man, and along her path to understanding her sexuality, she fell deeply and comfortably into the butch/femme dichotomy that she found in the lesbian community. But nothing prepared her for the kind of passion and romance that she enjoyed with Leslie Feinberg, an icon to both the lesbian and trans communities. In this memoir, Pratt explores the false dichotomy of gender alongside her own sexuality.
Here Comes the Sun by Nicole Dennis-Benn
Nicole Dennis-Benn’s debut novel came out last year, and it is worth every page. Three women – a mother and her two daughters – are struggling in Jamaica, each with their own reasons, their own conscience, and their own understanding of the future and its possibilities. Thandi goes to a fancy school that her family can ill afford; her big sister, Margot, manages to get the money first by prostitution and later through her work as a madame; and their mother, Delores, has worked all her life to try to make sure her girls have a different life, but she has sacrificed herself as well as the very people she’s trying to protect along the way. Margot’s illicit love affair with a woman who’d been unceremoniously banished from the island only complicates matters.
If You Could Be Mine by Sarah Farizan
This complex young adult novel is about so many things, though ultimately, it is about love. In Iran, the illegality of a relationship between women can lead to jail time, shame, violence, even death. Yet Farizan knows firsthand that legality doesn’t stop people from falling in love. Sahar and Nasrin are two teenage girls who are best friends and now more than that – but in order to be together, Sahar begins thinking about utilizing a loophole in Iranian law that allows for gender reassignment surgery… Except, Sahar is not trans. She just wants to be allowed to be with her beloved. In this relatively short book, Farizan packs in so much so effortlessly, and her empathy is astounding.
Ash by Malinda Lo
In this retelling of Cinderella, Malinda Lo takes her readers on a ride through danger and romance. Ash, Lo’s protagonist, is not the typical scullery maid that Cinders tends to be – instead, she is a dreamer, hopeful that she will be stolen away by fairies. Thing is, fairies are real in Lo’s book and one of them has his eye on Ash. Yet Ash, as much as she wants to run away to the fairy kingdom, is also falling quietly in love with the King’s Huntress, Kaisa.