On International Non-Binary People’s Day (July 14th, which purposefully falls right between International Men’s Day and International Women’s day, hehe) we celebrate the existence of nonbinary people across the globe. As someone who is nonbinary themself, and often feels invisible and ignored by many, days like this help to bring awareness to the struggles we face and the joy and resistance nonbinary people bring forth as well.
Though representation isn’t the end-all-be-all goal of equality, of course, it sure feels good to see nonbinary authors killing it in the literary scene. The fact that I had to narrow down this list at all is amazing. I’m sure 20 years ago you’d be hard-pressed to find even three mainstream nonbinary authors to put on a list like this. While bills against trans and gender-nonconforming folks proliferate across the country, these authors and their amazing works give us hope. So, here are eight books by nonbinary authors to support and enjoy on International Non-Binary People’s Day and beyond.
(In addition, feel free to check out these anticipated books by trans and nonbinary authors coming out soon!)
Pet by Akwaeke Emezi
Listen, this book had me staying up all night. This is Emezi’s young adult work, and it feels so different from everything else they’ve written. This National Book Award finalist puts readers in a utopian world (or so we think). In Jam’s near-future society, there are no monsters anymore. Society has healed from its wounds, and equality and justice flourish. Why then, does a creature named Pet tell Jam that there is a monster lurking in her friend Redemption’s house? This is a truly brilliant fable about what happens when people refuse to admit that monsters can be all around us. In addition, how often do we get to see utopias in literature, rather than dystopian horror? Emezi’s groundbreaking novel will have you envisioning a new world after you speed through its pages.
Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey
Sarah Gailey has been churning out consistently intriguing and unique speculative stories for years now, but my favorite of theirs is Magic for Liars. While reading, Gailey kept surprising me with how they turn tropes on their heads. Ivy Gamble is a non-magical private investigator. Ivy’s sister, Tabitha, however, is a professor at a magical academy, and something has gone terribly wrong. Tabitha enlists Ivy’s deductive skills to solve the murder of a fellow professor, and Ivy must confront her feelings of inadequacy in the face of magic all around her.
Sorrowland by Rivers Solomon
I don’t throw around comparisons to the queen, Toni Morrison, lightly. But Rivers Solomon’s latest novel has Morrison-level characters and plot from start to finish. Fae does an amazing job of constructing the protagonist, Vern, and making her and her struggle impossible to look away from. Vern is seven months pregnant when she leaves a religious cult, fleeing to the woods to give birth to her twins. But Vern is still hunted by those on the compound that don’t want to let her go — thankfully, strange physical changes to her body aid her in combating those who wish her and her family harm. Solomon’s ability to craft a story shines on every page in faer brilliant, weird novel.
The Black Tides of Heaven by Neon Yang
While we all eagerly await Neon Yang’s novel debut, feel free to dive into their series of four novellas, starting with The Black Tides of Heaven. It follows Mokoya and Akeha, twins in Yang’s fascinating world of Ea. The Protectorate rules the Full Lands, and Mokoya and Akeha are the children of the Protector herself. While Mokoya develops a talent for prophecy, Akeha cultivates a way to see what causes the actions of those around them. As rebellion stirs against the Protectorate, the twins must decide where their allegiances lie. And those allegiances might not be in the same place after all.
Depart, Depart! by Sim Kern
Noah Mishner must find shelter when a hurricane devastates his city, but he worries his trans and Jewish identities might cause the more bigoted citizens of Texas to harm him. Suddenly, his great grandfather, who survived Nazi Germany by fleeing as a child, appears to him in a vision. As Noah’s situations grows more dire, his grandfather’s ghost grows more and more powerful, and questions of survival and identity are on the line. Sim Kern writes this spellbinding story skillfully, bringing nuance and empathy to Noah’s story and plight.
The Atrocities by Jeremy C. Shipp
This novella by Jeremy C. Shipp will scratch that gothic fantasy itch! Follow Ms. Valdez, a tutor hired to teach the young Isabella in a definitely creepy mansion hidden in a maze of terrifying statues, as she discovers that maybe she shouldn’t have taken this job. You see, Isabella is dead, and has been for some time. Alas, her parents don’t want her to miss out on all the joys that education can offer. So, enter Ms. Valdez, tasked with the impossible and learning very quickly that not everything is as it seems. I read this a few years ago, yet still vividly remember Shipp’s nearly tangible descriptions of the humanoid statues that populate the house’s looming maze. I’ll just advise: read this one with the lights on.
Homie by Danez Smith
As a poet myself, I’d be remiss if I didn’t include a book of poetry here! Danez Smith has been at the top of “best contemporary poet” lists for a while now, and there’s no secret why. Their lyrical, brilliant poems rediscover what it means to live in a marginalized body. Tackling content like race, queerness, grief, and power, Smith shows us all that poetry never needed to be boring and pretentious to be considered that of the greats. Smith’s poems crackle, electric and profound in every line.
Meet Cute Diary by Emery Lee
Last but certainly not least we have a book with one of the most adorable covers I’ve ever seen. Thankfully, its contents match in cuteness as the story of 16-year-old Noah unfolds. Noah writes hopeful stories about his life as a trans boy, and they’re super popular. Only thing is…all the stories are made up. He didn’t mean to trick people, but now his character is in question. He can redeem himself, he thinks, if he proves that they actually were true, and that involves some fake-dating with the gorgeous Drew to save his skin. This is just so sweet — Lee’s lovely debut shows eir expert knowledge of the genre and its tropes from start to finish.