Recently, I’ve been turning to to comics and other forms of graphic storytelling for little bursts of queer joy. There’s something magical about not just reading stories about queer joy, but getting to see them, too. I love seeing queer joy come alive in illustrations of queer people loving each other, celebrating together, finding ease in community, dancing. In these pages, you’ll find love stories and coming-of-age stories, friendships and found families. The subject matter of these books is often joyful, but so, especially, is the art. There are vibrant colors and people with bodies of all sizes enjoying themselves. There are soft, tender love scenes and faces lined with laughter.
I don’t think a book has to be 100% happy in order to embody queer joy. These books have moments of heartbreak and struggle, too. But every single one of them left me feeling buoyant and refreshed. Every single one of them left me smiling. In one case, I actually got up and danced around my house. So, if you’re ready to throw your own mini queer joy dance party, just pick up one of these amazing books. I’m pretty certain any one of them will get you in that mood.
Juliet Takes A Breath by Gabby Rivera & Celia Moscote
This funny, moving coming-of-age novel about Juliet, a 19-year-old Puerto Rican lesbian from the Bronx, was begging for a graphic adaption, and I’m so glad it got one. Rivera’s writing is so alive, as are her characters, especially Juliet. Moscote captures all of the exuberance and fire of this book with her warm-toned illustrations. There’s one scene, where Juliet attends a queer & trans BIPOC dance party, that is basically the essence of queer joy drawn straight onto the page. If you haven’t read this book yet (and even if you have), the graphic version is an absolute treat.
Embodied: An Intersectional Feminist Comics Poetry Anthology Edited by Wendy & Tyler Chin-Tanner
This is such a creative and unusual anthology of graphic poetry. Each poem is illustrated by a different artist, the art reflecting their particular interpretation of the poem. Not all of these poems embody queer joy; many of them deal with heartbreak and breakups, transphobia and racism. I include it here because some of the poems absolutely do, and they’re so powerful. There are several illustrations of the joy, pleasure, and comfort of queer and trans embodiment, and I just wanted to stare at those pages forever.
Shadow Life by Hiromi Goto & Ann Xu
This hilarious, slightly magical, and poignant graphic novel follows Kumiko, an elderly bisexual woman who moves out of an assisted living facility she hates, and then proceeds to fight off Death when it comes for her. There are too many moments of queer joy to count. Some are mundane, like Kumiko enjoying a cup of tea alone in her apartment. Others are more profound, such as the tender conversation Kumiko has with an ex-girlfriend after many years apart. And the compassion with which Xu draws Kumiko’s aging body filled me with queer joy as I read, even during the scenes that were not about being queer at all.
I’m A Wild Seed by Sharon Lee De La Cruz
There are so many kinds of queer joy, and this book exemplifies that. It’s partly a memoir of De La Cruz’s coming out and an exploration of her queer and racial identity. Throughout, she ties her own story to wider queer histories, weaving many mini history lessons into this short work. She delves into various forms of oppression and how they’ve played out in her life. The queer joy is in her sureness, her celebration of herself and her culture, and in where she’s arrived, after coming out in her late twenties. It’s a serious book, but it’s full of exuberance.
Patience & Esther by S.W. Searle
This soft historical sapphic romance is overflowing with queer joy. It’s a love story set in Edwardian England, featuring two women who meet while working at a large manor house. The book deals with plenty of real-world issues, but the romance itself is almost entirely conflict-free. Watching Patience and Esther — a fat white woman and a thin British Indian woman — fall in love on the page is such a balm. If you’re looking for fat-positive erotic romance (illustrated!), this is the book for you.
My Life In Transition by Julia Kaye
This collection of short slice-of-life comics depicts six months in Julia Kaye’s life as an out trans woman. I absolutely love how Kaye intersperses moments of struggle with moments of queer joy. Some of the comics are about dealing with transphobia, microaggressions, misgendering. But many of them are about falling in love, gender euphoria, trans friendship, small moments of ordinary delight, and self-love. It’s such an honest, affirming book.
That Full Moon Feeling by Ashley Robin Franklin
This short and sweet queer romcom takes place over three magical (and semi-disastrous) dates. It’s about a witch and a werewolf and all the messy things they navigate while falling in love…like online dating, monsters, and pesky feelings. If you’re looking for a fun, lighthearted pick-me-up in the form of a comic, you can’t go wrong with this one.
Cheer Up: Love and Pompoms by Crystal Frasier & Val Wise (August 10)
This love story between Annie, a grumpy lesbian, and BeeBee, a trans cheerleader, is a delight from start to finish. It’s angsty and full of teen drama, and it deals with all sorts of hard things, including microaggressions, performative allyship, and various forms of transphobia. But none of that detracts from all the joy you’ll find in these pages. Annie and BeeBee are both such vibrant characters. It’s a book about friendship and first love and speaking up for yourself and holding on to what brings you joy and how change sometimes means possibility. I read it in one sitting and did a little dance when it was over.
Special Topics In Being A Human by S. Bear Bergman & Saul Freedman-Lawson (October 12)
Get your preorder on for this warm, funny, comforting, and beautifully queer book of advice for living life. Bergman offers thoughtful, practical suggestions for everything from how to make big decisions to how to make a meaningful apology. And if you’re wondering how a self-help book embodies queer joy, well, you’ll see when you read it. Bergman writes in friendliest, most loving, most inclusive way. And the art is absolutely bursting with queer joy. Freedman-Lawson draws so many kinds of bodies: people of all races, genders, abilities, and sexualities. Even while I was nodding along, thinking, “oh wow, this is something I should work on in myself,” I was also smiling.
Looking for more queer joy in the form of comics? Check out this list of 8 Feel-Good Queer Comics and Graphic Novels.