One of the only good things about 2020 was how many amazing queer books were published. It looks like 2021 is going to be no different. In particular, in just the first three months of the year, there are a ton of exciting queer women, bisexual, and lesbian books coming out! Torrey Peters’s much lauded debut about three women—two trans, one cis—in a love triangle involving a baby is one of them. Celebrated queer YA author Malinda Lo’s eagerly anticipated next book—a historical story set in San Francisco’s Chinatown—is another. The sequel to Arkady Martine’s Hugo-awarding winning space opera debut A Memory Called Empire is yet another! Okay, I’ll stop teasing you. Let’s get to my list of exciting queer women, bisexual, and lesbian books coming out in early 2021 (January, February, and March).
Journey to Cash by Ashley Bartlett (January 1)
The fourth installment of the mystery/thriller series featuring Cash Braddock, drug dealer with a heart of gold, finds our heroine in a brand new place. She’s no longer dealing, she’s opening an art gallery, and she’s not being forced to work as an informant for the Sacramento police anymore. But just when things are looking up, two things happen. One: her mother, who she hasn’t seen in over two decades, shows up on her doorstep. Two: her ex-girlfriend Laurel who broke her heart comes back to town with the message that Cash’s former business partner wants both of them dead.
Milk Fed by Melissa Broder (February 2)
I’ve found things to love and hate in Broder’s previous work, but I am 100% thrilled at the description for what I think is her first queer book. Themes include dark humor, food, and Judaism. Rachel is a lapsed Jew who now treats calorie counting as a religion. Her therapist suggests she detox from her mother—the origin of the calorie counting. Soon Rachel meets Miriam, a zaftig young Orthodox Jewish woman who works at a frozen yogurt shop. She is eager to feed Rachel—literally and figuratively.
Night Tide by Anna Burke (January 26)
If you’re looking for a great lesbian romance author, Anna Burke and her Seal Cove series is a great place to start. Night Tide is the second book in the series and tackles one of my favorite tropes: hate to love. Plus, this one is about vets! Lillian’s longtime enemy is Ivy, whom she first met when they were at veterinary school together. But then Ivy is forced to take a job at the same clinic as Lillian when she needs to move to be closer to family. Can she manage to work with Ivy? And more importantly, will they fall in love?
The Unbroken by C.L. Clark (March 23)
I mean, damn look at this cover! That, and knowing there’s #OwnVoices queer Black content, is about enough for me, but here are more details: this is the first book in a new fantasy series, Magic of the Lost. Touraine and Luca are two women, each with their own mission. Touraine is a soldier raised from childhood to be loyal to the empire. But now that she’s been sent back to the homeland from which she was stolen, she’s not so sure. Luca, imperial princess, is determined to get her uncle off the throne at all cost. Assassinations, rebellions, and more bring the two women’s stories together.
The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna (February 9)
The first book in another new fantasy series, this one is for YA audiences. Beginning the “Deathless” series, The Gilded Ones is a story about a young woman named Deka. When Deka begins to menstruate, she is horrified to see her menstrual blood runs gold instead of red. Typically the fate for such women is worse than death. But instead, Deka is approached by a woman offering her another option. Would she like join an army of teen girls — just like her — who are the only hope of defeating the greatest threat of the empire?
Bad Habits by Amy Gentry (February 2)
Psychological suspense is not one of my go-to genres, but add bisexuality and academia into the mix and color me intrigued. Claire is relishing her success as a presenter at an important conference. But at the conference’s hotel bar, she runs into Gwen, her rival and former best friend. Gwen and Claire’s relationship runs back to high school, and continued into grad school, where they competed for a fellowship and became entangled with their department’s power couples. How exactly did Claire achieve her success—and what is she willing to do to hang on to it?
Love is an Ex-Country by Randa Jarrar (February 2)
The fiction of Jarrar’s that I’ve read hinted at bisexuality / queerness, so I am excited to get my hands on her first memoir, which is supposed to embody all her identities at once: queer, Arab American, fat, and Muslim. The book chronicles a cross-country American road trip Jarrar took, inspired by an Egyptian belly dancer’s similar journey back in 1940. As she travels, Jarrar searches for and finds joy, even while she knows it might seem unlikely in a country openly hostile to everything she is.
Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo (January 19)
Iconic queer YA author Malinda Lo has dipped her toes into the fantasy, science fiction, and thriller genres and now she’s hitting us with another new genre with this historical YA set in 1950s San Francisco Chinatown. The book features two teen girls in love, Lily and Kathleen. In this time and place, though, they are forced to risk everything for their queer love. At the same time as this virulent homophobia in the U.S., the so-called Red Scare threatens Chinese Americans like Lily and her family. It’s no wonder this is one of the most anticipated lesbian books coming out in early 2021.
A Desolation Called Peace by Arkady Martine (March 2)
The sequel to the Hugo Award–winning A Memory Called Empire, A Desolation Called Peace is one of my most-anticipated books of 2021. Mahit is badass ambassador trying to prevent her home station from being annexed by the Teixcalaanli Empire. Asking provocative questions about art, language, culture, and colonization, this series also delivers complex political schemes and exciting action, plus lesbian romance! This time Mahit and her interpreter Three Seagrass are sent on an impossible diplomacy mission. A hostile alien fleet is on the edge of Mahit’s home—an enemy unknown to both Mahit’s people and the Teixcalaan.
Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters (January 7)
It’s safe to say that an #OwnVoices trans novel like Detransition, Baby has never been published by a mainstream press before. This anticipated debut features three women—two trans and one cis—whose lives come together in unforeseen ways. Reese and Amy’s relationship falls apart when Amy—now Ames—decides to detransition. When Ames begins a fling with a cis woman, it results in an accidental pregnancy. Ames isn’t sure about parenthood, but Reese has always wanted to be a mom. Is there a way this baby can bring the three of them together?
Honey Girl by Morgan Rogers (February 23)
Honey Girl is getting lots of buzz as one of the big lesbian books coming out in early 2021, for good reason. The main character is Grace, an over-achieving Black woman in her late 20s finishing her PhD in Astronomy. While on a girls trip in Vegas, she makes the uncharacteristically impulsive move of getting married to a woman she just met. One wild decision follows another as Graces decides to pause her tidy, controlled life to spend the summer in New York with her “wife.” First things first: she needs to learn what her wife’s name is.
We Play Ourselves by Jen Silverman (February 9)
I love a good deliciously dark weird piece of literary fiction, which seems exactly what Silverman’s debut novel promises. (She’s also an accomplished playwright.) Until recently, Cass was a celebrated queer feminist playwright in New York. But in the wake of a humiliating scandal, Cass flees to California to reinvent herself. There, she finds herself stumbling into more moral ambiguity as she is drawn into the world of her neighbor, a documentary filmmaker. The director is focused on the subject of her next film, a group of teen girls who have their own fight club.
Those are my most anticipated queer women, bisexual, and lesbian books coming out in early 2021. Did I miss any books you’re looking forward to? Want more queer book recommendations from Book Riot? Check out these audiobook memoirs by bi+ women of color, these awesome 2020 LGBTQ fantasy or science fiction titles, or these LGBTQ history books.