Looking For Fiction With LGBT Characters
January 2, 2021 11:06 PM   Subscribe

Looking for good fiction with LGBT characters that aren't necessarily the main character, and being gay isn't the main scope.

I'm looking to read more, and something that can keep me interested in a good novel is if at least one of the characters is gay/lesbian. As a lesbian myself, seeing myself in at least one of the characters is something that really keeps me going. However, I find that a lot of LGBT literature is too heavy-handed or just not that great. I also don't really want to read a book that just centers on being gay--I'd rather read something where it's a side plot or part of a character but not the whole story, if that makes sense.

So, my first criteria is that it is good - good writing, good plot. I prefer lesbian characters but gay/bi characters are also good.

Open to all genres!
posted by christiehawk to Media & Arts (27 answers total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
Anthony Bidulka's Russell Quant mysteries.

Joseph Hansen's Dave Brandstetter mysteries.

Andrew Holleran's Dancer From The Dance.
posted by purplesludge at 11:41 PM on January 2 [1 favorite]

Ellen Kushner's Swordspoint is about a young nobleman and his duelist boyfriend. It's a Renaissance-like "fantasy" setting, in that it's not our world, but no magic or elves or anything. There's enough going on it's not really "about" being gay despite the main characters. The sequel, Swordspoint centers on the nobleman's a young niece. Both very good, can be read separately or out of order.
posted by mark k at 1:30 AM on January 3

"Moise and the World of Reason" , Tennessee Williams
posted by james33 at 2:05 AM on January 3

I just read the broken Earth trilogy. It's very good! Bleak (though ultimately with hope, but still), so that's something to keep in mind. But really good, and has exactly the sort of presence of LGBTness you are mentioning. Multiple characters are LGBT in various ways, it's never the focus, but it does inform the lives of the characters.
posted by wooh at 2:07 AM on January 3 [5 favorites]

The Luminous Dead by Caitlin Starling
posted by neushoorn at 2:50 AM on January 3

Less by Andrew Sean Greer. Funny, bittersweet, thoughtful, kind. I was expecting a slight, shallow-ish read based on the descriptions of it, and was happily delighted by where the book took me.
posted by cocoagirl at 3:19 AM on January 3 [1 favorite]

The... main character, I guess, sort of? Of Ann Leckie's The Raven Tower, which is written in the second person, is a trans man. It's barely even mentioned, you pick it up from context, but it's there and commented upon by reviewers.

The novel was awesome, and was shortlisted for the Hugos but Leckie withdrew it from consideration out of deference to other authors because she'd already won for her science fiction novels.
posted by XMLicious at 3:26 AM on January 3 [5 favorites]

Everything Aliette de Bodard writes, but especially Seven of Inifities - great crime/heist yarn inspired by Arsene Lupin and only three quarters through the book I slowly realised all the plot-relevant characters are women (of which two have a rather fiery romance).
posted by I claim sanctuary at 3:34 AM on January 3 [1 favorite]

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern.
posted by gnutron at 4:52 AM on January 3 [2 favorites]

The Razor’s Edge by W. Somerset Maugham.
posted by kevinbelt at 4:59 AM on January 3

I'd like to second the Dave Brandstetter mystery series by Joseph Hansen. I picked up the first volume I read --not the first in the series; I think the third-- at a remainder table and really enjoyed it. (I'm not a mystery novel reader, generally.) Then as I read move volumes in the series there was more to like. Brandstetter is a youngish man who ages as the series goes on. He has a African-American lover for some time. They're very LA mystery stories, with Brandstetter's investigations introducing the reader to different communities, social strata, etc. Hansen captured each community with a few deft paragraphs.

Hansen is dead and I miss the Brandstetter books.

I just Googled and found all 12 books have been reprinted in one volume. Maybe...too much. One of the nice things about the series is that the novels are fairly short.
posted by tmdonahue at 5:29 AM on January 3

Amberlough Trilogy is a really good trilogy (although first two books are better than the third). It does veer dystopian/bleak...but also gay noir cabaret is a central theme?
posted by larthegreat at 5:30 AM on January 3

Gideon the Ninth (if you are into outer space necromancers, which, really, who isn’t?) and its sequel, Harrow the Ninth.
posted by firei at 6:40 AM on January 3 [8 favorites]

The Bernie Rhodenbarr books by Lawrence Block might be worth a try. The main character is a burglar and amateur crime-solver. His best friend and sometimes accomplice is a lesbian woman. The first book was written in 1977, so her sexuality is sometimes treated as a novelty or joked about, but she is treated like a real person and her sexuality is incidental to the plot.

Generally very readable comedy/mysteries, although the first few are practically period pieces now so if you're expecting a world with texting and social media you'll be disappointed...
posted by mmoncur at 6:48 AM on January 3

A lot of the newer sci fi/fantasy that I've been reading is (1) good and (2) has LGBTQ characters among the protagonists or ambiently in the world: last year's Hugo winner A Memory Called Empire, This Is How You Lose the Time War, the Murderbot novellas by Martha Wells, Empress of Forever, Gideon the Ninth, The Raven Tower.
posted by esker at 7:33 AM on January 3 [4 favorites]

Middlesex is very good.
“Narrator and protagonist Cal Stephanides (initially called "Callie") is an intersex man of Greek descent with 5-alpha-reductase deficiency, which causes him to have certain feminine traits....The latter half of the novel, set in the late 20th century, focuses on Cal's experiences in his hometown of Detroit and his escape to San Francisco, where he comes to terms with his modified gender identity. ... Entertainment Weekly, the Los Angeles Times, and The New York Times Book Review considered Middlesex one of the best books of 2002, and some scholars believed the novel should be considered for the title of Great American Novel. Reviewers from the medical, gay, and intersex communities mostly praised Middlesex, though some intersex commentators have been more critical.”
posted by waving at 7:41 AM on January 3

Girl, woman, other by Bernadine Evaristo has lesbians (and a whole spectrum of gender/sexuality/race/identity stuff) and is generally brilliant.
posted by Lotto at 9:27 AM on January 3

If you like urban fantasy I'd recommend the October Daye series by Seanan McGuire.

"But the coolest part about the inclusion is that it’s not a big deal within the story. Nobody makes an issue of it, and it’s not the defining characteristic for any of these characters. They are not included in the story as the 'token' queer characters; they each play roles in the story that have nothing to do with their sexuality or gender identification."


I haven't read anything else by McGuire (yet) but I'd bet that her other works have good queer rep as well.
posted by junques at 9:45 AM on January 3 [4 favorites]

Seconding that the rest of Seanan McGuire's books (and pen names) qualify.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:04 AM on January 3 [2 favorites]

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing and A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor are fun books where the main character is a bisexual woman, and there are lesbian main characters, but their romantic relationships are treated as matter-of-fact and are not the focus of the books. I think they fulfill your criteria where the story isn’t about the romance.
posted by Knowyournuts at 10:10 AM on January 3 [1 favorite]

Perhaps The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue? It's about an Irish maternity nurse working in hospital during the Spanish Flu. I thought the lesbian elements of the story were beautifully done and didn't feel heavy-handed. I loved the book, although a warning is needed that it was a dark and emotional read... and given the current times you may not want to read about people dying from the flu.
posted by DTMFA at 1:04 PM on January 3

These Violent Delights is about very vividly realized gay characters, but is absolutely not heavy-handed Gay Representation. (They are definitely Not Role Models in any way, it is not a feel-good story, and it doesn't have a moral.)
posted by nebulawindphone at 2:10 PM on January 3

This question is my jam. Went through my 2020 reads and have so many books for you to check out!

Definitely the Broken Earth Trilogy by NK Jemisin as mentioned above. Start with The Fifth Season.

The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson

Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse

Take a Hint, Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas (If you can wade through 1200 pages & numerous plotlines, this book is so rewarding!)

She Rises by Kate Worsely

The Best Bad Things by Katrina Carrasco

Everfair by Nisi Shawl

Hild by Nicola Griffith

Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Klay by Michael Chabon

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
posted by oxisos at 5:00 PM on January 3

Some you may enjoy are:
The Subtweet by Vivek Shraya
Anything by Zoe Whitall but particularly Bottle Rocket Hearts and Holding Still For As Long As Possible (not so much The Best Kind of People, though).
The City We Became by NK Jemison
posted by urbanlenny at 5:26 PM on January 3

Nimona was fun. It’s YA fantasy.
posted by bq at 6:58 PM on January 3 [2 favorites]

The Death of the Necromancer by Martha Wells (precedes the Fall of Ile Rien trilogy, which I believe at least has some very tangential LGBT characters in one of the books)

Most of Kerry Greenwood's mystery novels - both the Phryne Fisher series (set in the 1920s) and the Corinna Chapman mysteries (modern day).

Farthing by Jo Walton (and the sequels).

S.M. Stirling's Emberverse series, beginning with Dies the Fire.
posted by sibilatorix at 9:35 AM on January 4

If graphic novels are in scope, On a Sunbeam is free to read online or is in print. It's set in a world where there don't seem to be men (which is never really remarked on or explained, and is incidental to the plot).
posted by rivenwanderer at 3:29 PM on January 4

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