Our Friend is Here! is a guest feature at The Quiet Pond, where authors, creatives, and fellow readers, are invited to ‘visit’ the Pond! In Our Friend is Here! guest posts, our visitors (as their very own unique character!) have a friendly conversation about anything related to books or being a reader — and become friends with Xiaolong and friends.
Pride Month is a month-long event at The Quiet Pond, where during the month of June, queer authors and bookish content creators are invited to celebrate being queer, queer books, and their experiences of being a queer reader. Find the introduction post for Pride Month at The Quiet Pond here.
For Pride Month this year, I decided to put together the biggest and most ambitious book recommendation post ever. Not only would I recommend queer books for Pride Month, I’d consciously recommend queer books written by and about queer and/or disabled people of colour — the books that people often complain they can’t find, even though they are being talked about, are being hyped, are being loved, were always here.
My book recommendation list, which I started putting together in March, grew and grew and grew until it was 102 books. So rather than have one huge book recommendation posts, I decided to split them into five posts!
The posts you’ll get during June are:
- 21 Books with Gay and M/M Rep To Read and Love During Pride Month!
- 23 Books with Sapphic & F/F Rep To Brighten Your Reading During Pride Month!
- 22 Books with Bisexual & Pansexual Rep That I Loved – and You’ll Love Too!
- A Love Letter to 18 Books with Questioning, Asexual and Aromantic Rep; You are Valid
- The Beauty Beyond the Binary; 20 Books with Trans, Non-Binary, and Genderqueer Rep
And because I’m recommending lesbian and sapphic books today, I want you all to know that this
Wrath Pride Month book recommendation post was brought to you by tiresome cries of ‘but where are all the f/f books?!’ that we hear every year, even though there are already so many fantastic and beloved f/f books that exist. Friends, the next time someone cries about the lack of f/f books, I give you permission to send them this book recommendation post.
But aside from that – I’m so excited to share with you all these wonderful books today. Not only are these beautifully sapphic, I can attest that the books I have read are fantastic books that are amazing in their own right. I hope this post helps you find a sapphic book or two! Happy reading!
Books with Lesbian Representation
The Weight of Our Stars by K. Ancrum
When I finished this book in the small hours of the night, I just clutched this book to my chest and wept. This is a beautiful book, beautifully sapphic, and one of my all time favourites.
- Set in the distant future on Earth, the story follows Ryann, a Black teen who is as fierce as she is protective of her friends. When she meets new-girl-in-town, Alexandria, the two strike up an unlikely friendship (and later, romance), reigniting Ryann’s dream to be among the stars.
- This is a book that’s about friendship, the weight of secrets, the weight of mistakes made in the past and their ripple effect across years. It’s about life! existence! love! oh heck, all the important things.
- Though this book has a ‘science-fiction’ context, at its heart it is a romance, it is a story about found family, and love in its smallest and greatest forms.
Crier’s War by Nina Varela
I’m always craving a good queer fantasy, and Crier’s War absolutely lives up its hype of a fantastic queer fantasy. You’ll love this if you haven’t read it already!
- Follows a human girl called Ayla and a Automae/a robot girl called Crier in a time of Automae dominion where humans are slaves.
- Crier’s War is a great take on robot fantasy that also has interesting themes of oppression and the implications of war that keeps up fantastic momentum with the story’s slow-burn romance.
- Gorgeous writing that enamours, and an addictive enemies-to-lovers romance that is rich with complex emotions, fraught with tension and the many many things that could go wrong, and their undeniable attraction.
Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan
Discursive, critical, and multifaceted, Girls of Paper and Fire is a beacon of light of sapphic fantasies that explore darker, heavier, and real topics.
- Follows Lei, a girl from a Paper caste belonging to the lower echelon of society, who is abducted to become a Paper Girl, one of the Demon King’s courtesans. And then, Lei resists in a way she never imagines: she falls in love with another Paper Girl.
- The worldbuilding is Malaysian-inspired! As a diaspora Malaysian reader, so many of the references felt like reminders of why I love my culture.
- Tackles an array of topics and issues through the eyes of Lei as she grapples with her new place in court, such as loss of autonomy, sexual assault, wrestling with violently patriarchal power structures, her personhood that she is forced to diminish and stifle, and revenge.
We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia
As incendiary and fiery as its name suggests, I loved this story about sapphic girls who resist, fight back, and challenge the status quo.
- Follows Dani, a girl born in a world where women grow up to become one of two wives to their husbands. When Dani begins to realise that willful blindness to the suffering of her people at the hands of a corrupt government can no longer go ignored, she becomes a spy to the rebellion – but falls in love with someone she did not expect in the process.
- Set in a heteronormative and sexist society, this story is a brilliant and feminist critique of patriarchal structures and the sexist expectations of women.
- But it’s also how Dani’s journey, alongside the woman she falls in love with, subvert these hegemonic structures — and it is brilliant!
It’s Not Like It’s a Secret by Misa Sugiura
This is not the ‘cute romance’ book that it appears to be, but It’s Not Like It’s a Secret is a challenging and frank story about racism and prejudice perpetuated by Asians.
- Follows Sana, a lesbian Japanese-American teen, who is holding a lot of secrets: she suspects her father might be having an affair and she might be in love with her best friend, who is a Mexican teen girl.
- This book is one of those few ‘messy’ books that work – Sana is a confused and ignorant teenager, who makes mistakes and is vulnerable, but grows and learns over the course of the book.
- This book also explores and challenges racism (either in-text or through internal monologue) and has some really nuanced explorations of sexuality.
Once Ghosted, Twice Shy by Alyssa Cole
If you were a fan of the Reluctant Royals series, don’t miss on this cute f/f novella!
- Follows Likotsi, a Black lesbian advisor to the prince of Thesolo, rekindles her romance with Fabiola, a Black queer jewelry maker.
- This is an love to hate to love again romance, and also a second chance romance! It may be a short book but the romance was so lovely, cute, and sexy as well.
- The chemistry between them was so good! Filled with so many good tropes, this is such a good short read.
The Henna Wars by Adiba Jaigirdar
I absolutely loved The Henna Wars and I had the honour of having Adiba visit us at the Pond last month! This debut is fantastic, and a must-read for Pride.
- Follows Nishat, a lesbian Bengali-Irish teen who decides to start a henna business for her school’s business competition – and her crush and crush’s awful cousin to appropriate henna and start their own henna business as well.
- This book neatly and brilliantly balances a soft rivals-to-romance with plenty of development between the two characters as well as an exploration of the harm of cultural appropriation.
- The f/f rivals-to-friends-to-lovers is lovely. I may not be a huge fan of the trope, but I liked how it was done here, and how there was plenty of development between Nishat and Flávia, who is Brazillian-White Irish.
Books with F/F Representation
You Should See Me In a Crown by Leah Johnson
Poised to be my favourite contemporary of the year, You Should See Me In a Crown is a delightful story that perfectly balances sweet and serious.
- Follows Liz, a queer anxious Black teen finds out that she didn’t get the financial aid she needed for her dream school — and decides to run to become prom queen, which will get her a scholarship.
- This book is frank about anti-Blackness and how it manifests in insidious ways (bullying, within school institutions) but also unapologetically shows Black excellence and Black joy.
- I wouldn’t call this book a romance, but it definitely does have romance elements! The sapphic romance is so soft, nicely developed, and so satisfying.
Final Draft by Riley Redgate
This is honestly such an underrated gem and was one of my favourite books in 2019. I love everything about this book and is a perfect example of why ‘quiet YA’ is such a good category.
- Follows Laila, a teen writer who, after her supportive mentor is hospitalised, has to grapple with her new mentor, who is as hard-ass and critical as they come.
- This book is about a lot of things: friendship, it’s about falling in love with your best friend, finding singular moments of peace and joy amidst change. For me, it was about the overwhelming desire to perfect one’s craft, the eagerness to win approval, and losing yourself in the process.
- Laila is biracial (white/Ecuadorian), fat, pansexual, and also has anxiety. I loved how the story delves and explores Laila’s identity as well.
Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera
I read this book back in 2018, and I still think about it often. Raw, unflinching, and spiritual, Juliet Takes A Breath is such a good book about growth and identity.
- Follows Juliet, a Puerto Rican lesbian from the Bronx, and her transformative trip to Portland to work alongside an author she looks up to.
- This is largely a character-driven story — and it is phenomenal. The story explores growth, learning, and discovery of feminism, being a queer woman of colour and sexuality, intersectional feminism, finding strength and empowerment within communities, and the harm of white feminism.
- This book also has a soft f/f romance!
Avatar: The Rise of Kyoshi by F.C. Yee
If you haven’t heard that Kyoshi got her own book and that it’s f/f – you’re in for a treat. This book is spectacular and absolutely lives up to the glory of the Avatar series!
- Follows Kyoshi as a teen and her tumultuous journey of growing into her destiny as the Avatar.
- The story expands the worldbuilding, lore, and politics surrounding the Avatar. You really begin to understand why and how Kyoshi became such a fearsome Avatar with such a strong and hard-ass sense of justice. Tbh, I love Kyoshi so much.
- The romance in this is wonderful – and so organic. I loved it!
Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde
A low-stress and lighthearted book that is filled with so many soft and sweet moments. A perfect light read!
- Follows three friends who go to a convention: Charlie, a bisexual Chinese-Australian vlogger teen, Taylor, a white fat autistic teen with anxiety, and Taylor, a Latinx teen!
- The romances in this are so lovely; there’s a friends to lovers and a f/f fans-of-each-others-work to lovers!
- A sweet love letter to fandom, geek culture, and being unapologetic about the things that make us happy.
The Never Tilting World by Rin Chupeco
What a fun, riveting, and entertaining story; I enjoyed this fantasy that is aptly pitched as Frozen meets Mad Max!
- Follows four teens: (1) Odessa, a lesbian and chronically ill goddess of a frozen world in perpetual night; (2) Haidee, a mechanic and goddess of a sun-scotched world of desert and sun, (3) Lan, a bisexual healer & bodyguard who has PTSD, and (4) Arjun, a disabled rebel scavenger.
- Set in a world torn asunder – where one half is ravaged by oceans and ice, where the other is inundated with desert wind and scorch.
- I really loved Odessa and Lan’s sweet f/f relationship, loved Haidee and Arjun’s hate-to-love, and how the two contrasted each other! It was like reading the best of both worlds.
Once & Future by Amy Rose Capetta and Cori McCarthy
This is a retelling of the Arthurian legend except it’s set in space! This is a fast-paced and exciting science-fiction and is so much fun to read.
- Follows Ari, a pansexual fugitive refugee of Arabic descent, who crash lands on Old Earth and pulls out Excalibur – and discovers that she is the 42nd reincarnation of Arthur.
- I loved how queer this book is – there’s a m/m romance, a f/f romance, non-binary side character, and asexual side character!
- This book is a lot of fun, filled with a lot of adventure and ups and downs, and is kind of goofy – in the most endearing and lovable way.
Sapphic and F/F Books We’re Excited for & are on Our TBRs
Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayron
It’s 200 years since Cinderella found her prince, but the fairytale is over.
Sophia knows the story though, off by heart. Because every girl has to recite it daily, from when she’s tiny until the night she’s sent to the royal ball for choosing. And every girl knows that she has only one chance. For the lives of those not chosen by a man at the ball are forfeited.
But Sophia doesn’t want to be chosen – she’s in love with her best friend, Erin, and hates the idea of being traded like cattle. And when Sophia’s night at the ball goes horribly wrong, she must run for her life. Alone and terrified, she finds herself hiding in Cinderella’s tomb. And there she meets someone who will show her that she has the power to remake her world.
You all know that I love retellings of classic stories, so you would be right to assume that I’m incredibly excited for Cinderella is Dead, a retelling of Cinderella featuring a Black queer teen! I cannot wait to meet Sophia, read about the romance, and read this feminist story. August cannot come soon enough!
The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart
The emperor’s reign has lasted for decades, his mastery of bone shard magic powering the animal-like constructs that maintain law and order. But now his rule is failing, and revolution is sweeping across the Empire’s many islands.
Lin is the emperor’s daughter and spends her days trapped in a palace of locked doors and dark secrets. When her father refuses to recognise her as heir to the throne, she vows to prove her worth by mastering the forbidden art of bone shard magic.
Yet such power carries a great cost, and when the revolution reaches the gates of the palace, Lin must decide how far she is willing to go to claim her birthright – and save her people.
Releasing in September 2020, I absolutely cannot wait to get my hands on this adult fantasy. Not only is it f/f, but it’s also a story about bone magic and a girl who tries to claim the throne and her birthright. How cool does this sound? (VERY cool!)
Ruinsong by Julia Ember
Her voice was her prison…
Now it’s her weapon.
In a world where magic is sung, a powerful mage named Cadence has been forced to torture her country’s disgraced nobility at her ruthless queen’s bidding.
But when she is reunited with her childhood friend, a noblewoman with ties to the underground rebellion, she must finally make a choice: Take a stand to free their country from oppression, or follow in the queen’s footsteps and become a monster herself.
I had the pleasure of having Julia Ember herself visit the Pond to talk about her upcoming Phantom of the Opera retelling, Ruinsong, and I am so incredibly excited for this book, friends. Music magic! A dark retelling! F/F romance! What’s not to love and be excited about?
The Stars and the Blackness Between Them by Junauda Petrus
Trinidad. Sixteen-year-old Audre is despondent, having just found out she’s going to be sent to live in America with her father because her strictly religious mother caught her with her secret girlfriend, the pastor’s daughter. Audre’s grandmother Queenie (a former dancer who drives a white convertible Cadillac and who has a few secrets of her own) tries to reassure her granddaughter that she won’t lose her roots, not even in some place called Minneapolis. “America have dey spirits too, believe me,” she tells Audre.
Minneapolis. Sixteen-year-old Mabel is lying on her bed, staring at the ceiling and trying to figure out why she feels the way she feels–about her ex Terrell, about her girl Jada and that moment they had in the woods, and about the vague feeling of illness that’s plagued her all summer. Mabel’s reverie is cut short when her father announces that his best friend and his just-arrived-from-Trinidad daughter are coming for dinner.
Mabel quickly falls hard for Audre and is determined to take care of her as she tries to navigate an American high school. But their romance takes a turn when test results reveal exactly why Mabel has been feeling low-key sick all summer and suddenly it’s Audre who is caring for Mabel as she faces a deeply uncertain future.
If you are like me and completely missed the memo on this book, then I’m pleased to be the one to tell you or remind you about The Stars and the Blackness Between Them. Reading the reviews and the high praise for this book, I really really want to read this – emotional, evocative, and widely described as ‘gorgeous’, I think this book is a must-read for Pride.
Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo
Camino Rios lives for the summers when her father visits her in the Dominican Republic. But this time, on the day when his plane is supposed to land, Camino arrives at the airport to see crowds of crying people…
In New York City, Yahaira Rios is called to the principal’s office, where her mother is waiting to tell her that her father, her hero, has died in a plane crash.
Separated by distance – and Papi’s secrets – the two girls are forced to face a new reality in which their father is dead and their lives are forever altered. And then, when it seems like they’ve lost everything of their father, they learn of each other.
Papi’s death uncovers all the painful truths he kept hidden, and the love he divided across an ocean. And now, Camino and Yahaira are both left to grapple with what this new sister means to them, and what it will now take to keep their dreams alive.
I have read both of Acevedo’s books prior to this – The Poet X and With the Fire on High – and I absolutely loved both — which probably means I’ll definitely love Clap When You Land. Told in a dual narrative and in verse, about grief, love, and loss, and I cannot wait to read it.
This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone
Among the ashes of a dying world, an agent of the Commandant finds a letter. It reads: Burn before reading. Thus begins an unlikely correspondence between two rival agents hellbent on securing the best possible future for their warring factions. Now, what began as a taunt, a battlefield boast, grows into something more. Something epic. Something romantic. Something that could change the past and the future.
Except the discovery of their bond would mean death for each of them. There’s still a war going on, after all. And someone has to win that war.
I have heard so much about this book and it is a shame and embarrassment that I haven’t read this yet! About two women on opposite ends of a ‘time war’ (I cannot wait to read this and get what that means? because it sounds so cool!) who fall in love via love letters. I need this book.
Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust
There was and there was not, as all stories begin, a princess cursed to be poisonous to the touch. But for Soraya, who has lived her life hidden away, apart from her family, safe only in her gardens, it’s not just a story.
As the day of her twin brother’s wedding approaches, Soraya must decide if she’s willing to step outside of the shadows for the first time. Below in the dungeon is a demon who holds knowledge that she craves, the answer to her freedom. And above is a young man who isn’t afraid of her, whose eyes linger not with fear, but with an understanding of who she is beneath the poison.
Soraya thought she knew her place in the world, but when her choices lead to consequences she never imagined, she begins to question who she is and who she is becoming…human or demon. Princess or monster.
This book comes out next month and I’m incredibly excited to read this! Inspired by Persian mythology, has a morally grey bi main character, and a f/f romance (and apparently it’s a monster girlfriend?)! I’m intrigued – and cannot wait to read this.
This Is What It Feels Like by Rebecca Barrow
It doesn’t matter what the prize for the Sun City Originals contest is this year.
Who cares that’s it’s fifteen grand? Who cares about a gig opening for one of the greatest bands to ever play this town?
Not Dia, that’s for sure. Because Dia knows that without a band, she hasn’t got a shot at winning Sun City. Because ever since Hanna’s drinking took over her life, Dia and Jules haven’t been in it. And ever since Hanna left — well, there hasn’t been a band.
It used to be the three of them, Dia, Jules, and Hanna, messing around and making music and planning for the future. But that was then, and this is now — and now means a baby, a failed relationship, a stint in rehab, all kinds of off beats that have interrupted the rhythm of their friendship. No contest can change that. Right?
But like the lyrics of a song you used to play on repeat, there’s no forgetting a best friend. And for Dia, Jules, and Hanna, this impossible challenge — to ignore the past, in order to jumpstart the future — will only become possible if they finally make peace with the girls they once were, and the girls they are finally letting themselves be.
I love this book cover so much? Nothing makes me happier than seeing queer girls of colour, especially Black girls, smiling and happy on book covers. I love the sound of this book – I love that it’s about band girls, friendship, love, relationships, and grief. I cannot wait to read this book.
Kings, Queens, and In-Betweens by Tanya Boteju
Perpetually awkward Nima Kumara-Clark is bored with her insular community of Bridgeton, in love with her straight girlfriend, and trying to move past her mother’s unexpected departure. After a bewildering encounter at a local festival, Nima finds herself suddenly immersed in the drag scene on the other side of town.
Macho drag kings, magical queens, new love interests, and surprising allies propel Nima both painfully and hilariously closer to a self she never knew she could be—one that can confidently express and accept love. But she’ll have to learn to accept lost love to get there.
I’ve heard great things about this book and putting together this f/f post has revitalised my excitement to read this! It’s about a biracial Sri Lankan lesbian who finds herself in the local drag scene, has found family, and also portrays the messiness in a way that makes the characters and story vulnerable. I can’t wait to read this.
Found a book that you want to buy?
Awesome! Thanks to Victoria Lee for this wonderful resource of Black-owned indie bookstores in the US and this list of Black-owned indie bookshops in the UK, you can now purchase these books from this list of Black-owned indie bookshops:
Don’t live in the US/Canada/UK? No problem! Support an indie store through Bookshop.
Thank you all so much for joining me and sharing the love for sapphic books! In my next book recommendation post, I’ll be recommending 22 books with bisexual and pansexual representation that you can read during and after Pride Month. Happy reading, and happy Pride!