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 and July 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!
- The Beauty Beyond the Binary; 20 Books with Trans, Non-Binary, and Genderqueer Rep
- A Love Letter to 18 Books with Questioning, Asexual and Aromantic Rep; You are Valid
In today’s book recommendation post, I recommend books with trans, non-binary, and genderqueer representation! To be honest, it was such a joy to put this list together – and it gives me hope that we’ll see more trans, non-binary, and genderqueer representation in more books!
Before I share my recommendations with you all, I want to highlight Transathon, a readathon where you read books by trans authors during the month of July and is hosted by Ocean! This sounds like an utterly delightful readathon and a wonderful opportunity to support trans literature, and I encourage you all to join!
Books with Trans Representation
Pet by Akwaeke Emezi
Told like a twisted fairytale or parable, Pet is a short yet powerful story about evil and monsters. This is such a compelling book and you will not be able to put it down.
- Follows Jam, a Black and trans teen with selective mutism, who accidentally summons the monster in her mother’s painting – and the monster, called Pet, is on the hunt for a monster in her best friend’s house.
- Set in a town of Lucille, where ‘angels’ (good and righteous people) have eliminated all ‘monsters’ (bad people) from the town.
- A fantastic story about the stories that society tells themselves – that just because you are told that bad people do not exist, it doesn’t mean that they don’t exist. It’s also about morality, being brave in the face of being told that everything that you knew was wrong, friendship, and justice.
Peter Darling by Austin Chant
After finishing this book, I just wanted to scream: I believe in fairytales. I believe in love. If you know me, you’ll know that I love queer retellings – and Peter Darling is the queer retelling that I never imagined but was more than I could have hoped for.
- Follows Peter Pan, a trans boy, who returns to Neverland after leaving his life behind as Wendy Darling, only to find that everything has changed and people have grown up.
- Peter Darling retains the core elements of the original retelling but gives it a fresh spin, more character development, and a heart-wrenching m/m romance.
- I utterly adored this book. There are some heavy and painful moments, but the happily ever after at the end feels so deserved and left me feeling so content.
When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore
If you’ve never read McLemore’s books before, then you should know that they write beautiful, lyrical, and heart-wrenching stories that read like fairytales. When The Moon Was Ours is much loved – and with good reason!
- Follows a Latina girl called Miel, who has a rose that grows from her wrist, and a trans Pakistani boy called Samir, who paints moons and struggles with his identity.
- This story is largely character-driven and explores the identities of both Miel and Samir, who both have deeply buried secrets but live in tandem of each other.
- The story unfolds these secrets slowly, layer by layer, and the exploration is slow, well-paced, and meaningful.
Coffee Boy by Austin Chant
Looking for a short and sweet trans romance read? Coffee Boy is absolutely lovely, heartwarming, and sweet in all the right ways.
- Follows Kieran, an out trans man who lands a dream internship working at a political campaign. There, he grapples with trans-antagonism from his colleagues and starts to develop a crush on his no-nonsense manager.
- The characters in this book are incredibly well-realised. I really like what Corey, a trans writer, had to say about this book and imagining futures as a young trans person in their review here.
- The romance was such a pleasant surprise – I read this book without knowing anything about it, and I thought it was fantastic. The love interest was complex, and I loved his character.
Not Your Villain by C.B. Lee
Not Your Villain is the delightful sequel to Not Your Sidekick and takes the Sidekick Squad’s mission and the story’s arching story and worldbuilding to the next level.
- Follows Bells, a Black trans boy, who has the superpower of shapeshifting and his journey into attending Meta-Human training whilst also realising that the heroes and villains are not who he thought they were.
- I loved that this story depicts the ‘budding hero’ journey as he begins to learn more about his powers and potential, and all the emotions and pressures that come with it.
- Underlying this book and the series as a whole is how teens can have power to do good and fight against injustice!
Books with Trans Representation That Are On My TBR!
Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender
Felix Love has never been in love—and, yes, he’s painfully aware of the irony. He desperately wants to know what it’s like and why it seems so easy for everyone but him to find someone. What’s worse is that, even though he is proud of his identity, Felix also secretly fears that he’s one marginalization too many—Black, queer, and transgender—to ever get his own happily-ever-after.
When an anonymous student begins sending him transphobic messages—after publicly posting Felix’s deadname alongside images of him before he transitioned—Felix comes up with a plan for revenge. What he didn’t count on: his catfish scenario landing him in a quasi–love triangle….
But as he navigates his complicated feelings, Felix begins a journey of questioning and self-discovery that helps redefine his most important relationship: how he feels about himself.
Since this book’s release in early May, I’ve seen nothing but praise for this book – and I absolutely believe it and want nothing more than this book to be loved and make others feel loved. For Pride Month, we had Kacen themself visit The Quiet Pond and it was such a huge honour to have them visiting us to talk about Felix Ever After!
Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas
Yadriel has summoned a ghost, and now he can’t get rid of him.
When his traditional Latinx family has problems accepting his gender, Yadriel becomes determined to prove himself a real brujo. With the help of his cousin and best friend Maritza, he performs the ritual himself, and then sets out to find the ghost of his murdered cousin and set it free.
However, the ghost he summons is actually Julian Diaz, the school’s resident bad boy, and Julian is not about to go quietly into death. He’s determined to find out what happened and tie up some loose ends before he leaves. Left with no choice, Yadriel agrees to help Julian, so that they can both get what they want. But the longer Yadriel spends with Julian, the less he wants to let him leave.
I am so incredibly hyped for this book and September 1st cannot come soon enough. The early reviews are already in for this book and I’ve seen nothing but praise too! We also had the delight and privilege of having Aiden Thomas, author of Cemetery Boys, visit the Pond for Pride Month where they talked about how Cemetery Boys was a love letter to their community!
The Seep by Chana Porter
Trina Goldberg-Oneka is a fifty-year-old trans woman whose life is irreversibly altered in the wake of a gentle—but nonetheless world-changing—invasion by an alien entity called The Seep. Through The Seep, everything is connected. Capitalism falls, hierarchies and barriers are broken down; if something can be imagined, it is possible.
Trina and her wife, Deeba, live blissfully under The Seep’s utopian influence—until Deeba begins to imagine what it might be like to be reborn as a baby, which will give her the chance at an even better life. Using Seeptech to make this dream a reality, Deeba moves on to a new existence, leaving Trina devastated.
Heartbroken and deep into an alcoholic binge, Trina follows a lost boy she encounters, embarking on an unexpected quest. In her attempt to save him from The Seep, she will confront not only one of its most avid devotees, but the terrifying void that Deeba has left behind. A strange new elegy of love and loss, The Seep explores grief, alienation, and the ache of moving on.
I learned about this book when Brody, the booktuber behind E Tu, Brody? visited the Pond for Pride Month and recommended a bunch of queer intersectional books! I’m looking forward to finally reading this book – it has Native American and Jewish representation as well!
The Subtweet by Vivek Shraya
Everyone talks about falling in love, but falling in friendship can be just as captivating. When Neela Devaki’s song is covered by internet-famous artist Rukmini, the two musicians meet and a transformative friendship begins. But as Rukmini’s star rises and Neela’s stagnates, jealousy and self-doubt creep in. With a single tweet, their friendship implodes, one career is destroyed, and the two women find themselves at the center of an internet firestorm.
Celebrated multidisciplinary artist Vivek Shraya’s second novel is a stirring examination of making art in the modern era, a love letter to brown women, an authentic glimpse into the music industry, and a nuanced exploration of the promise and peril of being seen.
Vivek Shraya’s work is subversive in all the right ways and I’m intrigued about The Subtweet, about two South-Asian musicians who form a friendship-turned-toxic-relationship after one performs a cover of the other’s song. This story is about social media, friendship, fame, and activism too!
Books with Nonbinary/Genderqueer Representation
No Man of Woman Born by Ana Mardoll
If you love the idea of a short story collection where all the stories subvert fantasy tropes and make them trans and genderqueer, then you’ll love No Man of Woman Born.
- Features seven short fantasy stories that take a fantasy trope or gendered prophecy — and subverts them.
- My favourite stories were Early to Rise, which is a retelling of Sleeping Beauty but with a genderfluid and aromantic protagonist, and The Wish-Giver, the shortest story in the collection and is about a wish-giving dragon and a little girl.
- This short story collection is great in terms of its non-binary and trans protagonists, and their neopronouns!
An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon
This book is heavy, hard-hitting, and unforgiving. But, it is also phenomenal and brilliant for its multi-dimensional yet accessible portrayal of systemic oppression.
- Follows Aster, an intersex and autistic healer that lives in the lower decks of the HSS Matilda, a massive spacecraft that is carrying a population of humans to the next Promised Land after Earth was decimated centuries ago.
- Explores a variety of themes, all amazingly executed with a powerful and unforgettable story that centers on the mystery of the deaths of the HSS Matilda’s leader, the Sovereign, and her mother — slavery, systemtic oppression, generational trauma, racism, sexism, power, mental illness, religion, class, possession — so, so many things.
- This is science-fiction at its finest: incredible and vivid world-building, sociopolitical themes, and excellent discourse about history and the future.
The Deep by Rivers Solomon
Don’t be fooled by this book’s short length. The Deep will punch you in the gut – and you’ll thank Solomon for it after.
- Follows Yetu, a wajinru (akin to mer-people; descendants of pregnant African women who were thrown overboard during the slave trade who have no long-term memory and live in the moment), who is a Historian and holds the entire memory and history of her people – though at the cost of her wellbeing.
- This story is rich with metaphors that feel so personal and visceral in their portrayal. Explores cultural loss, trauma, chronic pain, the burden of history and remembering, and how those intertwine with identity.
Mask of Shadows by Linsey Miller
If you love stories about assassins, court intrigue, and royal competitions, then Mask of Shadows is the perfect blend all three!
- Follows Sal, a genderqueer highway robber, who seeks revenge by entering a competition to become one of the Queen’s Left Hand – a group of personal assassins.
- Fast-paced, packed with action and surprising moments, and with so many twists and turns that will keep you guessing.
- Filled with very intriguing characters, including the protagonist, Sal, and their queer (bisexual or pansexual) love interest, the other competitors, and the mysterious assassins that make up the Left Hand.
The Empress of Salt and Fortune by Nghi Vo
If you love quiet feminist fantasies about the rise and fall of empires and the women who conspired them, then The Empress of Salt and Fortune is such an effortless and faultless choice.
- Follows Chih, a nonbinary cleric, alongside their companion Almost Brilliant, a magical hoopoe, who meets Rabbit, an elderly woman and handmaiden to Empress In-Yo, and chronicles the rise and fall of an empire.
- This is an exquisite Asian-inspired feminist fantasy that explores the power of anger in women; it’s a quiet tale of how an empire rose and fell and the orchestration of a rebellion hidden in between fortunes.
- Despite its short length, this novella delivers a guttering and emotional punch. Told in chapters, each chapter a story and a story within a story.
Books with Nonbinary/Genderqueer Representation That Are On My TBR!
Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi
Ada begins her life in the south of Nigeria as a troubled baby and a source of deep concern to her family. Her parents, Saul and Saachi, successfully prayed her into existence, but as she grows into a volatile and splintered child, it becomes clear that something went terribly awry. When Ada comes of age and moves to America for college, the group of selves within her grows in power and agency. A traumatic assault leads to a crystallization of her alternate selves: Asụghara and Saint Vincent. As Ada fades into the background of her own mind and these selves–now protective, now hedonistic–move into control, Ada’s life spirals in a dark and dangerous direction.
Before Akwaeke Emezi wrote Pet, they wrote Freshwater, a story about a girl with multiple gods within her. This book sounds incredible, incredibly fascinating, and from the blurb and premise alone — I just want to know more? I can’t wait to read this.
The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water by Zen Cho
Zen Cho returns with a found family wuxia fantasy that combines the vibrancy of old school martial arts movies with characters drawn from the margins of history.
A bandit walks into a coffeehouse, and it all goes downhill from there. Guet Imm, a young votary of the Order of the Pure Moon, joins up with an eclectic group of thieves (whether they like it or not) in order to protect a sacred object, and finds herself in a far more complicated situation than she could have ever imagined.
I learned recently that this book wasn’t just an Asian book – but that it was a Malaysian-Chinese book. Even more so, I only just learned that this book has a nonbinary/gender-queer main character – so I’m sold!
I Wish You All The Best by Mason Deaver
When Ben De Backer comes out to their parents as nonbinary, they’re thrown out of their house and forced to move in with their estranged older sister, Hannah, and her husband, Thomas, whom Ben has never even met. Struggling with an anxiety disorder compounded by their parents’ rejection, they come out only to Hannah, Thomas, and their therapist and try to keep a low profile in a new school.
But Ben’s attempts to survive the last half of senior year unnoticed are thwarted when Nathan Allan, a funny and charismatic student, decides to take Ben under his wing. As Ben and Nathan’s friendship grows, their feelings for each other begin to change, and what started as a disastrous turn of events looks like it might just be a chance to start a happier new life.
It’s shameful that I’ve yet to read I Wish You All The Best, a complex story and portrayal about one non-binary teen’s coming out, grappling with abusive parents, and also falling in love. So I’m declaring it here and now: I’m going to read this book by the end of the year.
The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea by Maggie Tokuda-Hall
Aboard the pirate ship Dove, Flora the girl takes on the identity of Florian the man to earn the respect and protection of the crew. For Flora, former starving urchin, the brutal life of a pirate is about survival: don’t trust, don’t stick out, and don’t feel. But on this voyage, as the pirates prepare to sell their unsuspecting passengers into slavery, Flora is drawn to the Lady Evelyn Hasegawa, who is en route to a dreaded arranged marriage with her own casket in tow. Flora doesn’t expect to be taken under Evelyn’s wing, and Evelyn doesn’t expect to find such a deep bond with the pirate Florian.
Soon the unlikely pair set in motion a wild escape that will free a captured mermaid (coveted for her blood, which causes men to have visions and lose memories) and involve the mysterious Pirate Supreme, an opportunistic witch, and the all-encompassing Sea itself.
Mermaid lore! Witches! Magic! Exploration and critique of class, colonialism and imperialism! And the main characters are a genderqueer Black pirate (and the love interest is a Japanese noblewoman)! I love the sound of this YA pirate story and I’m definitely reading this after Pride Month!
Mooncakes by Wendy Xu and Suzanne Walker
Nova Huang knows more about magic than your average teen witch. She works at her grandmothers’ bookshop, where she helps them loan out spell books and investigate any supernatural occurrences in their New England town.
One fateful night, she follows reports of a white wolf into the woods, and she comes across the unexpected: her childhood crush, Tam Lang, battling a horse demon in the woods. As a werewolf, Tam has been wandering from place to place for years, unable to call any town home.
Pursued by dark forces eager to claim the magic of wolves and out of options, Tam turns to Nova for help. Their latent feelings are rekindled against the backdrop of witchcraft, untested magic, occult rituals, and family ties both new and old in this enchanting tale of self-discovery.
I love Wendy Xu’s art, so Mooncakes sounds like such a treat and a joy to read! I’m always here for soft art, a soft story, and a soft queer romance between a disabled witch and a nonbinary werewolf. This sounds like a book I’ll love and I’m looking forward to reading it!
The Black Tides of Heaven by J.Y. Yang
Mokoya and Akeha, the twin children of the Protector, were sold to the Grand Monastery as children. While Mokoya developed her strange prophetic gift, Akeha was always the one who could see the strings that moved adults to action. While his sister received visions of what would be, Akeha realized what could be. What’s more, he saw the sickness at the heart of his mother’s Protectorate.
A rebellion is growing. The Machinists discover new levers to move the world every day, while the Tensors fight to put them down and preserve the power of the state. Unwilling to continue to play a pawn in his mother’s twisted schemes, Akeha leaves the Tensorate behind and falls in with the rebels. But every step Akeha takes towards the Machinists is a step away from his sister Mokoya. Can Akeha find peace without shattering the bond he shares with his twin sister?
I’ve been curious about The Black Tides of Heaven and the wider series as a whole for awhile now, particularly for its homage to Chinese mythology and themes of fate. After Zhui Ning recommended this book in the queer Asian book recommendations post that she did with May for Pride Month, I’m even more curious and am looking forward to reading this!
Meet-Cute Diary by Emery Lee
We’ve yet to meet the book cover for Emery’s debut, Meet-Cute Diary, but I’m putting this here anyway because the moment this book releases, I am READING it. And if you want to learn more about Meet-Cute Diary, be sure to have a read of the author interview that I did with Emery, where we talk about Meet-Cute Diary and eir writing journey!
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: