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.
Questioning and being asexual and aromantic can be tough. We’ve seen a lot of discussions about what it means and how it feels to question your sexuality (see: Kait’s journey through queerness; Min’s story about being queer in Latin America) to experiences of being ace and aro (see: Fadwa’s piece on being Muslim and queer; Em’s story about being Yoruba-Muslim and aro-ace), and how it can sometimes be a fraught and, sometimes, tense space.
Pride Month is sometimes a challenging month for questioning, asexual, and aromantic friends out there. Although we belong to the queer community, our belonging often feels like it is up for debate and is contentious. But, I write today’s post with a lot of love and, just as important, hope that things will get better; that one day all ace and aro friends, and our friends out there who may not be so sure of where they fit on the spectrum, feel loved, know that their queer identities are valid and are integral to Pride Month, and feel empowered.
So I hope this book recommendation post helps. Years ago when I only started reading diverse books, books with questioning, ace, and aro rep were so difficult to find – and now look at them all! Look at all these beautiful, affirming, and wonderful books that tell you, yes, I see you and you are not alone. So I hope that today’s post helps to connect you with a new book that you will find and love, and that you will feel the love and understanding within these pages.
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!
- 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
Books with Questioning Representation
The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta
Easily one of my favourite books written in verse and one of my favourite books of 2020, Black Flamingo is unforgettable, so so good, and a must-read for Pride.
- Follows Michael, a mixed (Jamaican and Greek-Cypriot) Black teen, as he grows up from a young child to going to university, and how he navigate the intersections of his identities and incredible moments in his life.
- I’m marveled by how this book explores so many things so tightly without compromising an iota of depth and emotion. This book is packed with emotive verses, powerful imagery, and thought-provoking moments.
- The book largely explores Michael’s gay identity and his phases of questioning, what it’s like being Black and mixed race, the imperfection and earnestness of family, and the relationships that shape who he is. And then, he finds drag – place and people that allow him to not really find himself, but let him come into who he always was.
We Are Totally Normal by Rahul Kanakia
I firmly believe that this is an important story about questioning, being completely unsure about your sexuality, and the implications of being queer. More importantly, I support Rahul for writing her truth in this book. Not everyone’s queer story is pretty and makes sense, which is why I think We Are Totally Normal is fantastic.
- Follows Nandan, an Indian-American teen who questions his sexual identity and develops an intimate yet hesitant relationship with Dave, an awkward Indian-American teen.
- This book is not a romance and it is not cute. In fact, it shows a lot of ugly and a lot of self-loathing — but I think that these experiences have a place in YA queer lit, and may also be necessary.
- This book involves reading in between the lines and exploring the subtext, but I loved its portrayal of questioning, the social implications of being queer, and that being fluid is valid.
Full Disclosure by Camryn Garrett
Yes, Full Disclosure does appear in my bisexual representation book recommendation post, but I also interpreted Simone’s exploration of bisexuality as partly a journey of questioning too – so I’m including this here, and also because it’s an absolutely incredible book.
- Follows Simone, a Black teen who lives with HIV, who finds a note in her locker that threatens to out her secret of living with HIV unless she ends things with her crush, Miles.
- I did not know much about HIV going into this book, and I think Full Disclosure explores living with HIV and how it shapes a person’s experience and life in a sensitive and genuine way. It offers well-researched insight of what it’s like to be a teen, and experiencing teenagehood, who lives with HIV.
- As well as being sex-positive, I also really liked the story explores Simone’s sexuality as she gradually begins to understand it. I thought it was nice, subtle, and really needed.
Rick by Alex Gino
Alex Gino’s books are always recommended during Pride, and if you’re looking for a MG story that has lessons on what it means to be queer, young, and questioning, then I think Rick is a great choice.
- Follows Rick, a young white boy who is just starting middle school this year! Rick has always felt uncomfortable with the idea of liking boys and girls, and when he learns about the Rainbow Spectrum club, he begins to question his identity.
- I think this book is a pretty solid choice to introduce younger readers to queer identities and issues. There are some safe discussions about pronouns, identifying, and what identities mean.
- This book has questioning and asexual representation! I really appreciated this because both representation is less represented in the rainbow spectrum and I think the exploration of these identities were really good.
Books with Questioning Representation That Are On My TBR!
Summer Bird Blue by Akemi Dawn Bowman
Rumi Seto spends a lot of time worrying she doesn’t have the answers to everything. What to eat, where to go, whom to love. But there is one thing she is absolutely sure of—she wants to spend the rest of her life writing music with her younger sister, Lea.
Then Lea dies in a car accident, and her mother sends her away to live with her aunt in Hawaii while she deals with her own grief. Now thousands of miles from home, Rumi struggles to navigate the loss of her sister, being abandoned by her mother, and the absence of music in her life. With the help of the “boys next door”—a teenage surfer named Kai, who smiles too much and doesn’t take anything seriously, and an eighty-year-old named George Watanabe, who succumbed to his own grief years ago—Rumi attempts to find her way back to her music, to write the song she and Lea never had the chance to finish.
It’s shameful that I haven’t read this yet, given how much I loved Akemi’s previous book, Starfish, I’m reading this before the end of the year, especially for its questioning rep and ace-aro representation!
The Best At It by Maulik Pancholy
Rahul Kapoor is heading into seventh grade in a small town in Indiana. The start of middle school is making him feel increasingly anxious, so his favorite person in the whole world, his grandfather Bhai, gives him some well-meaning advice: Find one thing you’re really good at. And become the BEST at it.
Those four little words sear themselves into Rahul’s brain. While he’s not quite sure what that special thing is, he is convinced that once he finds it, bullies like Brent Mason will stop torturing him at school. And he won’t be worried about staring too long at his classmate Justin Emery. With his best friend, Chelsea, by his side, Rahul is ready to crush this challenge… But what if he discovers he isn’t the best at anything?
I love queer middle-grade and I want to read more of it! The Best At It features a gay Indian-American main character who questions his identity! How often do we see MG books about questioning and is by and about a person of colour? Hardly ever – which is why I’m looking forward to reading it.
Books with Asexual and Aromantic Representation
Come Drink With Me by Michelle Kan
If you love the idea of aromantic fairytales, then you’ll love the Tales of the Thread series. Come Drink With Me is its first book and I loved it! If you want to learn more, I had the privilege of having the author, Michelle Kan, visit the Pond for Pride Month to talk about their aromantic fairytales!
- Follows a Dragon and a Phoenix and the beautiful and powerful bond they share. It’s about how powerful bonds can be, and how they can transcend time, space, and the physical plane. I loved these sort of themes, so this? really got to me.
- It’s a Chinese fairytale that integrates mythology and Chinese opera into its setting! And it’s so delightful and magical.
- This book is inherently aromantic and it is wonderful.
The Sound of Stars by Alechia Dow
I loved this book with my whole heart! I loved the demisexual representation in this, and I don’t think I’ve ever connected to a romance more. I had the pleasure of interviewing Alechia for Pride Month, where we talk about this book as well!
- Follows Ellie, a Black teen who runs a secret library, and M0R1s, an alien (named the Ilori) who, was raised to be emotionless, loves music. When her love for books and his love for music bring them together, they set off on a roadtrip to save the world.
- Set in a postapocalyptic world where aliens have invaded Earth and have prohibited all forms of art.
- Ellie is demisexual and the romance in this was stunning. I often struggle to connect to romances that don’t have emotional depth, so the fact that Ellie is demi and develops a romance that has such a strong and meaningful bond — I loved it.
Soft on Soft by Mina Waheed
If you love sapphic romances, one featuring a Black demisexual woman and a Persian pansexual woman, and soft stories, then nothing is lovelier and softer than Soft on Soft.
- About two fat and queer women – Selena, a Black model/actress, and June, a Persian make-up artist – and their lovely slow-burn romance.
- This book is a slice-of-life; there isn’t a distinct plot, but is centered on their budding relationship and the small but significant hoops and hurdles they overcome together.
- This is probably one of the most stress-free books I’ve read in a long time. It was just so lush and gentle.
Tarnished are the Stars by Rosiee Thor
If you’re looking for a solid YA science-fiction with a hint of steampunk, political intrigue, mystery, and a prominent aromantic and asexual character, then Tarnished are the Stars is a fantastic choice.
- After Earth was destroyed by technology, some humans have settled in a new planet, Earth-Adjacent, while aristocratic elite live in a space-station governed by Queen Elizabeth. However, the people who live in Earth-Adjacent are born with a congenital heart disease, caused by an element in the environment. I thought this was really interesting, and I liked how the worldbuilding had such a significant impact on the characters and their motivations.
- The story follows the three characters and how their stories and motivations and journeys converge and intertwine together, as they become unexpected allies to fight injustice.
- There are three main characters, and one of them is lesbian while another is aromantic and asexual!
Not Your Backup by C.B. Lee
Unsurprisingly, I’m recommending yet another C.B. Lee book for Pride Month! Though the third book in this series, Not Your Backup has a lovely and gentle asexual and aromantic subplot that I loved.
- Follows the Sidekick Squad as they work together to take down the corrupt League of Heroes. This book centres on Emma, the Latinx teen part of the Sidekick Squad!
- I love Emma because… well, she is me. A perfectionist, a little anxious, and is doing her best to prove that she can do a good job, even without her powers.
- Also explores being aromantic and asexual! I really loved this exploration through Emma’s character, and learned a lot about being ace and aro – and where I fit in these categories.
Technically, You Started It by Lana Wood Johnson
I think this may have been one of the first books that I read with demisexual (asexual) rep! Technically, You Started It is a charming story with a unique format for storytelling!
- Follows Haley, a demisexual teen, and Martin, a bisexual teen, whose texts about a class project evolves into an electric conversation and relationship. Almost like You’ve Got Mail, but teens and text messaging.
- There’s explicit discussions about sexuality (especially demisexuality, which we don’t see often!), and the way that it was done was really authentic and… sweet? I liked that a lot.
- I think the format worked very well for what the story was trying to say and for its emphasis and focus on the characters and their relationship.
Belle Révolte by Linsey Miller
If you love reading about new fantasy worlds and their magic systems featuring asexual sapphic representation, then you are in for a treat with Belle Révolte!
- Follows Annette and Emilie, two characters from different social classes who swap lives so they can pursue their ambitions. For Emilie it is in the noonday arts (medicine and warfare) and for Annette, it is the midnight arts (divination and scrying). When the two discover a corrupted plot with war on the horizon, they work together to survive and rebel.
- The magic was so fascinating (kind of a system of equivalent exchange!) and how it subverts heteronormativity and the idea that magic is gendered.
- The story features a trans love interest and one of them was ace – and I loved the ace rep and how affirming it was.
Goddess of the Hunt by Shelby Eileen
If you love queer poetry, then you’ll love Goddess of the Hunt! The words in this are so tender, soft, and empowering, and I loved the poetry in this.
- A poetry collection about Artemis, the Greek goddess of the hunt, and a poetic interpretation of Artemis’s vow of chastity as aromanticism and asexuality.
- Explores Artemis’s aromantic and asexual sexuality in a way that’s empowering, positive, and I found the words to be an immense comfort, warm, and so lovely.
Books with Asexual and Aromantic Representation That Are On My TBR!
Let’s Talk About Love by Claire Kann
Alice had her whole summer planned. Non-stop all-you-can-eat buffets while marathoning her favorite TV shows (best friends totally included) with the smallest dash of adulting–working at the library to pay her share of the rent. The only thing missing from her perfect plan? Her girlfriend (who ended things when Alice confessed she’s asexual). Alice is done with dating–no thank you, do not pass go, stick a fork in her, done.
But then Alice meets Takumi and she can’t stop thinking about him or the rom com-grade romance feels she did not ask for (uncertainty, butterflies, and swoons, oh my!).
When her blissful summer takes an unexpected turn, and Takumi becomes her knight with a shiny library employee badge (close enough), Alice has to decide if she’s willing to risk their friendship for a love that might not be reciprocated—or understood.
This has been a book I’ve been wanting to read for as long as I can remember, so putting this list has served as a good reminder that I need to read it soon! Let’s Talk About Love features a biromantic asexual Black woman! I love to see it.
Baker Thief by Claudie Arseneault
Adèle has only one goal: catch the purple-haired thief who broke into her home and stole her exocore, thus proving herself to her new police team. Little does she know, her thief is also the local baker.
Claire owns the Croissant-toi, but while her days are filled with pastries and customers, her nights are dedicated to stealing exocores. These new red gems are heralded as the energy of the future, but she knows the truth: they are made of witches’ souls.
When her twin—a powerful witch and prime exocore material—disappears, Claire redoubles in her efforts to investigate. She keeps running into Adèle, however, and whether or not she can save her sister might depend on their conflicted, unstable, but deepening relationship.
Claudie Arseneault’s books are wonderfully queer, and Baker Thief is one of them! Featuring two characters – one who is bigender and aromantic and the other who is demisexual, Baker Thief is the perfect story for those who love comic books, aromantic stories, and enemies-to-lovers.
Hazel’s Theory of Evolution by Lisa Jenn Bigelow
Hazel knows all about life on Earth. She could tell you anything from what earthworms eat to how fast a turkey can run. That’s because when she’s not hanging out with her best friend, Becca, or helping care for the goats on her family’s farm, she loves reading through dusty old encyclopedias. But even Hazel doesn’t have answers for the questions awaiting her as she enters eighth grade.
Due to redistricting, she has to attend a new school where she worries no one will understand her. And at home things get worse when she discovers one of her moms is pregnant. Hazel can’t wait to be a big sister, but her mom has already miscarried twice. Hazel fears it might happen again.
As Hazel struggles through the next few months, she’ll grow to realize that if the answers to life’s most important questions can’t be found in a book, she’ll have to find them within herself.
Doesn’t the premise sound so good? It’s middle-grade, about a baby ace, and how she learns and grows as things around her begin to change. I love middle grade stories that explore change, so I’ll definitely be reading this soon!
M.F.K. by Nilah Magruder
In a world of sleeping gods, a broken government, and a fragile peace held in the hands of the corrupt, one youth must find the strength to stand up against evil and save humanity.
This story is not about that youth.
It’s about Abbie, who just wants to get to the mountain range called the Potter’s Spine and scatter her mother’s ashes. But the way is filled with sandstorms, wild beasts, and rogues that wield inhuman powers and prey on poor desert dwellers. When one of these rogues threatens the town where Abbie takes refuge, she must choose between running, or unleashing her own hidden power to meet danger head-on.
Journeys are hard on the social recluses of the world.
Hello! Where has this graphic novel been all my life? Featuring a deaf and asexual character, this is a fantasy journey story that explores magic as a form of social power. In fact, you can read the graphic novel legally here!
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: