In celebration of Bisexual Awareness Week, I bring you a list of some of my favorite works by bisexual women — spanning genre from fiction to essays to memoir, these books are vibrant, boundary-breaking, and as intriguing as they are affirming. I strongly recommend curling up with one of these in your favorite café to celebrate Bisexual Visiblility Day today and all this week — settle in for some miso soup (what Ruby, the heroine of Eating Chinese Food Naked, drinks as comfort food) with maybe some biryani and chai for the second course (from Corona, by Bushra Rehman) and read some of these literary works. Let yourself entertain duality and multiplicity, remembering: we’re both.
Eating Chinese Food Naked, by Mei Ng
Similar in initial plot as another wonderful Asian American novel (Free Food for Millionaires, by the acclaimed novelist Min Jin Lee), the young female protagonist of Ng’s novel comes home to Queens from a fancy Ivy League college and is immediately faced with a moment of brutality, shame and lack of understanding from an otherwise-loving, less educated immigrant father. The description of the type of food Ruby fantasizes about cooking for her female crush (while still deciding whether to reconcile with her college boyfriend) is erotic, funny, and tender.
Orlando, by Virginia Woolf
I personally can’t look at Woolf as adoringly as I once did now that I’ve seen the racist fragments of her personal letters, but the fact remains that the novel Orlando is a work that can’t be left off any “bi women’s novels” list, a romp, a historical and speculation on gender (previsaging Jeffrey Eugenides’ Middlesex) and reportedly an amusement for the married Woolf’s own female lover.
Like Water, by Rebecca Podos
Like Water received a 2017 “Lammy” (Lambda Literary Award) for best bisexual young adult fiction. Savannah Espinoza’s life has become smaller and narrower since her fathers’ Huntington’s diagnosis, and she isn’t looking to make it any more complicated; but then she meets Leigh. Featuring a Latina heroine who works part-time as a mermaid in a water park, and a love interest who is fearlessly non-binary, this book has the sparkle and heft to transcend “YA” as a genre and simply be a luscious read.
Adaptation, by Malinda Lo
You likely already love Malinda Lo’s other books featuring queer girl protagonists, like Huntress and Ash. We also love her work with serialized fiction project Tremontaine and her creepy, delicious newest title A Line in the Dark. So of course Adaptation is great; it’s part of a bestselling science fiction series that places a bisexual female character (and resulting love triangle) at the center. Who can resist? Seductive Amber makes it even harder for Reese, during a hard time from an apocalyptic standpoint, to sort out good from evil and understand how to save the world.
Some of Us Did Not Die, by June Jordan
June Jordan, one of the first Black women poets of a movement dating to the 1960s who identified courageously as “bisexual,” published this collection of personal essays in 2003 and it’s just as fantastic to read now. This volume includes thoughts and works that span her career as a poet, activist, teacher, speaker and thinker, and discuss topics of identity and bisexuality as well as pressing cultural and political events like post-9/11 America and the O.J. Simpson trial, all in Jordan’s urgent and lyric voice.
Rip Off Red, by Kathy Acker
There had to be some work included here by Acker, who in this novella doesn’t perform the same acts of appropriation and “re writing” that she’s famous for in several other works. Of all three novellas that Grove Atlantic published posthumously, five years after Acker’s death from breast cancer, I enjoyed this one most for its fresh take on the “detective novel” subgenre as explored from the POV of a queer, radical feminist, playful woman.
I’m the One That I Want, by Margaret Cho
What a joy to discover that the film I found indelible: “Hi, I’m Marge. I’m here to WARSH your —”, etc. became a book, and a book I quote all the time (hashtag #IamtheonethatIwant). Cho’s humor about her Asian-American queer woman identity — bisexual and examining, at the same time, the consequences of being under a male gaze, alert to potential male partners as well — is a sly, gut-busting, completely convincing humor that (I believe) should have made her a lot more of an empire by now, if life were just.
My Education, by Susan Choi
It’s Regina, the biracial and newly-bisexual narrator of this novel, whose vibrant lust for the lovely, elusive, postpartum, vaguely narcissistic wife of a “hip” male academic, who animates this wonderful novel. I could not put it down. There is a real suspense Choi creates on the page, as Regina tears ruthlessly through one ‘experience’ after another, pushing aside even a newborn baby to seize the one she thinks she wants. Autostraddle included it as one of the Top Queer Feminist Books of 2013, and Casey has called it “deliciously wordy and juicy, kind of like a Victorian novel but about a biracial, bisexual American woman in the 90s and 2000s… a lovely book that really captures that head-over-heels feeling of being in love for the first time.”
Corona, by Bushra Rehman
It’s all about possibility, thrill-seeking, honesty, rebellion, rather than midlife or more realized bi women’s relationships in this novel of a Pakistani-American young woman coming of age one town over from the famed South Asian-American “ghetto,” Jackson Heights. Both towns are in Queens, but Rehman’s heroine, Farzia, goes on more far-flung adventures, including to Florida and the pages of forbidden porn. While Farzia’s parents tell her to “come home and get married or never come home again,” Farzia instead chooses to explore relationships, love and independence in a fraught mid-2000s America.
Abandon Me, by Melissa Febos
Febos’ essay collection is just so thoroughly brilliant, well-written, and awash with the ambivalence of two, two, always two. Mother and father eliding each other. Men and women; a female lover who’s perfidious, thrilling. I’ll end with these few sentences that, like this entire list, would leave any reader wanting more. Or make any reader more bi-, wanting both land and sea. … And what chance did I stand against the ocean? How many times had the sea taken my father, and left her eating the shore with her hands?