25 Books Relevant to Your Queer Feminist Interests Coming Out Spring 2020

Across much of the US spring is springing, and while it brings with it many new global concerns, seasonal allergies and outfit changes, it also brings many new books! Here are some of the most exciting and interesting books by, about, for, or otherwise relevant to queer women, nonbinary and trans readers – not an exhaustive list, by any means, but a good place to start! Many of us are intentionally spending more time indoors, and it’s a great time to pick up a new book – many authors are also suspending or reducing book tours and in-person events for public safety reasons, making it a more urgent time than usual to support queer creative projects and order or pre-order them when possible. If something grabs your eye, please do come back here and let us know how it was in the comments!

Fiction

We Had No Rules, Corinne Manning

In Corinne Manning’s stunning debut story collection, a cast of queer characters explore the choice of assimilation over rebellion. In this historical moment that’s hyperaware of and desperate to define even the slowest of continental shifts, when commitment succumbs to the logic of capitalism and nobody knows what to call each other or themselves—Gay? Lesbian? Queer? Partners? Dad?—who are we? And if we don’t know who we are, what exactly can we offer each other?

Read Max’s review of We Had No Rules!

Boys of Alabama, Genevieve Hudson

Writing in verdant and visceral prose that builds to a shocking conclusion, Genevieve Hudson “brilliantly reinvents the Southern Gothic, mapping queer love in a land where God, guns, and football are king” (Leni Zumas, author of Red Clocks). Boys of Alabama becomes a nuanced portrait of masculinity, religion, immigration, and the adolescent pressures that require total conformity.

Docile, KM Szpara

Elisha Wilder’s family has been ruined by debt, handed down to them from previous generations. His mother never recovered from the Dociline she took during her term as a Docile, so when Elisha decides to try and erase the family’s debt himself, he swears he will never take the drug that took his mother from him. Too bad his contract has been purchased by Alexander Bishop III, whose ultra-rich family is the brains (and money) behind Dociline and the entire Office of Debt Resolution. When Elisha refuses Dociline, Alex refuses to believe that his family’s crowning achievement could have any negative side effects―and is determined to turn Elisha into the perfect Docile without it.

Hex, Rebecca Dinerstein Knight

Nell Barber, an expelled PhD candidate in biological science, is exploring the fine line between poison and antidote, working alone to set a speed record for the detoxification of poisonous plants. Her mentor, Dr. Joan Kallas, is the hero of Nell’s heart. Nell frequently finds herself standing in the doorway to Joan’s office despite herself, mesmerized by Joan’s elegance, success, and spiritual force. Meanwhile, Nell slowly fills her empty apartment with poisonous plants to study, and she begins to keep a series of notebooks, all dedicated to Joan. She logs her research and how she spends her days, but the notebooks ultimately become a painstaking map of love. In a dazzling and unforgettable voice, Rebecca Dinerstein Knight has written a spellbinding novel of emotional and intellectual intensity.

Finna, Nino Cipri

When an elderly customer at a Swedish big box furniture store ― but not that one ― slips through a portal to another dimension, it’s up to two minimum-wage employees to track her across the multiverse and protect their company’s bottom line. Multi-dimensional swashbuckling would be hard enough, but those two unfortunate souls broke up a week ago. To find the missing granny, Ava and Jules will brave carnivorous furniture, swarms of identical furniture spokespeople, and the deep resentment simmering between them. Can friendship blossom from the ashes of their relationship? In infinite dimensions, all things are possible.

Read Jehan’s review of Finna!

Upright Women Wanted, Sarah Gailey

Esther is a stowaway. She’s hidden herself away in the Librarian’s book wagon in an attempt to escape the marriage her father has arranged for her―a marriage to the man who was previously engaged to her best friend. Her best friend who she was in love with. Her best friend who was just executed for possession of resistance propaganda.The future American Southwest is full of bandits, fascists, and queer librarian spies on horseback trying to do the right thing.

Deathless Divide, Justina Ireland

Katherine Deveraux never expected to be allied with Jane McKeene. But after the hell she has endured, she knows friends are hard to come by—and that Jane needs her too, whether Jane wants to admit it or not. Watching Jane’s back, however, is more than she bargained for, and when they both reach a breaking point, it’s up to Katherine to keep hope alive—even as she begins to fear that there is no happily-ever-after for girls like her.

The Subtweet, 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.

Apsara Engine, Bishakh Som

The eight delightfully eerie stories in Apsara Engine are a subtle intervention into everyday reality. A woman drowns herself in a past affair, a tourist chases another guest into an unforeseen past, and a nonbinary academic researches postcolonial cartography. Imagining diverse futures and rewriting old mythologies, these comics delve into strange architectures, fetishism, and heartbreak. Painted in rich, sepia-toned watercolors, Apsara Engine is trans illustrator Bishakh Som’s highly anticipated debut work of fiction. Showcasing a series of fraught, darkly humorous, and seemingly alien worlds—which ring all too familiar—Som captures the weight of twenty-first-century life as we hurl ourselves forward into the unknown.

Poetry

Postcolonial Love Poem, Natalie Díaz

Postcolonial Love Poem is an anthem of desire against erasure. Natalie Diaz’s brilliant second collection demands that every body carried in its pages―bodies of language, land, rivers, suffering brothers, enemies, and lovers―be touched and held as beloveds. Through these poems, the wounds inflicted by America onto an indigenous people are allowed to bloom pleasure and tenderness: “Let me call my anxiety, desire, then. / Let me call it, a garden.” In this new lyrical landscape, the bodies of indigenous, Latinx, black, and brown women are simultaneously the body politic and the body ecstatic. In claiming this autonomy of desire, language is pushed to its dark edges, the astonishing dunefields and forests where pleasure and love are both grief and joy, violence and sensuality.

Thresholes, Lara Mimosa Montes

Thresholes is both a doorway and an absence, a roadmap and a remembering. In this almanac of place and memory, Lara Mimosa Montes writes of her family’s past, returning to the Bronx of the 70s and 80s and the artistry that flourished there. What is the threshold between now and then, and how can the poet be the bridge between the two?

day/break, Gwen Benaway

day/break, Governor General’s Literary Award Winner Gwen Benaway’s fourth collection of work, explores the everyday poetics of the trans feminine body. Through intimate experiences and conceptualizations of trans life, day/break asks what it means to be a trans woman, both within the text and out in the physical world. Shifting between theory and poetry, Benaway questions how gender, sexuality, and love intersect with the violence and transmisogyny of the nation state and established literary institutions. In beautiful lyric verse, day/break reveals the often-unseen other worlds of trans life, where body, self, and sex are transformed, becoming more than fixed binary locations.

Memoir/Biography

Rust Belt Femme, Raechel Anne Jolie

Raechel Anne Jolie’s early life in a working-class Cleveland exurb was full of race cars, Budweiser-drinking men covered in car grease, and the women who loved them. After her father came home from his third-shift job, took the garbage out to the curb and was hit by a drunk driver, her life changed. Raechel and her mother struggled for money: they were evicted, went days without utilities, and took their trauma out on one another. Raechel escaped to the progressive suburbs of Cleveland Heights, leaving the tractors and ranch-style homes home in favor of a city with vintage marquees, music clubs, and people who talked about big ideas. It was the early 90s, full of Nirvana songs and chokers, flannel shirts and cut-off jean shorts, lesbian witches and local coffee shops. Rust Belt Femme is the story of how these twin foundations―rural Ohio poverty and alternative 90s culture―made Raechel into who she is today: a queer femme with PTSD and a deep love of the Midwest.

My Autobiography of Carson McCullers, Jenn Shapland

While working as an intern in the archives at the Harry Ransom Center, Jenn Shapland encounters the love letters of Carson and a woman named Annemarie―letters are that are tender, intimate, and unabashed in their feelings. Shapland recognizes herself in the letters’ language―but does not see Carson as history has portrayed her. And so, Shapland is compelled to undertake a recovery of the full narrative and language of Carson’s life: She wades through the therapy transcripts; she stays at Carson’s childhood home, where she lounges in her bathtub and eats delivery pizza; she relives Carson’s days at her beloved Yaddo. As Shapland reckons with the expanding and collapsing distance between her and Carson, she sees the way Carson’s story has become a way to articulate something about herself. The results articulate something entirely new not only about this one remarkable, walleyed life, but about the way we tell queer love stories.

Read Kate’s review of My Autobiography of Carson McCullers!

Save Yourself, Cameron Esposito

SAVE YOURSELF is full of funny and insightful recollections about everything from coming out (at a Catholic college where sexual orientation wasn’t in the nondiscrimination policy) to how joining the circus can help you become a better comic (so much nudity) to accepting yourself for who you are-even if you’re, say, a bowl cut-sporting, bespectacled, gender-nonconforming child with an eye patch (which Cameron was). Packed with heart, humor, and cringeworthy stories anyone who has gone through puberty, fallen in love, started a career, or had period sex in Rome can relate to, Cameron’s memoir is for that timid, fenced-in kid in all of us-and the fearless stand-up yearning to break free.

Essays and Nonfiction

Something That May Shock and Discredit You, Daniel Mallory Lavery

From a thoughtful analysis of the beauty of William Shatner to a sinister reimagining of HGTV’s House Hunters, and featuring figures as varied as Anne of Green Gables, Columbo, Nora Ephron, Apollo, and the cast of Mean Girls, Something That May Shock and Discredit You is a hilarious and emotionally exhilarating compendium that combines personal history with cultural history to make you see yourself and those around you entirely anew. It further establishes Lavery as one of the most innovative and engaging voices of his generation—and it may just change the way you think about Lord Byron forever.

Read Adrian’s interview with Danny about Something That May Shock and Discredit You!

The Pleasure Gap: American Women and the Unfinished Sexual Revolution, Katherine Rowland

Drawing on interviews with more than 120 women and dozens of sexual health professionals, Rowland considers how factors like education, bias in scientific research, social messaging, long-term monogamy, and sexual and gendered violence contribute to women’s sexual malaise. She finds no silver bullet to close the pleasure gap, but her wide-ranging foray into women’s sexuality makes it very clear that the epidemic of sexual dissatisfaction is about more than a few missing orgasms. It’s about the complex interaction between culture, biology, capitalism, history, and our shifting ideas about what is right and good and natural. It’s symptomatic of an unfinished revolution–and nobody should settle for it.

Wow, No Thank You, Sam Irby

Irby is forty, and increasingly uncomfortable in her own skin despite what Inspirational Instagram Infographics have promised her. She has left her job as a receptionist at a veterinary clinic, has published successful books and has been friendzoned by Hollywood, left Chicago, and moved into a house with a garden that requires repairs and know-how with her wife in a Blue town in the middle of a Red state where she now hosts book clubs and makes mason jar salads. This is the bourgeois life of a Hallmark Channel dream. She goes on bad dates with new friends, spends weeks in Los Angeles taking meetings with “tv executives slash amateur astrologers” while being a “cheese fry-eating slightly damp Midwest person,” “with neck pain and no cartilage in [her] knees,” who still hides past due bills under her pillow.

Thin Places, Jordan Kisner

When Jordan Kisner was a child, she was saved by Jesus Christ at summer camp, much to the confusion of her nonreligious family. She was, she writes, “just naturally reverent,” a fact that didn’t change when she—much to her own confusion—lost her faith as a teenager. A curiosity about the subtle systems guiding contemporary life pervades Kisner’s work. Her celebrated essay “Thin Places” (Best American Essays 2016), about an experimental neurosurgery developed to treat severe obsessive-compulsive disorder, asks how putting the neural touchpoint of the soul on a pacemaker may collide science and psychology with philosophical questions about illness, the limits of the self, and spiritual transformation. How should she understand the appearance of her own obsessive compulsive disorder at the very age she lost her faith?
Intellectually curious and emotionally engaging, the essays in Thin Places manage to be both intimate and expansive, illuminating an unusual facet of American life, as well as how it reverberates with the author’s past and present preoccupations.

DYKE (geology), Sabrina Imbler

Through intertwined threads of autofiction, lyric science writing, and the tale of a newly queer Hawaiian volcano, Sabrina Imbler delivers a coming out story on a geological time scale. This is a small book that tackles large, wholly human questions–what it means to live and date under white supremacy, to never know if one is loved or fetishized, how to navigate fierce desires and tectonic heartbreak through the rise and eventual eruption of a first queer love.”When two galaxies stray too near each other, the attraction between them can be so strong that the galaxies latch on and never let go. Sometimes the pull triggers head-on wrecks between stars–galactic collisions–throwing bodies out of orbit, seamlessly into space. Sometimes the attraction only creates a giant black hole, making something whole into a kind of missing.” In vivid, tensile prose, DYKE (GEOLOGY) subverts the flat, neutral language of scientific journals to explore what it means to understand the Earth as something queer, volatile, and disruptive.

YA and Middle Grade

Girl Crushed, Katie Heaney

Before Quinn Ryan was in love with Jamie Rudawski, she loved Jamie Rudawski, who was her best friend. But when Jamie dumps Quinn a month before their senior year, Quinn is suddenly girlfriend-less and best friend-less. Enter a new crush: Ruby Ocampo, the gorgeous and rich lead singer of the popular band Sweets, who’s just broken up with her on-again, off-again boyfriend. Quinn’s always only wanted to be with Jamie, but if Jamie no longer wants to be with her, why can’t Quinn go all in on Ruby? But the closer Quinn grows to Ruby, the more she misses Jamie, and the more (she thinks) Jamie misses her. Who says your first love can’t be your second love, too?

We Were Promised Spotlights, Lindsay Sproul

Taylor Garland’s good looks have earned her the admiration of everyone in her small town. She’s homecoming queen, the life of every party, and she’s on every boy’s most-wanted list. People think Taylor is living the dream, and assume she’ll stay in town and have kids with the homecoming king–maybe even be a dental hygienist if she’s super ambitious. But Taylor is actually desperate to leave home, and she hates the smell of dentists’ offices. Also? She’s completely in love with her best friend, Susan. Senior year is almost over, and everything seems perfect. Now Taylor just has to figure out how to throw it all away.

The Henna Wars, Adiba Jaigirdar

Nishat doesn’t want to lose her family, but she also doesn’t want to hide who she is, and it only gets harder once a childhood friend walks back into her life. Flávia is beautiful and charismatic, and Nishat falls for her instantly. But when a school competition invites students to create their own businesses, both Flávia and Nishat decide to showcase their talent as henna artists. In a fight to prove who is the best, their lives become more tangled―but Nishat can’t quite get rid of her crush, especially since Flávia seems to like her back. As the competition heats up, Nishat has a decision to make: stay in the closet for her family, or put aside her differences with Flávia and give their relationship a chance.

Don’t You Know I Love You, Laura Bogart

The last place Angelina Moltisanti ever wants to go is home. She barely escaped life under the roof, and the thumb, of her violent but charismatic father, Jack. Yet home is exactly where she ends up after an SUV plows into her car just weeks after she graduates from college, fracturing her wrist and her hopes to start a career as an artist. Angelina finds herself smothered in a plaster cast, in Jack’s obsessive urge to get her a giant accident settlement, in her mother Marie’s desperation to have a second chance, and in her own stifled creativity – until she meets Janet, another young artist who inspires her to push herself into making the dynamic, unsettling work that tells the story of her scars, inside and out. But excavating this damage, as relations with her father become increasingly tense, will push Angelina into making a hard choice: will she embrace her father’s all-consuming and empowering rage, or find another kind of strength?

The Ship We Built, Lexie Bean

Rowan has too many secrets to write down in the pages of a diary. He understands who he is and what he likes, but it’s not safe for others to find out. Now the kids at school say Rowan’s too different to spend time with. He’s not the “right kind” of girl, and he’s not the “right kind” of boy. His mom ignores him. And at night, his dad hurts him in ways he’s not ready to talk about yet. But Rowan discovers another way to share his secrets: letters. Letters he attaches to balloons and releases into the universe, hoping someone new will read them and understand. But when he befriends a classmate who knows what it’s like to be lonely and scared, even at home, Rowan realizes that there might already be a person he can trust right by his side.

Rachel is Autostraddle's Managing Editor and the editor who presides over news & politics coverage. Originally from Boston, MA, Rachel now lives in the Midwest. Topics dear to her heart include bisexuality, The X-Files and tacos. Her favorite Ciara video is probably "Ride," but if you're only going to watch one, she recommends "Like A Boy." You can follow her on twitter and instagram.

Rachel has written 1122 articles for us.

6 Comments

  1. I am looking to get a view on Upright Women Wanted because obvs the “queer librarian spies on horseback” is targeted directly at me, but also it’s a novella that’s like 176 pages but it is full expensive book price!

    I want to support authors, but it seems like there’s a lot of super short books going around for full price these days and it causes me an amount of moral quandary.

    • You could request it from your local library and then if you like it enough buy a copy. Libraries will usually buy most things patrons request if they’re not cost prohibitive. (Source: I’m in library school and have worked in libraries since I was 22)

    • I listened to the audiobook from my library.

      The author and tor have published novellas before. I found it a solid 3 out of 5. Starts well and ends at a good spot but there were many unanswered questions and some unfinished character arc by the end that I think could have been served by a longer book. But I by no means felt cheated by the length. More like I’d read the sequel.

  2. Just want to say that Danny Lavery’s book is great and I highly recommend it! Just really smart, wry, hilarious writing about culture both high and low.

    If you want a taste of his writing style, check out his newsletter The Shatner Chatner, where some of these essays were originally published.

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