67 of the Best Queer Books of 2020

2020 may have been an all-round terrible year, but it was a banner year for queer books. Here are 67 of them!


Comics / Graphic Novels and Memoirs

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The Times I Knew I Was Gay by Eleanor Crewes

This charming graphic memoir chronicles, as the titles cutely declares, the times when Eleanor Crewes’s knowledge of her gayness was unavoidable, wrapped up in her coming out and coming of age story. From wearing black, finding dating boys very confusing, and loving Willow on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, it seems clear in retrospect that all signs pointed to: gay.

SFSX (Safe Sex), Vol. 1: Protection by Tina Horn, Michael Dowling, Jen Hickman, Alejandra Gutierrez, and Tula Lotay

As the review on Autostraddle sums up, the first volume of SFSX “builds a purity-obsessed sci fi vision of our dystopian present.” In this dystopia, it’s sex workers who keep the magic alive in an underground club full of queers, kink, and fighting the oppressive government to free incarcerated friends.

The Low, Low Woods by Carmen Maria Machado and DaNi

In this horror comic, the town of “Shudder-to-Think,” Pennsylvania is plagued by a mysterious illness that steals memories. When BFFs El and Octavia discover they are the disease’s latest victims, they set out to cure themselves, and save their town from its own deep secrets and monsters.

Everything Is Beautiful, and I’m Not Afraid: A Baopu Collection by Yao Xiao

A hopeful queer comics collection was exactly what we all needed in 2020. Whether or not you’re already familiar with Xiao’s regular column on Autostraddle, this collection will be a delight: favorites published on this very website are included, as well as brand new comics about looking for belonging, finding life’s simple beauty, and the poetics of life as a young queer immigrant.


Fantasy / Horror

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Plain Bad Heroines by Emily M. Danforth

Queer girls have been waiting for Emily M. Danforth’s follow up to the YA The Miseducation of Cameron Post for what feels like forever and this genre pivot is perhaps unexpected but certainly not unwelcome. It’s a delightful mix of horror, comedy, history, and gothic that celebrates the lesbians in boarding school tradition, queer love, female rebellion, and storytelling itself. There is also wonderfully whimsical period-appropriate illustrations by Sara Lautman. Read Autostraddle’s full review.

The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin

The first book in brilliant speculative author N.K. Jemisin’s new “Great Cities” series is a unique take on urban fantasy in which the boroughs of New York are characters unto themselves. Literally. The Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens and Staten Island must come together to fight an ancient evil stirring beneath the earth.

Harrow the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir

The much anticipated follow-up to Gideon the Ninth turns to focus on Harrow the necromancer as she tries to continue amidst the wreckage of the Emperor’s haunted space station where she’s been left. Just like its predecessor, Harrow the Ninth somehow succeeds at combining searing poignancy with black magic, wacky references to 20th century Earth memes, and dysfunctional queer relationships. Lindsay Lee Wallace has done a full review on Autostraddle here.

The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart

The first book in the lush new series “The Drowning Empire,” The Bone Shard Daughter features Lin, the emperor’s daughter whose father has refused to recognize her as his heir. She has to turn to the forbidden art of bone magic to prove her own worth. At the same time, her father’s empire is crumbling and revolution is brewing.

The Empress of Salt and Fortune by Nghi Vo

This tightly plotted and lushly written fantasy follows a young royal woman’s journey to an arranged marriage, as told by her handmaiden. An indictment of the patriarchy as well as the monarchy, Nghi Vo’s debut interrogates themes of women’s anger, feminism, empire, and storytelling itself.

Hench by Natalie Zina Walschots

Who knew all what we all needed in superhero narratives was the story from the perspective of a queer henchwoman who uses her own superpower: spreadsheets. After losing her job as a supervillain office worker due to a hero’s actions, Anna turns her skills to investigating data on civilian injuries caused by heroes. Her discovery? The line between heroes and villains is mostly marketing.


Historical Fiction

How Much of These Hills Is Gold by C Pam Zhang

Set at the tail end of the American Gold Rush, Zhang’s debut novel follows two siblings newly orphaned after only recently immigrating. Leaving their western mining town, they set off to bury their father in a story the blends Chinese symbolism with unique prose and historical vividness.

The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue

Dublin in 1918 has been ravaged by both war and the influenza epidemic. There Julia Power, nurse and midwife, is in charge of her hospital’s flu maternity ward. Over the course of just a few days, two new women—a young volunteer and a controversial doctor—enter her life and become intertwined the thrilling, graphic stories of life and death.

The Mercies by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

In a small Norwegian coastal village in the 1600s, a terrible accident at sea has killed all their community’s men, except the very young and old. The women pull together and take charge of their town, but three years later a Scottish witch hunter and his Norwegian wife arrive under ominous circumstances.

Literary Fiction

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You Exist Too Much by Zaina Arafat

With such a striking and poignant title—pulled from what the protagonist’s mother says to her after she comes out—it’s no wonder Arafat’s debut has garnered such acclaim. The story is told in vignettes giving snapshots of the life of a Palestinian American young woman, moving from New York to Lebanon, Jordan, and Palestine. Check out this interview with Zaina Arafat on Autostraddle about queer Arabs taking up space.

Bestiary by K-Ming Chang

In this poetic magical realist tale of three generations of Taiwanese American women, Chang traces themes of migration, queer lineage, and girlhood. It centers on a folk tale that appears to be true. One night, Mother tells Daughter a story about the spirit of a tiger that lived in the body of a woman. Daughter wakes up with a tiger tail.

Thin Girls by Diana Clarke

This dark provocative debut follows twin sisters Rose and Lily as they each deal with the misogynist pressures of American beauty standards and toxic diet culture. Moving in different directions—living in an anorexia habilitation center, searching for fulfillment in abusive partners, joining fad diet cults—Rose and Lily learn that they can once again lean on their bond of sisterhood and friendship to save each other and themselves.

Butter Honey Pig Bread by Francesca Ekwuyasi

Spanning three continents, two generations and many diverse lives, Butter Honey Pig Bread tells the story of three Nigerian women: a mother, Kambirinachi, and her twin daughters, Kehinde and Taiye. Themes of homecoming, trauma, sisterhood, queerness, food, and more emerge in Ekwuyasi’s gorgeous prose.

Fiebre Tropical by Juliana Delgado Lopera

A uniquely multilingual Spanglish novel set in Miama, Fiebre Tropical covers a Colombian queer teen’s coming of age—and coming into lust and evangelicalism. As her mother falls into the clutches of a church, Francisca fall in love with the pastor’s daughter.

Polar Vortex by Shani Mootoo

Mooto’s latest novel is a brilliantly dark, twisty psychological thriller about a longterm lesbian relationship on its way out. It’s also about complicated, fraught friendships, mainstream white discourse about queer sexuality and identity, refugee experiences, and the triple effects of sexism, racism, and homophobia on queer women of colour. Check out this review and interview with Shani Mootoo

Zigzags by Kamala Puligandla

Can you believe our very own editor-in-chief Kamala Puligandla wrote this one?? The tender, life-giving novel traces a summer in the life of Aneesha, as she returns to Chicago to write, revel in old friendships, attend dance parties, bike home at night from dive bars, and maybe rekindle things with an old flame.

The Subtweet by Vivek Shraya

This majestic new novel by the multi-talented artist shows that Vivek Shraya remains an original, as Drew writes in her review for Autostraddle. In sharp, modern prose Shraya tackles professional jealousy between women, brown female friendship, the pleasures and price of making art, social media and call-out culture, and more.


Memoir / Biography

Like a Boy But Not a Boy by Andrea Bennett

Andrea Bennett’s debut book is an important intervention into mental health and parenthood memoir from a nonbinary perspective. Told in 14 essays, Like a Boy But Not a Boy also interrogates creativity, class, doing your own bike mechanics, and mortality.

Untamed by Glennon Doyle

As Heather wrote in her review for Autostraddle, Glennon Doyle’s memoir is “a gay love story about a grown-ass woman who does what the fuck she wants.” She begins with the idea that women are culturally conditioned to be good; then rejects it in order to claim her untamed self.

Fairest by Meredith Talusan

A trans immigrant memoir that blows the conventions of both subgenres out of the water, Fairest chronicles Meredith Talusan’s life growing up in the Philippines with albinism, moving to the US, and realizing “that womanhood itself might be the vessel that best contained [her] being.” She combines her life story with insightful reflections on class, race, gender, and sexuality.

Funeral Diva by Pamela Sneed

Pamela Sneed’s searing, poetic memoir tackles coming of age during the AIDS epidemic and the culture and art that shaped and was shaped by that time—late 1980s—and place: New York City. Honing in on queer Black life, Sneed reaches out both to her queer Black forebears like James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, and Audre Lorde as well as her own lovers.

Lady Romeo: The Radical and Revolutionary Life of Charlotte Cushman, America’s First Celebrity by Tana Wojczuk

As we learn in the review on Autostraddle by Luna Adler Charlotte Cushman was a “leading man of the 19th century,” although you might have never heard of her. Tana Wojczuk dives into Cushman’s well-off, bohemian, white queer, genderfluid life in this rich biography.


Middle Grade

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The Ship We Built by Lexie Bean

Lexie Bean wrote on Autostraddle about their experience writing the book and how the experience helped them come out. The Ship We Built is about Rowan, who isn’t “the right kind of girl” or “the right kind of boy.” Rowan wants to reach out, and so writes letters, attaches them to helium balloons and lets them go into the world. Then a new classmate arrives who might be the first person to understand Rowan.

Kenzie Kickstarts a Team by Kit Rosewater and Sophie Escabasse

The first book in a new illustrated novel series focused on roller derby, Kenzie Kickstarts a Team introduces us to ten-year-old BFFS Shelly and Kenzie as they try to gather members for their new team. Complications ensue with jealousy in their friendship, disagreements about who are the best candidates, and Kenzie’s just discovered crush on Bree, who Shelly wants for the team. Also featuring a trans dad!

Beetle & the Hollowbones by Aliza Layne

Beetle & the Hollowbones is a gorgeously colored graphic novel perfect for Halloween season. Can goblin witch Beetle and skeleton sorceress Kat save their nonbinary friend Ghost Blob, defeat the villain Marla, and admit their feelings for each other? Can kindly old healer midwife witch Gran bring back the badass sorcery from her youth?

Snapdragon by Kat Leyh

In this magical realist and just plain magical graphic novel, Snap becomes friends with the town witch, Jacks, and discovers that she might have some magic inside her too. And it turns out that Jacks may have an improbable connection to Snap’s past.

In the Role of Brie Hutchens… by Nicole Melleby

Brie Hutchens is a big soap opera fan, a student actor, and an okay student in the eighth grade at her Catholic school. When her mom walks in on her looking at maybe inappropriate photos of Brie’s favorite actress, she tries to distract her mom with a big lie: she’s been selected to crown the Mary statue at the school May Crowning ceremony.


Mystery / Thriller

The Adventures of Isabel by Candas Jane Dorsey

In the first installment of Candas Jane Dorsey’s postmodern, clever, and self-consciously mystery genre Epitome Apartments series, The Adventures of Isabel follows unnamed, snarky, grammar-conscious, tell-it-like-it-is bisexual social worker turned amateur detective. She unwittingly gets drawn into the mystery of her friend’s granddaughter’s death. Featuring an almost all queer cast!

They Never Learn by Layne Fargo

Scarlett Clark is a very accomplished English professor; she’s even better at murder. Every year, she finds the most despicable man on campus and meticulously plans to kill him. As her latest murder plan goes awry, her story intersects with that of a first year student looking for revenge against the man who sexually assaulted her best friend.

Vera Kelly Is Not a Mystery by Rosalie Knecht

“A gay noir must-read” according to Kate Gorton’s review on Autostraddle, the second book in Rosalie Knecht’s Cold War-set mystery series picks up in 1967 New York with lesbian spy Vera Kelly. There is just as much complex, smart action as the first book, but with more tender exploration of heartache.

Once You Go This Far by Kristen Lepionka

The fourth installment in Lepionka’s exceptional series featuring bisexual PI Roxane Weary follows Roxane as she looks into a so-called hiking accident that leads to investigating a culty fundamentalist church, a Canadian casino, and a charismatic politician who runs a women’s health organization. Lepionka delicately balances page-turning pacing, intricate and twisty plot, and complex fascinating characterization.

The Lady Upstairs by Halley Sutton

In this dark debut thriller, we’re introduced to Jo, whose job involves blackmailing terrible men in L.A. Eager to prove herself to her boss, known only as “the lady upstairs,” Jo takes on bigger and more dangerous cases, only to find her latest targets murdered. To avoid the wrath of both the LAPD and the lady upstairs, Jo risks it all to pull off her hugest con yet—behind her boss’s back.


Non-Fiction

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Ace: What Asexuality Reveals About Desire, Society, and the Meaning of Sex by Angela Chen

Autostraddle readers were lucky enough to get a glimpse of Angela Chen’s incisive thinking and unique analysis in her piece on asexuality and consent. It’s exactly what you get, and more, in her full length book harnessing an ace perspective to interrogate contemporary culture surrounding sexuality and desire.

Tomboyland by Melissa Faliveno

Faliveno’s collection of essays tackles a variety of issues including gender, class, desire, home, identity, and stories centred in her growing up in the working class American Midwest. Combining personal narrative and insider cultural reporting, Faliveno dives into the intersections of identity, place, and mythology with crystal clarity and bare intimacy.

Wow, No Thank You by Samantha Irby

Samantha Irby’s latest collection was a balm to 2020’s soul: hilarity, realness, and poignancy. With her usual self-deprecating humor and brutally honest self-awareness, she navigates the perplexities of home ownership, the round about way she got published, friend dates, writing for the TV show Shrill, queer fat identity, unsuccessfully trying to sell her own TV show, and Crohn’s disease.

Female Husbands: A Trans History by Jen Manion

Delving into a time before people used terms like transgender or lesbian, Female Husbands takes on the 18th and 19th century lives, loves, struggles, and resistance of people known as female husbands. To quote trans historian Morgan M. Page, Jen Manion’s book does a “huge amount of work pushing back beyond the earlier histories of trans people that situation trans as a post-1930s, largely white phenomenon.”

Beyond Survival: Strategies and Stories from the Transformative Justice Movement by Ejeris Dixon and Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha

Abeni’s review for Autostraddle explores how Ejeris Dixon and Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha’s book does the immense work of addressing the big questions of transformative justice and activist communities: “what do we do about harm and abuse if the criminal justice system is racist, sexist, transantagonistic, whorephobic, xenophobic, ableist? If it perpetuates and exacerbates harm rather than resolving, solving, or healing it?”

My Autobiography of Carson McCullers by Jenn Shapland

In this unique blend of biography, memoir, and literary criticism, Jenn Shapland dives into Carson McCullers’ life to find that which is gay. Read a full review on Autostraddle, where Kate Gorton writes that this book “above all else, … is a love story: or, better still, this is a story about love and all the forms it can take.”


Poetry

The Gospel of Breaking by Jillian Christmas

This incredible, beautiful collection of poems very much feels like its roots are in slam poetry but they work so well on the page. Jillian Christmas’s inventive lyricism and images go straight to the heart and gut as she writes about reclaiming spirituality as a queer person; the pain of living in a racist, sexist, homophobic world; Black joy; depression; and more. She writes: “What dainty fish-hooks have danced in your heart / dangling the whimpering shadow of which sadness / what tiny worries.”

My Art Is Killing Me and Other Poems by Amber Dawn

This exquisite, hard-hitting collection of poetry is full of an ample amount of free verse experimentation as Amber Dawn writes about the burden and joys of writing from the perspective of a woman, a queer person, a survivor, and a sex worker. Poetry might be a queer femme: “I wouldn’t mind if poetry mimicked racing tipsy down the subway stairs / in platform heels to barely catch the last train of the night.”

Postcolonial Love Poem by Natalie Díaz

In Dani’s review of Natalie Díaz’s collection she calls it “the love poem for our lives.” The topics of Postcolonical Love Poem are as varied as Díaz’s brother, romantic love, steamy lust, violence towards and erasure of Indigenous people, and basketball. While she often harnesses her expansive vocabulary, Díaz also breathes meaning into simple words: “I am doing my best to not become a museum / of myself. I am doing my best to breathe in / and out. / I am begging: Let me be lonely but not / invisible.

ZOM-FAM by Kama La Mackerel

Taking its title from the Mauritian Kreol word for transgender, Kama La Mackerel’s debut poetry book is a gorgeous collection of narrative, lyrical poems. The poems center on a gender creative, queer, trans, femme coming of age on the island of Mauritius. They explore looking for and imagining trans ancestry, the joy of trans identity, and celebrating resistance: “it is in these spaces you learn / that resilience is not the silent bruise under your skin / but the hallowed space lodged inside your breastbone.”

Homie by Danez Smith

Themes of friendship, Black identity, queerness, solidarity, intimacy, and suicidal ideation dominate Danez Smith’s latest collection. Playing with syntax, imagery, and passionate emotion, Smith embodies exhilaration and joy even while they address pain. They tell us: “here, standing in my own body, i say: next time / they murder us for the crime of their imaginations / i don’t know what i’ll do. / i did not come to preach of peace / for that’s not the hunted’s duty.”


Romance

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Written in the Stars by Alexandria Bellefleur

In this very fun rom-com loose contemporary retelling of Pride and Prejudice, modern day Darcy is an uptight actuary who goes on a disastrous blind date. Elle, a social media astronomer, agrees, which is why she’s flabbergasted to hear from Darcy’s brother—and her new business partner—that he’s glad the date went so well. Fake dating and sapphic hate-to-love ensue.

Spindrift by Anna Burke

Set in summertime Maine, this lovely romance is about two women overcoming their own heartbreak and falling in love with each other at the same time. Morgan’s fiancée broke up with her when she realized Morgan’s job as a vet would always come first. Emilia is a vet too, burnt out and reeling from her father’s death.

A World Between by Emily Hashimoto

A World Between is the kind of queer love story that takes years to come to fruition. Eleanor Suzuki and Leena Shah first meet in college, become friends, and have a whirlwind romance. Years later, they meet again as adults, each separately partnered. Yet they are still intensely drawn to each other. In addition to the romance, there’s a lot to enjoy in Hashimoto’s unique use of language.

The Care and Feeding of Waspish Widows by Olivia Waite

Olivia Waite is single-handedly doing leaps and bound to insert queer women into mainstream historical romance. The second in her “Feminine Pursuits” series follows Agatha Griffin, a grumpy widow and owner of a print shop, and Penelope Flood, a beekeeper who defies the gender norms of 19th century England by going about in trousers. A colony of bees in Agatha’s warehouse bring them together.

Something to Talk About by Meryl Wilsner

This delightful and very real queer romance set in Hollywood is a love story between a showrunner and her assistant. Beautifully and thoughtfully done, Something to Talk About addresses the power dynamics of a boss/employee relationship, burns realllly slow, integrates interesting #MeToo and career subplots, and features a bisexual Jewish woman and a Chinese American lesbian.


Science Fiction / Speculative

Unconquerable Sun by Kate Elliott

This incredibly intricate, deftly weaved space opera has a majority queer cast, not surprising since it was conceived as a gender-swapped retelling of Alexander the Great. Unconquerable Sun has an action-packed plot of political scheming and fight scenes, thorough unique world-building, and fascinating complex women characters who are not squeezed into likability or palatability.

Everyone on the Moon Is Essential Personnel by Julian K. Jarboe

Julian K. Jarboe’s speculative collection of short stories includes fairy tales infused with body horror, stories of working class queer resistance, Catholic cyberpunk set in mid-apocalypse, and queer fabulism. In gorgeous prose, Jarboe investigates themes like body autonomy, (trans)gender transformation, and the “urgent question of how to build and nurture meaning, love, and safety in a larger world/society that might not be ‘fixable.’”

The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson

In the protagonist Cara’s future world, multiverse travel has finally been made possible. The only caveat? You can’t visit any universe where your counterpart is still alive. Cara’s other selves seem to have a propensity to die, so she’s a perfect candidate. But as she works for the shady Eldridge Institute, she uncovers a plot that might endanger every multiverse. Themes of identity, privilege, and belonging are deftly explored.

Phoenix Extravagant by Yoon Ha Lee

Yoon Ha Lee’s latest book is a delightful, unique mix of steampunk and folk tale set in a fictional country heavily inspired by Korea under Japanese occupation. Gyen Jebi, a nonbinary artist oblivious to the world outside of art, finds themselves caught up in a political revolution they have no interest in. They also end up in a found family of sorts with a prime duelist and a mechanical dragon who loves philosophy.

Love After the End: An Anthology of Two-Spirit and Indigiqueer Speculative Fiction by Joshua Whitehead

This groundbreaking anthology offers a breathtaking selection of unique SFF stories by Indigenous authors from across Turtle Island, including Darcie Little Badger, Mari Kurisato, Kai Minosh Pyle, David Alexander Robertson, and jaye simpson. The collection sets out to “show how queer Indigenous communities can bloom and thrive through utopian narratives that detail the vivacity and strength of 2SQness throughout its plight in the maw of settler colonialism’s histories”; that’s exactly what it does.


Young Adult Contemporary / Historical

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Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender

Felix Ever After is a beautiful example of the kinds of rich, nuanced QTPOC storytelling currently happening in contemporary YA. Felix, a Black queer trans demiboy, is allowed to make mistakes, have doubts about how he doesn’t fit into the “always known” trans narrative, struggle with being an artist, and fall in love.

The Henna Wars by Adiba Jaigirdar

While readers can look forward to a happily-ever-after in this contemporary romance and self-discovery story, there is a lot of heartache on the journey. Nishat is a Muslim teen whose parents who don’t support her queer identity. Things get even more complicated when her old best friend, Flávia, returns to Nishat’s school and starts a rival henna business—even though Flávia is appropriating Nishat’s culture.

You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson

Liz Lighty’s story of losing the scholarship she was depending on to go to college and deciding to throw caution to the wind and enter her school’s Prom Queen competition, which comes along with a cash prize, is an absolutely delightful, heartwarming story. Although she’s too often felt too Black, too poor, and too socially awkward to even contemplate something like running for prom queen, Liz is about to learn what she’s made of. Johnson achieves a delicate balance of content about family, romance, and career dreams; you can read about where some of these themes came from in her moving, vulnerable personal essay for Autostraddle.

I’ll Be the One by Lyla Lee

Bisexual Korean American teen Skye’s dream is to be the first plus-size K-Pop star. But when she gets through the audition process and finds herself practising nonstop, coming up against the industry’s fatphobia, and falling for her fellow competitor Henry (also bisexual!), she’s in for more than she bargained for. It’s a treat to get such a nuanced look at the journey to fat-positivity, relationships between bi people, and the trauma of fatphobic parenting.

Late to the Party by Kelly Quindlen

This wonderfully warm and heartfelt YA is about growing beyond the person your friends from kindergarten know you to be, first queer kisses, and queer solidarity friendship between Codi and her BFFs JaKory and Maritza (lesbian, gay, and bi respectively) . When Codi forms an accidental friendship with a closeted popular guy, she meets a girl and finally starts having the kind of teenage adventures she thought she might never have. The only problem? She never tells JaKory and Maritza.


Young Adult Science Fiction / Fantasy / Horror

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Elatsoe by Darcie Little Badger

Lipan Apache author Darcie Little Badger’s debut YA novel takes place in a United States shaped by the mythologies, magic, epistemologies, and monsters of its Indigenous and settler peoples. Elatsoe, the asexual main character, has the ability to raise animal ghosts, a skill she inherited from her Lipan Apache family. After the death of her cousin, Elatsoe is determined to solve the murder. The enchanting story and characters are accompanied by equally enchanting illustrations.

Cinderella Is Dead by Kaylnn Bayron

This unique retelling of Cinderella takes place 200 years after the original story and is all about queer Black girls in love overthrowing the patriarchy. When 16-year-old Sophia escapes the ceremony of forced marriage that is the norm for her culture, she teams up with Constance, the last known descendant of Cinderella. Love, politics, and ass kicking ensue.

The Scapegracers by Hannah Abigail Clarke

The Scapegracers turns the tropes of mean girl high school social hierarchies and lesbian teen witchery on their heads. Sideways, said teen lesbian witch who is also a major outcast, gets sweep up in a popular girls clique. They create a coven, working together to curse dudebros and elude the fundamentalist witch hunters. They become a “mercilessly supportive” group, but for Sideways the supernatural peril is easier to deal with than the complications of authentic relationships.

The Art of Saving the World by Corinne Duyvis

In Corinne Duyvis’s latest sci fi adventure, Hazel Stancza is one girl in all the world, and it is her task alone to try to save the world. Well, hers and her three doppelgangers from other dimensions who have entered Hazel’s world via an interdimensional rift from which Hazel has never been permitted to stray far. Allowed away from home for the first time, Hazel ventures out unsure if even four of her can be heroic.

The Midnight Lie by Marie Rutkoski

Marie Rutkoski’s lush fantasy is set in a beautiful but terrifying oppressive world where half-kith (read: lower class) citizens have to pay tithes for any crime. Nirrim is a half-kith young woman who is arrested and sent to jail, where she meets Sid, a woman thief who helps her discover life can be different and about midnight lies: “a kind of lie told for someone else’s sake, a lie that sits between goodness and wrong, just as midnight is the moment between night and morning.”


What were your favorite queer books in 2020? Please chime in in the comments!

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Known in some internet circles as Casey the Canadian Lesbrarian, Casey Stepaniuk is a writer and librarian who holds an MA in English literature. She writes regularly for Book Riot and Inside Vancouver about LGBTQ2IA+ and/or bookish topics as well as a monthly column about queer books at Autostraddle called Ask Your Friendly Neighborhood Lesbrarian. Topics and activities dear to her heart include cats, bisexuality, libraries, queer (Canadian) literature, running, and drinking tea. She runs the website Casey the Canadian Lesbrarian, where you can find reviews of queer Canadian books, archives of Ask Your Friendly Neighbourhood Lesbrarian, and some other queer, bookish stuff. Find her on Twitter, Goodreads, Facebook, and Tumblr.

Casey has written 74 articles for us.

38 Comments

  1. A monumental list! Thanks for all your efforts in compiling this Casey! Just maxed out my holds adding all the things I’ve missed this year.

    Also I am failing at resisting the urge to say I wish there had been 2 more books…

  2. I’d add in no particular order…
    Whispering Wildwood – Emma Sterner-Radley {fantasy}
    Wrong number, Right Woman – Jae {romance}
    Reaping the Benefits – EJ Noyes {fantasy, romance}
    Dirt Nap – Carolyn Elizabeth {mystery}
    While my Heart Beats – Erin McKenzie {historical}
    Children of the Stars – K. Aten {fantasy}
    Nottingham: The True Story of Robyn Hood – Anna Burke {historical}
    The Deep and Dark Blue – Niki Smith {juvenile graphic novel}

  3. “Forget This Ever Happened” is a historical (well, the 90s) spec fic starring Claire, a teenager sent to a tiny Gulf Coast town to take care of her mean-as-a-snake granny. Featuring alien creatures, hypnosis, and a crush that transcends all.

    “Miss Meteor” by A-M McLemore and Tehlor Kay Mejia. Two former best friends Lita- a star-turned-human fighting to stay on the ground- and Chicky -a butchy outcast from their pageant obsessed town- team up to produce the first-ever Latina winner of their town’s annual beauty pageant, Miss Meteor. Featuring: friendship resurrection! Tender feelings between artists! Confrontations of homophobia and transphobia! Aliens!

    I’m going to triple recommend “You Should See Me In A Crown” because I loved it SO MUCH.

    “Super Adjacent” by Crystal Cestari. Superhero super fan Claire wins the most coveted internship of all time- working for the Warrior Nation superhero group headquarters. the biggest problem? WarNat’s newest hero, the egotistical and very cute Joy, aka Girl Power. Featuring: disillusionment with heroes! Dual romances stories! Two girls becoming best friends because they’re both dating superheroes! Kidnapping! Trope subversion!

  4. On this list that I’ve read:
    The Low, Low Woods: I LOVE CMM so much. Sometimes when writers try to write comics there’s some awkwardness, but she took to this genre really well. The art was gorgeous too.

    The Bone Shard Daughter: I loved this book. I loved Lin and the slow horror she faced. Also, btw the blurb doesn’t make it clear but there are two lesbian characters: Phalue, a butch gentlewoman, and Ranami, her activist gf. I loved them both. I also loved Jovis and Sand lol. I actually liked all the POV characters for once.

    The Mercies: This book made me cry, it was so good. It’s definitely dark and anything but a lighthearted read.

    You Exist Too Much: Another tearjerker. I loved it so much. As someone with mom issues, this definitely hit home.

    My Autobiography of Carson McCullers: I never heard of Carson McCullers before this, but Shapland’s investigation of her was amazing. I loved the discussion about archives in it.

    Postcolonial Love Poem: I’ll be honest, I don’t care fo poetry. However, there were several poems in this collection I loved.

    The Space Between Worlds: I theoretically loved the f/f relationship in this book but I wanted more on the page. The main character is a MESS and I love her for it.

    Unconquerable Sun: I didn’t finish this.

    I’ll Be The One: Also didn’t finish his. I don’t care for m/f romances at all.

    2020 books not on this list:
    The Contradictions: Loved the art, story was okay. I think it’s a memoir? I don’t remember.

    What Would Frida Do?: This was such a disappointing book. It was a glossy coated, capitalism damaged take on Frida Kahlo’s life without major discussion of her politics/mistakes.

    The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue: I would have loved it if it wasn’t so focused on het relationships. I wanted more Addie free from Death and the boring guy who I can’t recall his name.

    Iron Heart (sequel to Crier’s War): I don’t generally like YA, but I really enjoyed this one. It’s fantasy but with robots and the two characters are a robot princess (lol) and a human girl who hates robots. I LOVED the queen, who is a giant spoiler to discuss further.

    Yellow Jessamine: I LOVED THIS NOVELLA. There’s one point that was a little…. contrived but it was a fantastic story.

    The Obsidian Tower: Honestly? Another YA fantasy book I enjoyed.

    The Animals at Lockwood Manor: Another gothic horror-esque book. Entertaining and also kind of devastating.

    The Unspoken Name: Ex-virgin priestess orc for repressed human assassain general. Pretty entertaining.

    Stormsong: Imagine interwar Britain but in a second world setting with fairies and a discussion of colonialism and magic. Actually well done discussions, too. The first book is m/m and also great.

    The Seep: Weird scifi first contact story, mostly about grief, made me think.

    Honorable mentions (Either not f/f or were published before 2020 but I read them this year):
    Cantoras: I reread this book last week and it’s still amazing.

    Hangsaman: a little boring in parts but also very compelling. It’s got major Heavenly Creatures vibes.

    Tender is the Flesh: Disgusting. Amazing. Terrifying.

    Wilder Girls: I love any book where a gay couple and their bff fuck people over to save themselves. Also,brutal and viscerally disgusting. This is the Lord of the Flies but girls book I’ve wanted, where it’s not ‘teehee LotF with girls would actually just be them saving themselves bc girls get along’.

    I hope We Choose Love: Fantastic. I liked some essays more than others but I highly recommend.

    The Graveyard Apartment: Really good horror story about a creepy apartment building.

    The Hollow Places: soooo creepy.

    The Stars Are Legion/The Light Brigade: I love Kameron Hurley and I wish she was paid to write more books.

    The Only Good Indians: Fantastic!

    How to Do Nothing: Such a good “self” “help” book.

    Mexican Gothic: I love Silvia Moreno-Garcia. One day I hope she writes a gay character. At this point I’d even take a side character who shows up for one scene.

    The House in the Cerulean Sea: Very cute and charming! If you want gay and heartwarming, read this. There’s a side f/f couple.

    The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo: If you want Millennium Actress but bi, read this. I loved that Evelyn was never redeemed. She was complex and messy the entire time.

    The Magical Language of Others: Memoir about language, moms, and more. Another book I sobbed through.

    A Memory Called Empire: Entertaining scifi. Also might be f/f? I think?

  5. I think I’ve only read two of these but they were both great – The Care and Feeding of Waspish Widows by Olivia Waite and You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson.

    I’d add The Wolf and the Girl by Aster Glenn Gray – an f/f queer re-imagining of Little Red Riding Hood set in pre revolutionary 20th C Russia. It’s a lovely, deceptively simple novella.

    I’ve also bought, but not read, the new f/f benefit anthology Her Magical Pet. It has a hilariously bad cover but some excellent fantasy and romance authors, so I’m hopeful it will become a favorite of 2020. If any year deserves happy queer women with magical pets, it’s this year.

  6. I loved You Should See Me in a Crown and Felix Ever After. Another one of my favourite queer books of this year was Faith Taking Flight by Julie Murphy and I’m currently reading another one from this year, The Falling in Love Montage by Ciara Smyth.

  7. Glad to see Anna Burke’s novel published by lesbian press, Bywater Books. Wondering if you can think about how many of these books you listed are published by mainstream houses and focus a bit more on queer publishers (Bold Strokes, Bella, Ylva, Sapphire, etc.) and indies. There’s a lot of great books you miss by just looking at the big houses.

    • Hi Cindy! Thank you for your feedback. I received an email asking a similar question, so I’m going to paste here my response that’s relevant:

      I appreciate that it hurts especially to not see many books by the queer indie publishers you were expecting on a list from a queer publication. I could have made an effort to include a couple more books in the romance and mystery genres in particular by the queer women presses you mention, so thank you for the reminder! I will keep this in mind for future lists.

      I would like to point out, though, that there are many books on the list published by queer and/or POC and/or feminist / other progressive independent publishers (in addition to Bywater Books which you mentioned). A number of these are Canadian, so you may not be aware of them:

      Arsenal Pulp Press (queer POC indie): Like a Boy But Not a Boy by andrea bennett; My Art is Killing Me by Amber Dawn; The Gospel of Breaking by Jillian Christmas; Butter Honey Pig Bread by Francesca Ekwuyasi; Love after the End edited by Joshua Whitehead

      Metonymy Press (queer indie): ZOM-FAM by Kama La Mackeral

      Book*Hug Press (feminist indie): Polar Vortex by Shani Mootoo

      ECW Press (indie): The Subtweet by Vivek Shraya; The Adventures of Isabel by Candas Jane Dorsey

      Andrews McNeel (indie): Everything is Beautiful and I’m Not Afraid by Yao Xiao

      Not a Cult (queer POC indie): Zigzags by Kamala Puligandla

      Feminist Press (feminist POC indie): Fiebre Tropical by Juli Delgado Lopera; A World Between by Emily Hashimoto

      City Lights (POC indie): Funeral Diva by Pamela Sneed

      AK Press (worker-run, collectively managed anarchist indie: Beyond Survival: Strategies and Stories from the Transformative Justice Movement by Ejeris Dixon and Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha

      Grey Wolf (non-profit indie): Homie by Danez Smith; Postcolonial Love Poem by Natalie Diaz

      Electric Lit (non-profit indie): Everyone on the Moon is Essential Personnel by Julian K Jarboe

      I would love to see increased numbers of women of colour published by these lesbian publishers, especially Black and Indigenous authors, as well other underrepresented identities such as asexual, trans, nonbinary, and disabled women. I know my fellow lesbrarian Danika Ellis who runs The Lesbrary website published a specific call-out of the lack of women of colour being published in the lesfic world (https://lesbrary.com/2020/06/24/lets-talk-about-racism-in-lesbian-publishing/).

      You probably noticed that a lot of these indie-published authors, plus the ones published by mainstream publishers on the list, are authors of colour, as well as other intersecting identities such as trans and nonbinary and disabled authors. I also make an effort to include asexual and bisexual perspectives in addition to lesbian perspectives. I’m sure you can appreciate it’s a delicate balancing act to create a diverse list while focusing above all on quality!

      As far as getting some of these books on my radar as a freelance writer: I am 95% sure (can’t be 100% sure since I get a ton of book promo emails!) that I haven’t received any such communications from Bold Strokes Books, Ylva, Bella Books, Dirt Road Books, Sapphire, or Bywater this year. I would welcome getting emails pitching specific books, highlighting their unique qualities and any underrepresented identities included.

      If you have any contacts at these publishers Cindy please pass on this message!

      Thanks again,
      Casey

  8. hey, thanks so much for including Beyond Survival on the list!! Would you mind fixing the order of the editors names? Ejeris Dixon and then Leah L P-S- it’s alphabetical, but people keep putting me first in a way that doesn’t feel great. Thanks!

    • I’m guessing that’s because all the links are to Bookshop.org, which I believe hasn’t yet launched in Canadia yet and it doesn’t look like the US version will ship there. It only launched in the UK last month, so here’s hoping it spreads fast! (although I believe the jury is still out on how good it really is for local bookshops?!)

  9. I wonder why you didn’t include any books from small lesbian/queer presses such as Bold Strokes Books, Bella Books, and Ylva Publishing, to name just a few, or books from independent authors. All but one books on your list are published by mainstream presses. Is there a reason for that?

    • Hi Elia! Thank you for your feedback. I received an email asking a similar question, so I’m going to paste here my response that’s relevant:

      I appreciate that it hurts especially to not see many books by the queer indie publishers you were expecting on a list from a queer publication. I could have made an effort to include a couple more books in the romance and mystery genres in particular by the queer women presses you mention, so thank you for the reminder! I will keep this in mind for future lists.

      I would like to point out, though, that there are many books on the list published by queer and/or POC and/or feminist / other progressive independent publishers (in addition to Bywater Books which you mentioned as the publisher of Anna Burke’s book). A number of these are Canadian, so you may not be aware of them:

      Arsenal Pulp Press (queer POC indie): Like a Boy But Not a Boy by andrea bennett; My Art is Killing Me by Amber Dawn; The Gospel of Breaking by Jillian Christmas; Butter Honey Pig Bread by Francesca Ekwuyasi; Love after the End edited by Joshua Whitehead

      Metonymy Press (queer indie): ZOM-FAM by Kama La Mackeral

      Book*Hug Press (feminist indie): Polar Vortex by Shani Mootoo

      ECW Press (indie): The Subtweet by Vivek Shraya; The Adventures of Isabel by Candas Jane Dorsey

      Andrews McNeel (indie): Everything is Beautiful and I’m Not Afraid by Yao Xiao

      Not a Cult (queer POC indie): Zigzags by Kamala Puligandla

      Feminist Press (feminist POC indie): Fiebre Tropical by Juli Delgado Lopera; A World Between by Emily Hashimoto

      City Lights (POC indie): Funeral Diva by Pamela Sneed

      AK Press (worker-run, collectively managed anarchist indie: Beyond Survival: Strategies and Stories from the Transformative Justice Movement by Ejeris Dixon and Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha

      Grey Wolf (non-profit indie): Homie by Danez Smith; Postcolonial Love Poem by Natalie Diaz

      Electric Lit (non-profit indie): Everyone on the Moon is Essential Personnel by Julian K Jarboe

      I would love to see increased numbers of women of colour published by these lesbian publishers, especially Black and Indigenous authors, as well other underrepresented identities such as asexual, trans, nonbinary, and disabled women. I know my fellow lesbrarian Danika Ellis who runs The Lesbrary website published a specific call-out of the lack of women of colour being published in the lesfic world (https://lesbrary.com/2020/06/24/lets-talk-about-racism-in-lesbian-publishing/).

      You probably noticed that a lot of these indie-published authors, plus the ones published by mainstream publishers on the list, are authors of colour, as well as other intersecting identities such as trans and nonbinary and disabled authors. I also make an effort to include asexual and bisexual perspectives in addition to lesbian perspectives. I’m sure you can appreciate it’s a delicate balancing act to create a diverse list while focusing above all on quality!

      As far as getting some of these books on my radar as a freelance writer: I am 95% sure (can’t be 100% sure since I get a ton of book promo emails!) that I haven’t received any communications from Bold Strokes Books, Ylva, Bella Books, Dirt Road Books, Sapphire, or Bywater this year. I would welcome getting emails pitching specific books, highlighting their unique qualities and any underrepresented identities included.

      If you have any contacts at these publishers Elia please pass on this message!

      Thanks again,
      Casey

  10. Wow, thanks so much for putting together this impressive list! I love how broad & varied it is, with so many genres and ages.

    Some of my faves this year that are on here: You Should See Me in a Crown, the Low-Low Woods, The Bone Shard Daughter, Cinderella is Dead, Late to the Party, & The Times I Knew I Was Gay. Excited to check out some of the others!

  11. I’ve read many of these, but I just want to take a moment to gush about how unbelievably good The Space Between Worlds is. It’s a fascinating exploration of identity, oppression, society, justice, free will, and selfhood… and it consistently treats every single person as fully-realized. In the genre of multiverse travel, it can be really easy to reduce various versions of the same person as caricatures with one main distinguishing feature, but this book is careful to resist that, giving every person full respect and dignity. The romance is both tender and sizzling, and the book is also full of different kinds of love and relationships. Although I guessed at some of the details of the end, it was still deeply satisfying in the payoff. This is absolutely one of my top reads of 2020.

    (I also gave 5 stars to The Care and Feeding of Waspish Widows, Hench, The City We Became, Harrow the Ninth, and Unconquerable Sun.)

  12. Thank you Casey I love this list and all the work you do.

    I want to second your recs with my love of the following:
    Plain Bad Heroines
    You Should See Me in a Crown
    Something to Talk About
    Written in the Stars
    Wow, No Thank You
    Vera Kelly Is Not A Mystery
    Yao xiao’s Graphic novel

    I read a lot of these on your recommendation, and hope to read a few more soon. I do wish my library had more of them, especially the non fiction books. Cheers to librarians making sure queer content is available.

    I’d like to add a couple others I really loved:
    The Falling in Love Montage by Ciara Smyth – really cute YA that is both a quick meet cute and a slow burn at the same time, with a really funny voice
    Stay Gold by Toby McSmith – a trans kid figuring out high school dating, has lots of other queers and a sweet straight girl

  13. Seconding “The Care and Feeding of Waspish Widows”! It’s so good. I love the slow burn, the fact that the characters are relatively old for a mainstream historical romance, and the way Waite weaves in info about the time period and the characters’ professions. Also highly recommend the first book in the series, “The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics.” (Lady scientists! Artistic embroidery!) (They can also be read independently.) And a couple other fave f/f historicals (published prior to 2020) – “Proper English” by KJ Charles, “A Little Light Mischief” by Cat Sebastian, and “Mrs. Martin’s Incomparable Adventure” by Courtney Milan.

  14. I can give you a hint as to what is worth reading. I think one of the best works is Macbeth. I am very glad that I was able to find this story and read it. That is why I recommend that you definitely look and read more essays on this subject, you can look here https://studydriver.com/macbeth-greed/ , I was able to find out a lot of details about this story here. I hope that I can help and that it will be useful. Good luck and success, I hope I helped someone!

  15. If you could please go back to the old format for this article that would be so great. Where the cover was just above the description. This has been such an important list for me over the years and for some reason this format feels less accessible for my brain. I’ve gone over the old lists many many times but I couldn’t get through this one once because of the choppiness and disorder between the pictures and the descriptions. please and thank you.

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