In honor of Bi Visibility Week, here are 15 must-read bisexual nonfiction books, including memoir, theory, studies, and anthologies. Whether you’re looking for powerful personal bisexual narratives, insightful political analysis of bisexual issues, or information to help understand bisexuality, there are books in here you won’t want to miss!
Bi: Notes for a Bisexual Revolution by Shiri Eisner
This book is essential reading for any bisexual person and anyone who wants to understand the bi people in their life. Bi takes a comprehensive look at bisexual politics, from biphobia and monosexism to feminism and trans issues. Eisner tackles topics like bisexual stereotypes, accusations that bisexuality “reinforces the gender binary” and otherwise contributes to the dominant social order, myths about bisexuality (like it doesn’t exist or that everyone is really bi), the fact that bi men are deemed gay and bi women are deemed straight, the issue of bi people being accused of having heterosexual privilege and more! Reading Bi changed my life as a bi person.
Chronology of Water by Lidia Yuknavitch
Chronology of Water is a beautifully written memoir with rich language and stark images. As Yuknavitch chronicles her life, she jumps back and forth in time, deconstructing the very concepts of memoir, memory, and time. She writes, most of all, about her body: drug use, child birth, gender, destructive relationships, abuse, swimming, grief and sex. Chronology of Water prominently features Yuknavitch’s bisexuality, including a lot of hot sex writing featuring women, men and BDSM. She also writes wonderfully about the craft of writing itself: “My first book came out of me in a great gushing return of the repressed. Like a blood clot had loosened. …Words from my whole body, my entire life, or the lives of women and girls whose stories got stuck in their throats.”
The B Word: Bisexuality in Contemporary Film and Television by Maria San Filippo
This 2014 Lambda Award winner for bisexual nonfiction fills a gigantic gap in both queer studies and film and media writing. If you’ve ever been annoyed at the ludicrous ways in which movies and TV shows manage to avoid the “b” word, San Filippo’s book is a godsend. She writes about all sorts of different genres, from art cinema to vampire movies to “bromances” to popular TV shows. The book discusses, among other topics, Chasing Amy, Mulholland Drive, Angelina Jolie, Roseanne, The L Word and plenty more. Not only does Filippo make a strong argument for how pervasive compulsory monosexuality is in media, she also does really surprising bisexual readings of familiar movies and TV.
A Cup of Water Under My Bed by Daisy Hernández
Hernández’s coming-of-age memoir is simply stunning. In elegant, evocative prose liberally peppered with Spanish, she writes about family, Colombian and Cuban American culture, Latinx spirituality, losing your mother tongue, racism, money, growing up working class and, of course, her bisexuality. There’s a stark honesty in Hernández’s writing, especially when she’s discussing her bisexuality: “There isn’t a good verb for what begins happening to me in college. Yes, I am meeting lesbians, but I am not one of them. I still find men attractive; it is that I am thinking of women in a new way. It is as if I am learning that I can shift my weight from one leg to the other, that I have a second leg. Kissing women is like discovering a new limb.”
Bi Any Other Name: Bisexual People Speak Out edited by Loraine Hutchins and Lani Ka’ahumanu
Bi Any Other Name is a seminal collection first published in 1991. In fact, it’s often lauded as the book that sparked a national bisexual movement in the US. Edited by two legendary bisexual activists, who together founded BiNet USA, this groundbreaking anthology was re-issued in 2015 with a new introduction for its 25th anniversary. The book includes more than 70 bi people from a variety of backgrounds describing their lives as bisexuals in prose, poetry, art, and essays. Most of the pieces address coming out and what bisexual identity means to the writer. It’s one of those collections that will make you feel less alone, whether you’re just coming out as bi or have been comfortable your identity for decades.
My Awesome Place: The Autobiography of Cheryl B by Cheryl Burke
This Lambda Award winner is an authentic snapshot of the exhilarating art scene in the East Village of NYC in the 1990s as told through the eyes of Cheryl Burke, a bisexual spoken word poet, performance artist, playwright, and journalist. My Awesome Place chronicles Burke’s journey from her working-class New Jersey roots and an abusive family, her series of disastrous relationships with men and women, her “intense, intimate relationship with drugs and alcohol” and her queer creative coming of age in the East Village. Despite — or perhaps because of — the dark material, Burke’s sense of humor shines. The book was compiled from Burke’s papers after her early death and was finalized by her close friend Sarah Schulman, giving it a captivating urgency and immediacy.
Getting Bi: Voices of Bisexuals Around the World edited by Robyn Ochs and Sarah Rowley
A now classic bisexual anthology with its first edition in 2005 and second in 2009, Getting Bi is admirable for how it really follows through on its promise to pay attention to intersectionality. It features short biographical essays from a variety of bisexual people, with attention to race, class, ethnicity, gender identity, disability and national identity. When they say “around the world,” the editors mean it: Getting Bi features writers from 42 different countries! With so many queer anthologies only representing the Anglophone world, Ochs and Rowley have really achieved something with Getting Bi. In addition to the affirming personal stories, the book also includes a wonderful — though American-centric — resource guide.
Sexual Fluidity: Understanding Women’s Love and Desire by Lisa Diamond
Sexual Fluidity might help you understand yourself in an entirely new way. Using years of research on bi-identified women and women who’ve experienced changes in their sexualities, Diamond argues fiercely against beliefs about sexuality based on research conducted almost entirely on men. Sexual Fluidity is a passionately defended book explaining that for (cis) women, sexual and romantic desire is much more likely to be neither hetero- nor homosexual, in contrast to (cis) men. Her work shows that for many women, sexual and romantic orientations are context-dependent, shifting as they age, and have different friend groups and relationships. If you’ve ever felt like stifled by traditional narratives of sexual identity, this book will be extremely validating.
Black Dove: Mamá, Mi’jo, and Me by Ana Castillo
“‘Paloma Negra,’ Ana Castillo’s mother sings the day her daughter leaves home, ‘I don’t know if I should curse you or pray for you.’” A memoir written with a poet’s language, Black Dove is searing account of what it is like to be a single, brown, bisexual, feminist parent in the United States. With love and humor, Castillo tells her story, integrating those of her family and ancestors, from Mexico City to Chicago. She chronicles coming into her feminist, bisexual, and polyamorous identities, her son’s arrest and incarceration, and her complex relationship with her mother. The result is a powerful, beautiful Lambda Award winning memoir that puts a personal, human face on familiar depressing statistics about the effects of institutional racism and sexism.
Bad Dyke: Salacious Stories from a Queer Life by Allison Moon
Moon’s collection of 18 memoirs are fun, raunchy autobiographical stories. There’s a lot of sex, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t also a lot going on emotionally and intellectually. Moon writes about falling in and out of love, as well as in and out of bed in bold, honest, and very funny prose. The stories are a tell-all of all sorts of often hilarious sex-related escapades, like masturbating in trees, getting an erotic piercing to fend off boredom, sleeping with porn stars, and more. She also writes about her long-term bisexual boyfriend and how they negotiate a queer relationship despite appearing to the outside world as a straight couple. Above all, Moon’s utter lack of shame and sex-positive attitude are infectious and just lovely to soak up.
Irrepressible: The Jazz Age Life of Henrietta Bingham by Emily Bingham
This scandalous biography written by the great niece of the book’s subject was a Bisexual Nonfiction Lambda Award winner last year. Born in 1901, Henrietta Bingham lived her life “like an F. Scott Fitzgerald character”: travelling the world, seducing people of all genders left and right, riding horses, drinking to excess, and singing the blues. Bingham came from a very powerful and wealthy family in the American South, and was expected to follow in her father’s footsteps to take over their publishing empire. She preferred, however, to “selfishly and shamelessly” pursue pleasure in many forms, while also struggling with depression and addiction. Her life is a fascinating story of a bisexual woman living in the 1920s and 30s who fiercely resisted the day’s gender and sexual conventions while also being unable to entirely escape them.
Bisexuality in Education: Erasure, Exclusion, and the Absence of Intersectionality edited by Maria Pallotta-Chiarolli
Winner of the 2015 Bisexual Book Award for nonfiction, Bisexuality in Education is a diverse anthology of essays about bisexuality in different areas of education by writers from the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Some essays focus on the perspectives of bisexual students, such as a two-spirit person in Canada and a bisexual New Zealand woman, while others discuss bisexual health in the context of schools, educational policies and practices affecting bi people, and the use of bisexual books and film in an educational setting. Pallotta-Chiarolli emphasizes how three key concepts affecting bisexuality — erasure; exclusion by inclusion (bisexuality being conflated with homo- or heterosexuality); and the absence of intersectional thinking — underscore all the essays.
Dear John, I Love Jane: Women Write about Leaving Men for Women edited by Candace Walsh and Laura Andre
This powerful anthology offers a wide variety of experiences of queer women, including many on the bisexual spectrum. It’s a collection of personal stories about sexuality and coming out, but none of the narratives are of the “I’ve always known” variety. Similar to Sexual Fluidity, Dear John I Love Jane is an extremely validating book for women whose experiences with sexual identity don’t conform to mainstream gay or straight narratives. The kinds of stories you can look forward to include ones by a woman who falls in love with a woman for the first time at age 69, women who’ve only ever been attracted to one woman, and women who married men and were completely blindsided by their later (sometimes exclusive) attraction to women.
Advice from a Wild Deuce: The Best of Ask Tiggy by Tiggy Upland
It can be really hard to navigate being a bisexual person in places where there isn’t much room for it. Luckily, Tiggy Upland is here to help, with her Ask Tiggy advice column for and about bisexuals, the best of which is collected in this book. Her advice, which originally ran as a column on the Bisexual Resource Center’s website, is compassionate but frank, always with a hint of her trademark eccentricity and wit. This is a rare book that is supremely entertaining while being informative at the same time. Advice from a Wild Deuce also features other content, including tips from Tiggy on coming out as bi, scripts from her performance art, a great index of resources, and sections from her delightful bisexual webcomic of miniatures “Upland.” Check out the webcomic on her website.
How Queer!: Personal Narratives from Bisexual, Pansexual, Polysexual, Sexually Fluid, and Other Non-Monosexual Perspectives edited by Faith Beauchemin
How Queer! is a two-fold collection including 14 autobiographical essays by a variety of non-monosexual-identified folks as well as five essays by Beauchemin putting the writers’ perspectives in the broader context of social justice and social change movements. The personal stories represent a nice range of different experiences of bi+ identity and life, while also having a thread throughout of how pervasive biphobia and monosexism can be even in supposedly liberal and tolerant places. Beauchemin’s essays are a great overview and introduction to 21st century queer politics and history — with an emphasis on the non-monosexual, obviously — which means this is an excellent book for someone who isn’t really familiar with them or needs a refresher.
Do you have any favorite bisexual nonfiction books to add to this list? Do you have thoughts about how these book titles under- and/or overuse the punning potential of the word bi? Let us know in the comments!