FRIDAY OPEN THREAD: What Was The First Gay Book You Read?

feature image via booksbeyondimagining.tumblr.com

Welcome to the Friday Open Thread, where you can virtually hangout with all your gal pals across the land. This is the place where you can share all your pet photos and selfies, vent about your week, tell us all your secrets or plans for the long weekend (if you have Labor Day off)! You can do all that right in this very post!

This week we’re talking about gay books! Do you remember the very first time you read a super queer book? Weren’t you amazed that there were characters you could actually relate to? Wasn’t it so cool to read about two girls making out or falling in love or breaking each other’s hearts instead of just straight people doing all those things? Maybe the first gay book you read made you realize that you were gay too. Didn’t it feel like this?

harry potter

The first gay book I read was a YA novel called Keeping You A Secret by Julie Anne Peters. I read this book in high school right around the time I was realizing I wasn’t straight. This time period in my life is all a bit blurry but I think I read this right after I made out with my best friend who became my secret girlfriend which was all a whirlwind of feelings. Keeping You A Secret is just about all those wild, young love feelings and I read it at the perfect time in my life. The book centers around over-achiever and perfect student, Holland who has a boyfriend and is Ivy League college-bound and how she fell for a new girl at school named Cece, an out lesbian. They develop a relationship and then have to deal with homophobia from their peers when they find out about them.

gaycovers

I really don’t remember how I got my hands on this book, I think it might’ve been my girlfriend at the time. I just couldn’t believe there were books with lesbian characters. Reading the book amplified all the squishy, butterfly feelings I had for my secret girlfriend which I didn’t get from reading Twilight. (I was so bored reading Twilight. SO BORED.) I think the homophobia the characters faced kinda reaffirmed my feelings for not coming out during the time so that probably wasn’t good but it was extremely important for me to know that there were other gay people in the world.

Right after I devoured the book, I remember I wanted more gay books. I needed them all. I tried looking for Annie On My Mind at the public library but it wasn’t in the place they said it was and I was too scared to ask the librarian so I ordered it online with a gift card I got from Barnes & Nobles. When it arrived, I took it to my room right away so my mom couldn’t see the title or the cover art and hid it. I only read it at night when my family was asleep. That book was everything. My queer BFF, Mary, lent me Rubyfruit Jungle in high school and I don’t really think I appreciated it that much. At that point, I had a lot of conflicting feelings and didn’t want to be gay so I was rejecting myself and didn’t want anything to do with gay things so all I remember from reading Rubyfruit Jungle was me telling myself I wasn’t gay. These three books shaped my formative gay years and impacted me in ways I didn’t realize at the time.

Now it’s your turn. I want to know all about the queer books that shaped your life. What was the first LGBTQ book you read? Was it a YA novel? Maybe the first queer book you read wasn’t a YA novel and you read it as an adult. That’s cool, tell me all about it! How did these books make you feel? What are some of your favorite LGBTQ books now? Tell us all about your queer book feelings in the comments!


How To Post A Photo In The Comments:

1. Find a photo! This is the easy part. Find a photo on the web, right click (on a Mac, control+click), hit “Copy Image URL” and then…

2. Code it in to your comment! Use the following code, and use a DIRECT LINK to the image. Your image link should end in .JPG or .GIF or .PNG or .CallMeWhateverYouWant even. I don’t care, but it should be an image suffix! KINDA LIKE THIS:

If you need to upload the photo you love from your computer, try using imgur. To learn more about posting photos, check out Ali’s step-by-step guide.

How To Post A Video In The Comments, Too:

1. Find a video on YouTube or Vimeo or WHATEVER and click “embed.” Copy that code, but first make sure it’s for 640 px wide or less. If your player is too large, it will not display properly.

2. Copy the code and paste it directly into your comment.

3. Go forth and jam.


Before you go! It takes funding to keep this publication by and for queer women and trans people of all genders running every day. And A+ members keep the majority of our site free for everyone. Still, 99.9% of our readers are not members. A+ membership starts at just $4/month. If you're able to, will you join A+ and keep Autostraddle here and working for everyone?

Join A+

Yvonne

Yvonne S. Marquez is a lesbian journalist and former Autostraddle senior editor living in Dallas, TX. She writes about social justice, politics, activism and other things dear to her queer Latina heart. Yvonne was born and raised in the Rio Grande Valley. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter. Read more of her work at yvonnesmarquez.com.

Yvonne has written 158 articles for us.

209 Comments

  1. Remarkably, the first books I read that mentioned queer women were The Color Purple and Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit – for an English lit course in my final year at secondary school! I was recently out (to selected people) and it was pretty great to see myself in literature.

    In retrospect, I realised that this course, which was one of the few where the teachers had relatively free reign to pick the books, started about a year after the repeal of Section 28 and I wondered whether my English lit teacher (who generally kicked arse) picked it just because she COULD. I think she probably did.

    Post-coming out properly, I the first queer books I read were Annie On My Mind (which remains one of my favourites) and Rubyfruit Jungle.

    • I think The Color Purple was my first “gay” book too; and I read it for class. Aren’t real lit teachers the best?

      I also read on the road in high school, but I can’t remember beer if it was before or after TCP.

      I think I remember thinking something along the lines of, “people were doing this back then too?” My naive mind had decided that homosexuality was a recent craze. It was so comforting.

  2. My first queer book was also Keeping You a Secret! It happened to be on the list my sophomore year for Battle of the Books (a fun thing reading encouragement thing where students form teams and answer questions about books) and given my recent discovery that I might be a bit (a lot) gay, I pounced on it and devoured it in a day. It and Buffy the Vampire Slayer were really the two things that most helped me come into my own as a baby gay. I still have a copy of the book to this day and have probably reread it a half dozen times easily.

      • Looking back, I am pleasantly surprised Keeping You a Secret was on the list as well. Especially since I went to school in rural Iowa. It’s been a while since the last time I did, but rereading it is definitely a nostalgic experience.

  3. The summer I was 12 or 13, I got really bored sitting around the house all summer, so I decided to read all of my mom’s books that she had around the house. She’s in this women’s book club that only reads women authors, and one of the books I read was Rubyfruit Jungle. I remember that I loved the book but this was YEARS before I realized I was gay. I would also check out all the gay books in the YA section at the library. I think there were a couple by Julie Anne Peters, and Annie On My Mind. I was always really into these books but for some reason I didn’t let myself consider the fact that I might be gay. But I actually stole my mom’s copy of Rubyfruit Jungle a few years ago after realizing that I have more in common with the characters in these books than I originally thought…so I hope she wasn’t wanting to re-read that one!

  4. My mom used to read Patricia Cornwell’s crime novels, and one of the main characters is a badass lesbian named Lucy (incidentally, that’s also my name). In the first books, Lucy is a shy child who is clearly uncomfortable with her body and spends her time in front of her computer. Then she grows up and fights crime, makes women fall in love with her and cooks vegetarian meals in her spare time. I was nine or ten and I thought she was amazing. Obviously I just wanted to be her.

  5. I don’t know if I read any queer books in middle school, high school, or even in collage. However, I did in college see a the book, “The Straight Girls Guide to Sleeping with Chicks” at a friends house, and decided I have to buy it. I did when I was in my mid-20s on Kindle. It’s a solid book, and helped me a little as a trans queer(I read it before I came out). Also, does reading adult queer sex stories written by queer men and women count? Cause I read a bit of that in HS.

    How’s everyone’s week going? Mines has been alright. I am starting to realize maybe this woman(who happens to be queer) I’m trying to be friends with, doesn’t want to be my friend. Their loss I guess, cause I can be a delightful friend, plus I like burritos and tacos, who can say no to eating Mexican food?
    On the other side of things my father told me not tell family that I don’t like using certain pronouns, it’s unbecoming & childish. I told him, that I get to choose who I am not you. He wouldn’t have it. It’s an uphill battle, but whatever, I have friends & a community who make the effort. At least the long weekend is upon us and I get to sleep in.

    I took this the other day. It’s the best angle I could get as there are plants/trees & cars obstructing the view of the work. It’s not totally done, cause the next day I saw a woman was still working it, which is cool to see. I am also going to imagine that after she was done working on it for the day she went home to her gf, who they share a cat and a dog.

    Thank you for reading and viewing my post. Have a positive weekend!

      • It really is, specially when both of you have a lot in common, and they keep saying I like making friends, cause I don’t have any. Hi, I am trying to be your friend. Maybe autostraddle can make an app like OKC but to make friends with other queer women and trans people?

    • Sorry you’re having trouble with your Dad.

      Yeah, making friends as an adult is always hard.It seems like everyone has their click and your standing on the sidelines saying “hey,I’m nice,I’m cool.Can I join in ?” haha.

  6. I think mine was probably Rubyfruit Jungle sometime in high school! I remember loving it, but I honestly don’t recall how self aware I was at that point about my latent queerness. I definitely knew enough to hide it from my folks, though. I think I might have “borrowed” it from the bookshelf of some straight family friends.

    • The first one I can remember reading was “Rosemary and Juliette” about an out lesbian teen (Rosemary) who’s mother is either a doctor who performs abortions or a planned parenthood advocat (details are fuzzy) and a Baptist pastor’s daughter (Juliette) who fall in love. I can rember being obsessed with the book, thinking it was a revolutionary novel and lending it to my long distance “girlfriend” and never getting it back.
      I’d love to read it again, and probably roll my eyes at all the predictable tropes. But as a high school student, finally admitting to herself that, contrary to what I first believed, I could not pretend I was straight for the rest of my life, this queer re-telling of a classic was super important to me.
      And it also made me think that Smith college was a lesbian oasis.

  7. Ooohhh…I like this thread! I think the first book I sought out that was LGBT was “Dear John, I Love Jane,” by someone that I can’t remember. I felt somewhat validated by my confusion but also couldn’t really understand most of the stories because I wasn’t a married woman who fell in love with another woman and then had my eyes blown open, which was most of the stories.

  8. We had just gotten a modem, at my insistence, so that I could email with my first boyfriend who wrote me very, very bad poetry (mine was SO much bettter), when I started realizing things.
    Things like, that I hated kissing him.
    So I got an amazon account and ordered Radclyffe Hall’s “The Well of Loneliness”.
    Unfortunately, it said “The Bible of Lesbianism”, on the very cover of the book, so that when my mom asked what book had been in the mail and kept prying even harder the more evasive I got, I went out and bought her a book on Dolphins and gave it to her, claiming that I had meant it as a gift and that that was the reason I had been so secretive.
    I know that many people are having their issues with “The Well of Loneliness” but I’m very glad that it was my first!
    I stumbled across “The Color Purple” and at some point “Rubyfruit Jungle”,too, but it was a while until Jeanette Winterson and Sarah Waters took up the pen to be published,and let me tell you, I am a literary nerd, so the very horrific Lesbian so called novels I stumbled upon in my first years of searching really made me turn away from the genre.
    If one of those “Harley riding older woman picks up younger damsel in distress at picturesque seaside town, they engage in heavy sexing until younger woman finds a single graying pubic hair and leaves her/Woman moves into seaside town and has a weirdly erotic relationship with the female ghost haunting the house/Time Travel/Greek Gods/Literary professor meets Countess/CEO/in Paris,Love at first sight,written by a lonely Literary professor” things had been one of my first novels, I don’t even know if that wouldn’t have pushed me back into denial for even longer.
    There are a few passages in “The Well of Loneliness” that are still haunting me today.
    Like, when they go out to a gay bar in Paris, and most of the men there are on drugs or broken, I still think about that, to this day, at four in the morning, in the gay bars of my town.
    And Stephen is so full of self hate, self deprecation and I do understand that this is one of the reasons a lot of people take issue with the book but coming out, being gay, or different, isn’t just rainbow unicorns and sunshine, it isn’t even about other’s people’s prejudices, it’s about one’s own.
    Also, it’s pretty well written and tragically romantic.
    That said, I wanted to say Happy 20th Birthday to the original Gal Pal Duo!
    Xena and Gabrielle!
    The following blog post features 25 very gay Xena Gabs moments and honestly? Seeing a clip from “The Quest” (Number 9) still makes my heart beat faster.Why did they have to put Gabrielle in that amazon princess costume for that scene? It really confused the hell out of me at sixteen.Good times:-)
    Oh, it’s in Spansih, but whoever clicks onto this will know the words to the scenes mentioned anyway:
    http://lesbicanarias.es/2015/09/04/25-momentos-en-los-que-xena-y-gabrielle-se-demostraron-su-amor/

    P.S.:”Fingersmith” and “Giovanni’s Room” and “The Color Purple”if anyone would like to know. I love those books like friends.

    • I love the way you wrote about your reading experiences. Often time, I feel as though books are my life companions or a Greek choir that follows my decisions and gives colour to chain of events.
      Haven’t read “Well of loneliness”, though, but I might, as part of education on lesbian history :)

    • I JUST finished “The Well of Loneliness” and it spoke to my soul in ways no queer novel had yet, as in it pandered to that hopeless, desperate romance, teenager-y side of myself, and I wished I had read it when I was about 16 instead of 22.

      Also “Giovanni’s Room” is a masterpiece.

  9. The Will of the Empress by Tamora Pierce. I was 13 and just starting to recognize my feelings for girls. I remember talking to a friend about the book and asking her what she thought about the lesbian romance. She was completely indifferent, whereas I was fixated on it. That should have been a hint!

  10. Harriet the Spy.
    Anne of Green Gables.
    Little Women.

    OK, so those books don’t have overtly LGBT characters in them, but they’re pretty queer anyway. Any book where a girl is “plucky” or cuts her hair or shoves off the constraints of patriarchy in whatever way, and I was all. about it. Welcome to my root ;-)

  11. Fun Home was not the first gay book I read, but I did meet Alison Bechdel on Monday.

    Exhibit A:

    I also saw this sign outside an ice cream shop next to where I work last night. I don’t think they know how sapphic this sign is.

    Exhibit B:

  12. I think the first book I read that had any queerness in it was Of Human Bondage, but it was not queer content that I connected with in any way, so not sure it counts? Except that maybe I realized only much later that I wasn’t squicked by queerness in the same way that the other kids at school seemed to be.

    I can tell you for sure about my most recent read, though, and it’s a real gem. I just finished the audiobook of George by Alex Gino, as read by Jamie Clayton (Nomi in Sense8). It’s incredibly sweet and deeply touching, with some surprisingly tense spots for a YA (grades 4-6) title. The gal-palship that the main character has with her schoolmate reminded me a little of friendships I’ve developed since I came out, and left me with all kinds of warm fuzzies.

  13. I can’t tell you the title; it was something with the cover ripped off and had one scene between older women. I should really figure out what it was. It took place on an island in the winter, I think, and the narrator was a younger woman who was maybe recovering from life’s tragedies. I was maybe 15, and remember it remarkably vividly considering I think it was probably a relatively minor scene in a minor (not terribly compelling main character) book written as chick lit. Anybody?

    Great prompt. I just forgot my week.

  14. Im not sure if this counts as a queer book since the main character is a straight guy, but “Hard Love” by Ellen Wittlinger was the first time I think I ever read about a lesbian character. Marisol was smart, angry, and didn’t fall in love with the male protagonist at the end. I was in major denial about my own queerness in high school but I loved reading about someone who was openly and unrepentantly herself.

    Sometime after that I read “Swordpoint” by Ellen Kushner and loved it. I’ve read plenty of Queer books since then but those are the first ones and will probably always have a special place in my heart because of it.

  15. ANNIE ON MY MIND!!! I immediately saw the cover image for this thread and smiled. I love that book. I’m mostly a nonfiction person, but I really love that book. It was so relatable. It made me feel okay, normal. Other good books: Dante and Aristotle Discover the Secrets of the Universe (recommended by an autostraddler) and Two Boys Kissing. I couldn’t personally relate to either of these as much as Annie In My Mind because they were about gay men and boys/teens, not other women, but I still really enjoyed both.

    I will definitely be taking some of the suggestions on this thread. I especially love audiobooks because I can listen while taking long walks or hikes.

    Anyway… My week!

    I mentioned this on the last thread in a comment, but last week I finally had a paper published!! :D

    Other than that, this week was pretty normal. It’s raining finally and it feels like autumn. I love it, and we desperately need it here on the west coast. I love petrichor (my favorite word = the aroma of fresh rain on dry earth) and also the smell of my furnace starting up for the first time in the year.

    I went on a couple rainy low-tide beachwalks. Some stretches of the beach at Dash Point State Park are so thickly covered in sand dollars that you literally can’t avoid stepping on them. They’re carpeting the entire surface with their fuzzy black spine-covered shells. There were also tons of little anemones of all sizes embedded in the sand, to the point of inducing trypophobia. All those little holes!!! Tiny clusters of holes do something weird to your psyche. If you search “trypophobia” in google images, you will understand, but be forewarned that nightmares may ensue…

    More photos!

    Dark clouds

    Rainbow kelp!

  16. Hmm … probably something by Jeanette Winterson or Sarah Waters. Speaking of, I get to hear Sarah Waters speak at my local writer’s festival today!!! And hopefully she will sign one of my grungy, tattered, well-read copies of her books. :)

      • I had no idea what to say! I just told her I liked the panel she was on (where she talked about unlikeable heroines and female protagonists in books), got her to sign my book, and left! I really should’ve prepared more to say.

        Here’s the signed book (along with another book I bought):

    • :’) that was my first too. Or at least the first one that I remember vividly. At the time I was like, “Oh, I’m so open-minded, this gay romance is so cute!” Then I proceeded to reread it several times in high school. For no reason, of course.

  17. I read this book called “Entries From A Hot Pink Notebook” by Todd Brown when I was 14 that was about a young gay boy. I loved it. I read the whole thing in one night, I was fanatical about it, I just wished I could read it again and again for the first time. This makes more sense in retrospect. I always felt safe reading about gay boys but never felt safe reading about lesbians until I got closer to realizing that I might be one.

    • YES! I went through all the gay guy lit I could get (somewhat furtively) my hands on at the school and public library … In hindsight, it was a “safe” way to approach queerness. And some of it was so hot, that was confusing. But rad. To this day I still think a lot about the YA novel Peter.

      • YES TOTALLY. It wasn’t just books either, I watched all the movies, too… and I had a ton of gay guy friends. The downside of course with those friends is that they were always making fun of lesbians for not being stylish or thin enough, so I developed this weird internalized homophobia that was just directed at lesbians while also thinking gay guys were super cool.

        I kinda do wish I could read that book for the first time again, again, now. I wonder if it was even any good! I still remember so many specific scenes from it.

      • Yes! I did this too. I never even thought anything of it until a few years ago when I was watching a bunch of gay male movies. I remember being very aware suddenly of my interest and the feelings I got. I remember journaling and writing that I didn’t want to be with the male characters or be them, but I felt drawn to queer relationships. That’s what started my coming out to myself and now it all makes so much sense in retrospect. Even as a kid I was obsessed with things about best female friends.

        The first specifically queer book I read was Oranges are Not the Only Fruit. I read it about 4 years ago and that started me moving from gay men literature and movies to reading and watching anything with lesbian content I could get my hands on.

    • I loved and felt safe with, gay guy literature too, because being an ally was easier for me at that stage than admitting my budding dykiness.
      I remember devouring and adoring
      A Boy’s Own Story by Edmund White, which I still love, and also, Birdy, by ?William Wharton?
      Living vicariously.

    • Yep, in high school I was immersed in gay male culture (books, movies, music) while lesbian one was unfamiliar. I kinda started realizing that I am not straight, but still was reluctant about that, so exploring the world of gay boys felt safer.

  18. I think the first overtly queer book I ever read was The Bermudez Triangle. I remember feeling like I shouldn’t be allowed to read it and feeling like I had to hide it as if someone would somehow know it was about two girls in a relationship. I was probably 13 or 14 and it was years before I came out but I remember it better than almost any other YA book.

  19. A few years back now I was given a book by my auntie, who is remarkably cool for an aunt, and who primarily dated women for many years before finding her husband, called The Death Of Lucy Kyte by Nicola Upson. (She had free copies because they were in the same circles on the Chart). I would recommend it-it’s not very queer focused, but early 20th century lesbian/bisexual detectives are the coolest. And the story is excellent.

    After that, I read Fun Home, which was excellent and I savoured over a long time, and The Miseduaction of Cameron Post.

    recently, I have been preparing to go back to sixth form and am intending to lend a pretty friend of mine Cameron Post to read. If Othello doesn’t bog us down too much. Excited.

  20. When I was 15/16 I really wanted to read Annie on My Mind. A friend of mine, in 8th grade, read it and mentioned that the girls were together and I obsessed over that for 3/4 years until I saw it at my local library. The librarians know my siblings and my mother so I was too afraid to check it out. I thought about burying it under a mountain of other books but they like me and would probably make small talk. So (and I’m not proud of this) I borrowed the book without checking it out. Some would call it stealing.It was on a Thursday and this library is closed on Fridays so I read the book once and then went back to re-read my favorite parts over the course of like 40 hours.I took it back and put it back on the shelf after I was done with it.
    a after that, I consumed every YA novel about girls loving girls that I could find. I searched the library database for everything I could find. I live in a small town so it wasn’t much.

    • John Perez, the first openly gay Speaker of the California State Assembly, came to speak at my school once, and he told us when he was young and just coming out, he had a gay friend who kept telling him he should come out already, and the friend lent him a gay-themed library book, and then somehow it came to light that this friend had just taken the book from the library without actually checking it out because “I didn’t want the librarian to know I’m gay.” And eventually they learned that this book was the most frequently stolen book in the whole library. So, anyway, you are part of a long tradition of furtive book-borrowing!

  21. I…actually haven’t read any queer lit. I went to a catholic school, not a lot of gems of queer lit in our library as you can imagine. But I’m totally counting the massive amounts of slash and femslash fanfic I read growing up.

  22. I read Oranges are not the only Fruit when I was in high school, although I didn’t recognize it (or myself) at the time. The first queer book I read after I came out was something by Sarah Waters, I think.

  23. My first gay book was Oranges are not the only fruit, then all the Winterson I could take out of the local library that summer. Then I bought a book of erotic fiction, (let’s not lie its porn) that I’d read an extract of in Diva, from a book store in the nearest city….I guess if I were a 16 year old baby dyke now were I’d have made a “that escalated quickly” meme. But it was ’99 and there was basically no internet.
    I still adore Winterson and her writing style, her use of words is just so skilful and emotive. Stunning.

  24. It was Stone Butch Blues and I think I was 12, kinda screwed up huh.

    Some folks from New York are opening up for Crüe and Alice. I think they said their name was The Cringe.
    Nothing cringe worthy about their performance or enthusiam.

    Laters y’all \m/

  25. Annie On My Mind!! I remember reading it as a young teenager and *wishing* I was a lesbian, because the story was so sweet. It took me a while longer to come to terms with why I loved that book.

  26. I don’t remember the first “gay” book I ever read, but I do remember the first queer female character I ever encountered in a book. Her name was Jennis Maurgen, from the book The Ruins of Ambrai by Melanie Rawn. Jennis is explicitly described as a woman who loves having sex with men, but falls in love with women, and so learned to love having sex with women. She’s a tertiary character at best, but the scene where she first appears and her sexuality is described just completely arrested me the first time I read it. I think I was 12 or 13.

    In other news, in a 2am online shopping spree last night, I bought men’s underwear for the first time EVER. This is a pretty huge deal for me, it’s something I’ve wanted to do FOR EVER, but I’ve never really had the courage to go into a store and go to the men’s section and buy underwear. Buying online made that easier, obviously, but I’m still worried about fit and sizes, I really just had to guestimate. But whatever, I did it, that’s the important part, right!?

  27. I think my first was Keeping You a Secret but I didn’t read that til after high school. Can I count fanfiction, because I’m 98% sure that’s the only literary lesbian stuff I was reading since there was a Clear All button for my computer history. (Actually, one of my favorite fics, The Moment by T.C. Anderson, which was originally a Rizzles fic is now a book and I read it all the time cause it makes me more human in unexpected ways, you know?)
    I think I’d also count the first musical I teched for cause uh there was a book for it and I read it and even though it was straight as all get up, the main character was my crush and my imagination can be damningly fantastic so there we go. Oh also, I think Faberry fanfic was among what I read while I was still in high school especially by possibilistfnafiction.
    My week was good and not so good. Like great in that I went on an all POC writer’s retreat in New York! This is the first time I’ve travelled by myself and I applied for it and got in all by myself and this is like the biggest step if you compare me now to me a year ago. And the women were fantastic and lovely and they gave me a lot of good love and such great art and it’s the first time I’ve ever read my work out loud! And I got drunk (accidentally, I thought it was wine it was bourbon oops) afterwards! And people encouraged me to keep writing and telling the truth! It was amazing, and I still can’t fully believe I was there.
    The not so good is that a bout of depression has come back (it started the second to last day I was there, when I couldn’t get out of bed around dinner time), so it’s tough cause like usually examining shit and getting to the bottom of it makes it easier to carry, but I just want to sleep all the time, so it’s tough. And I get super overwhelmed when people are kind to me, so that adds to the needing to sleep, so I don’t explode from it all.

    Anyways, some of my favorite books are: The Moment, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?,Her Name in the Sky, Supermutant Magic Academy, I’ll Give You the Sun (a gay boy is one of the main characters but this book tears my heart something awful every time I read it), The Miseducation of Cameron Post,The Summer We Got Free

    Hope everyone has a great weekend!

    • I can’t wait to read all the books you’ve mentioned whilst waiting to read the one(s) that will have your name on the cover!

      I am so impressed with your ability to be honest about your self and your feelings. I think that whatever you end up having published will be somebody else’s lifeline – whether it’s Fantasy, Hard-hitting real-life stories or your own genre-exploding style. I have the feeling that your characters are going to be strong in unexpected ways.

      Did you have a particular focus for your writer’s retreat? So exciting! I’d love to hear more about what you write, and how you find the process of writing. It seems like writers have such different ways of approaching their craft/applying themselves.

      • This comment has made my week, wow thank you so much. Like, this is going into my “Don’t Give Up” folder when I write, thank you so much.

        There wasn’t really a particular focus at the retreat. I know that one year the theme was “to get free” and I think that could extend to this year. There was a lot about valuing your voice and knowing that there’s a community of people who support you and believe you and your work are important even though a good chunk of the world will tell you the opposite.

        My main way of writing is poetry, but I’m really a fan of any kind of writing. I’m working on stories just because I’d like to be able to work on my pacing cause I always want to get to the “aha!” moment and sometimes I get there too quickly.

        I do write everyday but that’s moreso cause my memory is not good at all and the only way I’ll remember the important stuff is if I write it down. I write notes like all over receipts and torn notebook pages and whatever I’m reading, but it takes a long time for me to see where all those notes could come together into something somewhat coherent.

        What kind of writing do you like to do (if not writing, any kind of art or other interest)? What’s your process look like?

        I hope you enjoy those books if you ever get a chance to read them!

  28. First time commenting, but I really wanted in on this.
    My first queer book was one my mum gave me. I was very young somewhere between the ages of 10 and 12 and ever since I learned how to I loved reading. My mother was constantly buying new books for me. One day she gave me a book called Wildthorn (I had to google the plot because I couldnt remember the name of the book). It is set in victorian times and is the story of a girl who sees herself imprisoned unfairly. My mum probably bought it because of the old-timey girl-power which she knew I would like. I liked the story but I remember feeling very confused (in part because it hinted, or talked, about sex and I was not interested at all in that subject) because, even though I had never been sheltered about LGBT+ issues I had never really thought about what a relationship like that was. The book itself was shelved because it made me a bit uncomfortable (I think more because of the sex thing than the actual plot which I remember as beeing ok) but it has been floating around my head ever since. Maybe I’ll dig around in my parents house and re-read it. Anyways years after that, when I was realising that straight was not what I was I read Fingersmith and loved it.

  29. JUICY JUICE FOR THE GIRL IN YOU: THIS POST INVOLVES LESBIAN DILEMMAS AND HAPPY FIRST DATES

    BUT FIRST! “Fun Home,” by Alison Bechdel was my first lesbian read, and I still envision the oral scene at moments when I am newly in love with someone’s vajay area. :D Lots of terrible Sailor Moon fanfic predates this, but you asked about novels. :)

    About the cute girls who were into me from last week…. Turned down girl #1 on the basis that she lives far away and I didn’t know her well enough and am really not interested in disengaged casual sex. Mostly, though, I’m just not into her that way, and I don’t want to date just for the sake of it, you gotta be pretty damn special…. Soooooo I had a date with girl #2, who is so ridiculously out of my league, and is beautiful and amazing. She was a volunteer at Pride, and I didn’t even consider the option of asking her out, just admired from afar, but she was really freakin’ direct about wanting to see more of me, which was at once flattering and beguiling. Our second date was pretty fantastic. I got her red grapefruit instead of red roses because they’re her favourite fruit. She loved it! and she made an amazing mushroom risotto with pan fried fish and kale salad. We didn’t really get to desert. I had melon and coffee next to me when I woke up. Crazy thunderstorm kisses on her fire escape are to blame! I have a feeling that she has a drinking problem though, and it’s freaking me out. I’m just trying not to project. So far I’m not turning my life upside down to see her again, and getting my workouts and friend time in, so yay!

    I’m hitting a snag here because there is someone else who I really like and I’ve just turned it over to my higher power, but she lives ludicrously far away and getting to know each other is a super slow, platonic process, because she has no particular interest in anything more and somehow I just don’t care, I just keep on liking her. So there’s that. Struggles, people, struggles. I’ll just keep going one day at a time, as per my AA guidelines, which, BTW I am 11 months sober! Wahoo! So pitch in with your comments and suggestions, and lemme know what experiences maybe have guided you in the past.

    Keep it cool, cool cats, and thank you for sharing yourselves here on the FOT :D

    • Well all I can say is if this new woman is not into you, just get to know her better. Maybe in time things will change for the better? As for lady who may have a drinking problem, have you thought about discussing this with her? Or better yet talking to friend or sponsor in AA about how to talk to her about it? Cause you don’t want to put yourself in a situation where it’s unfavorable to you.

      lastly congrats on 11 months, and next month it will be a year! I say have a glass of muddled tea, your favorite food!

  30. Like several others here, it was also “Oranges are not the only fruit” and “The color purple” – we had to study both at school when I was 14/15. At my all-girls school…sadly I cannot blame the educational system for my failure to realize my huge queerness.

  31. THIS THREAD. <3

    My first book was, "Dare, Truth Or Promise," which I loved because it took place in New Zealand, had a redheaded main character and another main character who was obsessed with the theatre. But oh, man, was it emo. …which made me love it even more.
    I also loved Julie Anne Peters' books ("Keeping You a Secret" shoutout!) despite everyone's habit of smirking. Seriously, go reread any of her books, it's a thing.
    I also read a great YA novel recently, called "Not Otherwise Specified," about a kickass bi girl of color who gets ragged on by her lesbian friends when she dates a dude. Guys, all the queer YA novels kind of rock lately, and I'm so excited about all the baby queers who are reading them right now and figuring themselves out, because they're gonna grow up to be so. Freaking. Cool!

  32. I don’t remember if my very first book with a queer character was The Miseducation of Cameron Post (fell in love with it immediately and read it in a couple of days), or Carmilla, the novel by Le Fanu, for a project in school. I remember that it blew my mind because, I mean, LESBIAN VAMPIRE.

  33. For some reason and I’m not sure why, Stirfry by Emma Donoghue was the first queer book I ever read, and I remember being disappointed because I was really looking for girl/girl action and the book is about this girl who is kinda dumb and naive and moves in with a lesbian couple without realizing they’re a couple. Donoghue’s later work is definitely much better than her first novel.

    • Oh how old were you?

      It was my very first queer book and I was, I’m pretty sure now that’ve had a day to think, 13 years old because I remember relating to not wanting to shower naked like one of the butches mentioned. My body didn’t start to fun-house mirror beyond what I felt I could control with a sweater and trying exercise my womanhood away until I hit 13, not 12.

      Maybe I shouldn’t be asking how old were you, but how aware of the world past and present and inter-personal violence you were when you read it.
      It didn’t scare me because I already knew about Stonewall in context and possibly was ‘glad’ to have more context.

  34. It’s so endearing and sweet to read all the comments.

    I basically bypassed the the romantic fiction stage and went straight to (basically)erotica. I have no idea how this book ,Rubbing Mirrors by Brigette Lewis, got into my local library.I was also way too embarrassed to borrow it for a long time.

    It’s about a lesbian’s sexual exploits, and obsessional love that she develops with another woman. It’s set in Melbourne (which was great as an Australian and recognising the sites and cafes she mentions) and written in a poetic style.

    It had a lot of fisting and super hot sex . I painstakingly copied all the hot parts into my journal, because why wouldn’t you.

    I wish I could articulate just how EXCITING it was to . I didn’t even think women could have rough sex.

    HIGHLY RECOMMEND.

  35. She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb was my first lesbian read.

    Writing this, I realize I never finished it. I was in high school, I think, drowning in fundamental Christian nonsense and choking down the water. So much self-hate. I remember reading the passage, when the main character, Delores, hooks up with another undesirable woman like her, and the woman whispers something like, “nobody cares about a couple fatties like us.” They have sex, and I’m dripping wet from their sad copulation. Like Delores, who in remorse and self-hate kills Dottie’s beloved fish with a bottle of bleach, I destroyed my copy of the book. I hated myself so much for identifying with those women. I wanted to destroy myself and any trace of my sinful, unnatural attraction. That paperback absorbed it all. Until next time, of course.

    I’m going to have to pick a copy up this week. I don’t even know how it ends. Thanks for asking.

  36. Stone Butch Blues. It was apparently required reading for another college course, and I was a recent transfer student picking up textbooks in the next section over. I’m pretty sure I hid it between two other textbooks on my way to the register, and then read it all in one sitting that very night. Holy cow did it hit home for me. This was the first time I’d found any fictional character (tv, books, etc) that I could relate to: feeling violated in dresses and other girly clothes, swearing I’d never get hurt again and being unable to prevent future assaults, being interested in girls and not guys like I was supposed to, etc. Amazing book.

    After that it wasn’t until several years later that I stumbled upon The Night Watch (Sarah Waters). Another awesome book. The structure of it intriguing; its three sections go backwards in time, following the same group of lesbians – almost like if you watched the L Word starting with the second-to-last season (the final one was over-the-top bad) and worked your way backwards. The fact that someone could put queer thoughts onto paper like that, was (is) still so new and bold to me that I couldn’t get enough of it.

    I’ll keep perusing the booklists here for other queer titles. Might as well start reading stuff I can actually relate to ;-)

  37. Today was a first for me: there has been enough time between now and breaking up with my family that I had to tell the doctor ‘I don’t know’ when asked for family medical history. I’m a little shook up about that.

    They find me completely unacceptable, and I’ve reached the AMAZING stage where the feeling is mutual. Their bigotry has no room in the life I have/am building. Embracing that knowledge takes me out of the victim’s seat and into a place of power. And it is goooooood. But these weird reminders of the hole shaped like my entire biological family throws me off my game and I have to remind myself ~I~ left them. And ~they~ are the ones missing out.

    Right? Right.

    • Keep your head up, refer back to your last paragraph often, and remember you’re not alone. They *are* the ones missing out, and it reflects THEIR deficiencies, not yours… I’ve lurked around Autostraddle long enough to see what an amazingly embracing and encouraging group of folks are here – stick around :-) . And I totally get the doctor “no fuckin’ clue” situation having cut all contact with my biological family when I went into foster care (really tough decision, but saved my life). One moment at a time…

      • you both are so brave and strong. It takes a strong person to claim their own world and what they would like it to be. I am very close to my family, lived in the same city my whole life and sometimes I dream about starting over in a new city with my girlfriend. I am sending you both love and strength. I hope that doesn’t sound corny.. some say I sound like a fortune cookie. so be it. :)

  38. Growing up very tightly closeted in the Midwest, I was shocked to stumble upon the main character’s feelings for Shug in The Color Purple. Her words about “feeling like a frog” around men, and wanting to be with Shug resonated so deeply with me. I read it for a summer assignment, and found it so nice to see someone who actually felt the way I did in a school-sanctioned piece. We never discussed it though– makes me wonder how different high school could have been. Queer lit takeover plz

  39. I figured out that I was queer in 8th grade and spent the next four years sitting with a hell of a lot of cognitive dissonance where I both allowed myself to think about it and denied that it was real or meant anything about me or was permanent etc. etc. So the first gay book I remember reading was during that time–summer after 8th. It was “Between Mom and Jo,” which has a straight boy as the main character and is about family more than it is about LGBTQ stuff, but the family in question has two moms and there are a lot of queer themes and conversations as far as I recall.

    I let myself check it out from the library, but I absolutely did not want anyone seeing me with it or knowing I was reading it because they absolutely couldn’t ~suspect anything~ because that might corroborate something that definitely wasn’t real anyway and also it didn’t matter. (Oh, child. It will be fine, I promise.) I remember hiding it in the middle of other stacks of books and only reading it when no one else was around.

    I think I also probably read some femslash fanfic during eighth grade? I don’t think I found much though.

  40. My first queer book was Gender Outlaw by Kate Bornstein. I was 22 years old at the time, I was in the Army, and I had just redeployed from Kuwait when I read it. I had also just come out to the first person about being trans since I was a child, and I was looking for something, anything to help me figure things out.

  41. Does Tithe count? My mom bought it for me when I was 11 because I liked the Spiderwick Chronicles, and she decided to read it first and was very pissed off about the gay side character. I wasn’t allowed to read it until I found it in my parent’s closet when I was 17 and it was life changing for just that little bit of romance.

  42. So sad I kinda missed this thread today!

    My first gay book was this YA anthology called Am I Blue?. I stumbled across it at the public library while combing the teen section for something interesting to read, and was immediately thrilled and horrified to read the cover blurb and realize it was about – gasp- gay people. I dropped it like it was on fire, because I was at that point fairly certain that being even casually associated with anything gay would result in a giant siren going off informing every person in a radius of several miles that I had the gay. But I couldn’t resist, and I spent several weeks trying to sneakily read the book in corners with the title hidden and a big pile of books on safer themes piled up in front of me. Looking back now, I feel a little sad by how afraid I was about the whole thing :/

    • This was my first lgbtq book I remember reading, too! I read it once before I realized I was bi and then I checked it out again afterwards because I remembered it fondly and thought I might appreciate it even more once I was able to consciously identify with some of the characters.

    • This book was my everything for a while in middle school. I honestly don’t remember much about it now and have been trying to find it at my local library, but I don’t think they have it anymore. :(

      I remember repeatedly checking it out from the library, locking myself up in my room, and reading it secretly, all the while keeping a different book nearby, so that if somebody knocked, I could hide “Am I Blue?” under my sheets and switch to the other book before somebody walked in. I would make sure to check out other books from the library and hide “Am I Blue?” somewhere in the middle of the stack. I was beyond paranoid about reading it, but it was what I needed at that point in my life.

  43. The first LGBT book I ever read was the autobiography of Christine Jorgensen, after it first came out in paperback in the late 1960s, when I was 12. Of course I didn’t have the courage to actually try to buy it — I saw it in the book rack at an old New York City 5 and 10 cent store called Lamston’s, and read the whole thing while hiding behind a pillar, my heart pounding incredibly fast(I could hear it in my ears) the entire time.

    • Haha, been there, done that. It wasn’t a book, but I remember around 1963-64 (I would have been maybe 9-10) I was visiting my grandma in San Francisco as I often did. We were downtown and, while grandma went to buy perfume at one of the department stores, she said I could go into a rambling old used book and magazine store (with a half dead gay man senior citizen snoozing behind the counter). I wandered around and quickly happened upon a used copy of what I later realized was “Female Mimics” magazine. Despite its name, the magazine featured a lot of stores about trans women, especially ones in France like Coccinelle (a famous trans woman Brigitte Bardot-lookalike who starred in Parisienne music halls and cabarets). To say I was excited and scared was an understatement… my hands were shaking and I took the magazine over to one of the dusty, dark sections in the back (like Medieval History) while my eyeballs bulged out looking at it. I knew the term transsexual, but I never really had seen ‘one’ except for a rare story in the newspaper (probably Christine Jorgensen). I was petrified grandma would come to get me and find me reading the magazine but literally couldn’t put it down. After about 10 minutes the old guy stirred and barked out “can I help you young man?” I hid the magazine between two books in the history section and attempted to nonchalantly reply no (but probably sounded more like a kid who was stealing candy). I was obsessed with that magazine for months and, when I had another opportunity to visit the store (again, with my grandma) the magazine wasn’t where I put it and I was too scared to look in the used magazine bin because the old guy was awake. Ugh. Such painful, painful memories.

      • I can relate! Unfortunately, I was still just as scared a decade later that someone would realize I was interested in that subject — I remember surreptitiously reading magazine articles about Renee Richards in the corners of newsstands, and read her memoir (Second Serve) in a library while hiding it inside a larger book so nobody could see what I was reading. I also remember seeing “female impersonator” magazines at newsstands but being afraid to look at them, even though I was over 18.

        • The library, oy. When I was about 15 (1969-ish) my fairly progressive city library actually got a copy of Harry Benjamin’s “The Transsexual Phenomenon.” My routine was… go to the library, pick out a book I wouldn’t be ashamed to check out (so I looked as if I had a reason to be there), go to the art history section, get an oversized art book, carefully sneak over to the section where the Benjamin book was, hide it behind the open art book, take them to the aisle where the fewest number of people ever went (either poetry or sociology), sit on the corner floor and read the hell out of that damn transsexual book. I did this several times a week for months. Really over several years. They finally got a couple of other books like Christine Jorgensen’s autobiography (okay, but I didn’t get as absorbed by it), Canary Conn’s autobiography (which I loved—devoured) and Jan Morris’ book (kind of dry and twee, wasn’t really into that).

          Other than a few pulp paperback books sold in adult book stores (which I wouldn’t have been allowed in), there really were no books about trans people when I grew up. The San Francisco Chronicle had an article about (who I now know to be) April Ashley which I saw when I was about 8. I wanted to tear it out of the paper and save it but was petrified my parents would find out. How did we ever survive? :(

    • I didn’t even know there was such a thing as LGBT lit. Then my first girlfriend, at age 17, in the mid sixties, thrust a copy Radcliffe Hall’s book at me and said “we’ll go to bed once you’ve read it”. “If you still want too”.

      Well, even though the book was as depressing as hell, I STILL WANTED TOO.

      Oh! What lot of life has happened since then!

  44. I’m a little late replying, but I just got off work so I’m just now seeing this. So many good books I haven’t read! My first gay book was The Passionate Mistakes and Intricate Corruption of One Girl in America by Michelle Tea. It spoke to my high school riot grrl soul in ways that were life altering. I must have read it a thousand times before it disintegrated and I got a copy of Valencia, deciding to check out more of Michelle Tea’s writing. Good stuff!

  45. I’m going to say the 1945 novel Worrals of the Islands, which was full of gals being pals in the south pacific, although thinking back they might have been actual pals who just happened to be gals and just slept in the same room… hmmm no still can’t unthink that.

    Well, as for actual lesbian books, I first started reading fan fiction around 1990 over the internet a friend of mine hooked up for me but for actual books I’m going to say Tropical Storm by Melissa Good, I read that as fan fiction and it’s since been made into a series of novels.

    The first actual physical lesbian book I’m not certain, but I have 600 paperback and hardcover novels and I just reached 250 ebooks, so it was probably one of them.

  46. I would say the first queer books I read were The Moth Diaries, which I read when I was 12 and would obsessively re-read as a teenager, and also Carmilla, which I read when I was 14 as a direct result of The Moth Diaries. I didn’t notice the queer subtext until I was around 15 and became kind of self conscious and defensive about it.

    When I was 17 and at peak ‘holy shit I might not be straight!’ Questioning time, my English teacher mentioned that she was reading a book about Victorian lesbians called Tipping the Velvet, so I looked it up online and discovered Sarah Waters. I snuck off to buy a copy of Affinity when I was shopping with my mum, and then proceeded to hide it under my bed because I was afraid of being caught reading it, and also kind of afraid of what reading it may confirm.

    Now I am 23 and I have a shelf full of queer books – Audre Lorde’s Zami, Malinda Lo’s Ash, Fried Green Tomatoes, plenty of Emma Donoghue, and that same copy of Affinity is sat by my bed right now.

  47. When I was 14, my mum bought me a book called Twins (by Marcy Dermansky) at a secondhand bookshop.
    I haven’t read it in years, but it became my absolute favourite instantly, and regardless of whether it’s a “good” book or not, at the time it got me through SO much, so I will always love it 100%.
    One of the characters is revealed to be gay at the end, but I always loved the way it happened: It was never presented as an issue. No one was homophobic.
    It was just a thing, and that was really refreshing to see.

    Not long after that, I started reading Pretty Little Liars and I don’t think I realised beforehand that Emily dated girls. So obviously I used to try and skip ahead to her chapters so I could read more about that haha

  48. I read fingersmith by Sarah Waters when i was 17. And i remember raving about it at a party to my gay friend (because it is legitimately fantastic) and she said ‘You are so gay.’ We’d been chatting ever so vaguely about how i maybe could be. And i remember getting super defensive and shouting something like ‘Reading Harry Potter doesn’t make you straight!’ Aww so in denial.

  49. I was SUCH a bookworm growing up but I don’t remember reading any lesbian books while I was coming out. Of course, I did read and reread and reread again the Anne of Green Gables series when I was really young (I was obsessed with Diana).

    I came out at 18 in the late 90’s/early 2000’s and did what a lot of little baby dykes did back then: decided I needed to be butch. I shaved my head, completely changed my style, stopped wearing make-up, and avoided pink, sparkly, or leopard print things. Then my first girlfriend took me to a gay bookstore in Richmond, VA (Phoenix Rising, I believe) and I randomly picked up a secondhand copy of The Femme Mystique by Leslea Newman and it legitimately changed my life. It is an outdated (even back then) compilation of essays by and about femme women and it blew my mind. It was my first real exposure to femme women who were out, proud, fierce, sexual, confident, and I immediately and happily started reverting to my very blonde, very femme self. That book made me comfortable with the idea of being overtly queer and femme at the same time; more than that, it made me realize that it was even a possibility. It also introduce me to the concept of the butch/femme dynamic and gave name to that innate desire I always had for the butchest woman in the room. Going from pseudo-butch to my gloriously femme self was a lonely transition for me and happened during a time where I was very isolated from any sort of queer community or any type of support at all, really. I found myself turning to that book over and over again… it was like having a group of friends to turn to. :) The book is now incredibly outdated, but I highly recommend getting your hands on a copy if you are a femme and looking for powerful books about femmes. :)

  50. The first queer book I read was “Boy Meets Boy” by David Leviathan. I was in seventh grade, and my brother had already came out as gay, and I found the book in his room shortly after I had first had feelings for a girl. I couldn’t quite understand them, and I was curious about this book. I read the book, and when I was done, I just sat on my bed for hours thinking about it. And that’s when I was like, “yes, I like girls.” I haven’t read it since, and I want to read it again so badly! Especially since I just came out as a lesbian to the world in January.

  51. If you don’t count all the queerbaiting manga I consumed between the ages of 12-14, I’m pretty sure the first novel with any kind of gay content I read was also “Keeping You a Secret”. Probably also purchases with a B&N gift card. After that, I DEVOURED all the YA LGBT-themed lit I could get my hands on. “Luna” by the same author came shortly after that, along with “Annie on my Mind”, “Boy Meets Boy”, “Hear Us Out!” and “Good Moon Rising”. I even told myself at one point that I should probably be reading more “straight books”, since I’d only been consuming books with LGBT characters for a while (lol). Reading made me hungry to leave my small town and meet more people like me, but it also made me feel less alienated while I was there. I was the only openly gay person in my entire school system when I was a senior in high school, so I feel like those books and all the stories I read online adequately prepared me for the bullshit I encountered during that last year.

  52. The first queer book I read was “Fried Green Tomatoes” when I was ten. I saw the film and wanted to read the book. I realized that I maybe sorta gay and didn’t pick up any queer/gay literature until I read “Oranges” in my first year of university.

  53. This is a generational thing, I think. The first lesbian book I read was The Well of Loneliness (Radclyffe Hall), which Disappointed me as it didn’t really auger well for the future. Then I read The Unlit Lamp (also by Radclyffe Hall) which I thought a fabulous book, but really put the nail on expecting anything positive to come of the future. Luckily the future wasn’t quite as bad as those two books suggested.

  54. Riese said it exactly! I read a lot about gay boys to get my queer fix but avoid the suspicions of my librarians, my parents, and myself.

    Ugh, I specifically remember reading Will Grayson, Will Grayson by David Leviathan and being annoyed that Jane, a cute girl in the high-school GSA, ended up being the love interest of a straight guy. Then, I read How They Met and Other Stories and the lovely mix of romances with queer girls blew my mind. They were so cuuute.

    Later on, I finally went on a big lesbian book procuring mission at the public library and ran into my high-school’s football coach while holding Annie On my Mind, Dykes to Watch Out For, and Sputnik Sweetheart…

  55. … I think the first book I read that had gay anything in it was this super old copy of Justine by the Marquis de Sade that I dug up in the back of a little Chicago bookstore. But in the same time frame, Geography Club and The Best Little Boy in the World.

  56. The books that moved stirred my little queer heart into itself:
    I read The Color Purple at like age 14, and I think that really had a huge impact.
    THEN I read Fried Green Tomatoes and was ALL about Idgie & Ruth (still am.)
    I DO remember reading Annie on my Mind but feeling lukewarm about it?
    I LOVED Price of Salt. I remember thinking it was the most honest portrayal of what I felt about other women. (Which may not be good considering that’s a pretty intense book…whelp…)
    Since then, the books I’ve read about lesbian romance have been scarce. I loved/was kind of destroyed by Winterson’s Written on the Body, but that was way too recent to count for this blog homework assignment.

  57. My first queer book I ever read had to have been “Tomorrow Wendy” by Shelley Stoehr, which no one seems to have mentioned yet. I think I found it in the library because it was part of this collection of YA novels that I loved which were mostly about Kids With Issues Of Some Kind, and I borrowed it again and again over the years. It was about… Actually let me just copy the blurb from the copy I bought for myself years later:

    “I’ve discovered that if you wear a big enough hat, no one worries much about what’s going on inside your head.

    
Cary should know. Her head is a mess under the floppy Audrey Hepburn hat she wears. Her best friend is a boy who speaks to her in song lyrics–a boy only she can see. And no one, not even Cary’s boyfriend, Danny, knows about the things inside Cary’s head. Especially the feelings she has for Wendy, a girl with bright green hair and hard-candy sadness in her eyes. Cary thinks that sexy, dangerous Wendy could love her as much as Danny does. There’s just one problem. Wendy is Danny’s sister.”

    It might sound terrible but it was amazing and I loved it and I still kind of do. It has everything: an eccentric main character, a touch of ‘is this an apparition or is she just crazy?’, teenagers having sex and doing drugs and some generally Fucked Up Shit, a girl that the main character really shouldn’t be into but you just can’t help but be a little into her too (even though she’s terrible), and even a tentatively happy, albeit open ending.

    And I might be the odd one out here but I really, really hated Keeping You A Secret when I first read it at 19. I don’t want to spoil the book for anyone who hasn’t read it so I won’t go into detail, but the extremely dark turn that it takes towards the end really put me off. I read it again just last year to see if I still felt that way at 28, and I did (so I finally got rid of my copy). I understand that what happens in the book is a reality for many people and therefore it’s important that it be addressed in literature, but it just ended up making me feel really… sad and hopeless (even though I knew even back then that it would never be my reality, and I’m grateful for that).

  58. The Petty Details of So-and-So’s Life by Camilla Gibb. Great book, life-changer for me. For me, it was an introductory manual to Bisexuality Is Actually A Real Thing, You Can Do It Too.

  59. My overly ambitious elementary queer kid self decided this book would be appropriate to read in the 4th grade. It wasn’t exactly inappropriate (because 4th grade brain was already into sex and lesbian romance, good job kid self), but J.C., this book is depressing. We ended up reading it in my women’s lit class in college…still depressing. A really quick read for the beach though.

    Still a favorite book because: nostalgia and those feelings, the historical background of this novel is awesome (Virginia Woolf and a bunch of British queers went to trial to defend how gay/”obscene” this book was for their times), this book is from the 1920s, ya’ll. This book being cast as pornography is a LOL because Purple Panties and Missionary No More and ZANE books in general….just…what? (Note: There is a pretty risque sex scene in the book with an ancient strap on.)

  60. Probably Fried Green Tomatoes, read when I was 25/26.
    I didn’t know it was a queer book; I had bought it because I was trying to break my habit of reading only fantasy, classical literature and Nancy Drew stories. I realised it was queer halfway through (not because of the relationship) but because my sister came up on me when I was reading it and asked “hey, did you know that book is gay?” I still cringe at the response I gave her, which was pretty much why did you tell me that here, I was enjoying the relationship and now, I will look at it from the point of view of sex and it is spoiled (yeah, I have been pretty immersed in the Indian culture then, which does not think much of sex at present [thought the past was different]. Our most exalted relationship is that of teacher and student only rivaled by mother and son (notice, I said son) and God and devotee. Romance is the relationship that counts the least, unless it is that of a wife to husband because wives are (were) supposed to consider husbands God.).

    I loved the book anyways.

    Am not sure whether I considered myself a lesbian then. I had inklings of it, but basically my whole information bank on the subject was pretty limited at the time (I didn’t know there were such things as women attracted to women until my early (mid) 20’s). I knew I was not attracted to men, but that I just considered weird (or that I had probably some unknowable disease, or that I am just spiritual ;-)).

    Anyways, took me around 4 more years to get around to reading Colour Purple (also, didn’t know queer content was there; read because it had African Americans in it) and then Tipping the Velvet, and other books by Sarah Waters (The Nightwatch is an especially good read for its style and variety of characters) and many others.
    Once again, the books didn’t make me come out to myself as gay; a random comment by sister did (on how little attention I pay to male characters in books and TV and how I’d find a favourite woman even in settings that are male oriented). And may be the fact that I always identified with men in the books and were always falling for women played a part. (The identification part had as much to do with men having cooler parts and getting to do real active stuff in our mythology; mostly.)

    Also, my first open thread post (may be a bit late in the day) :). I decided if I wanted to find friends and feel like not the only gay woman in the planet (and everyone else just being just epiphenomenonal chatter) then I may as well try to squish my introverted habits and at least try posting comments in friendly forums like these.

    • Wow! That is a huge comment. Just to add to that, the first book with queer characters I ever read was the Mahabharata, one of our (as In India’s) most important scriptural/history (or psuedohistory, whatever) works that opens the history of the main character’s lineage with a queer couple: a guy who had turned into a woman because he entered a forest dedicated to Goddess and Goddess didn’t like any men except her husband there and her husband who was a liminal being (and the son of Moon). Their story is brief, but the book also had a tertiary transgender character (a woman who is brought up as a man and then, eventually gets the male genitals from a gay spirit) who goes onto become the reason for the death of one of the main opponents of the lead characters. Note: It is not as satisfying as the transman actually killing that guy; just that the hero stood behind him and shot arrows at the opponent while he was unarmed; he was unarmed because he had pledged that he would not take arms against folks who were women and who had been women).

      Also, we have this God (Vishnu) who turns into a beautiful woman from time to time to seduce folks of bad characters into making bad strategic decisions thus allowing the good folks to win.

      Hope you all have a great weekend!

      Aparna

        • Welcome welcome welcome!!

          And thank you for wonderful posts ~ I hope these are these are the first of many.

          And as for your language ~ it is quite frankly the most epiphenomenonally gorgeous addition to this open thread (with you being the obvious original epic phenomenon).

          Also, I think you may be the first person to win 5,000 points at Scrabble whilst writing your first post.

  61. My first queer book was The Color Purple by Alice Walker. I was 10, and my mom let me read it because it was an important, serious book about racial issues. She asked me to come to her if I had any questions. NO. No, I did not. I realize now that she partially meant to come to her for an explanation if I didn’t understand about Celie & Shug. Lord only knows what she would have said.

  62. The first was actually Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson. I was 11 and found it on my parents bookshelf. I’m not going to deny a lot of it went straight over my head but I reread it recently and I actually think more stuck than I realised.

  63. Stereotypically, as evidenced by the photo for this post, Annie on My Mind was my first. Read it in 8th grade, which was still a little early but I remember uncomfortable pangs of recognition when Liza described never imagining living with a man but building her life with a woman.

    YA books are still sweet and dear to my heart. Nancy Garden’s others – particularly The Year They Burned the Books and Good Moon Rising and Sara Ryan’s Empress of the World (queer archaeologists represent!) are a few I remember holding particular meaning.

  64. Reading this thread has definitely sparked my interest in the proto-gal pal.

    Mine was Anne Of Green Gables. I was about 10 when I first read it, and I remember being so fixated on Diana. Gal pals for life, heteronormativity be damned! I read some of the sequels, but I lost interest after the third one when Anne became engaged.

    I suppose my first actual gay book was Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit, which I discovered (much too late) after I studied another Winterson book during my first year of uni.

  65. I honestly cannot remember the title of the first gay book I read. What I do remember is that I was in maybe the 4th or 5th grade, and it was about a guy who had a boyfriend with my name, and was closeted (the book was set in the early 90s I think), and he accidentally slept with his boss’ niece (daughter?) who was visiting from another country. The entire book was a mess, but if someone knows the name of the book and were to tell me I wouldn’t mind at all.
    Then I read Annie on my Mind in the 9th grade and fell in love with it.

  66. The first queer book I ever read was The Bermudez Triangle, by Maureen Johnson. I think by that point in my life (tenth grade? maybe?) I was pretty aware that I was Not Straight, but it wasn’t the kind of thing I wanted to admit to myself or really even explore too much? Like, “I probably like girls, but that doesn’t mean I’m a HOMOSEXUAL. As if.” But I dunno. I read it because I loved the rest of Maureen’s books, and I remember putting it down once I’d finished with a definite, “shit, I’m a lesbian. Time to deal with THIS now.” And then I read it again and again, and kept it until I owed the library more than it was worth in fees.

    I’m constantly searching for new ones, though, and every time my girlfriend and I find them in bookstores and in libraries it’s a big deal. We make it a kind of game – some of my other faves, and other ones that sort of shaped what kind of lesbian I am, I guess, are Empress of the World (<3) and literally anything by Julie Anne Peters. I DEVOURED her books and loved every one.

  67. Seeing lots of Anne of Green Gables…but how about Caddie Woddlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink. Granted, this is not an out and out gay/queer novel, but at 9 years old to be reading stories about a Tomboy who was, for the most part, encouraged to be just that. I was in awe and in love.
    The first undeniably gay novel I read was around age 11, The Front Runner by Patricia Nell Warren. As an athlete/runner, this was extraordinary. Published in the late 1970’s, groundbreaking stuff about a college track coach, fired from Penn because he was suspected of being gay. Moves to a small college, gets some great runners who heard about him and moved across the country to his tiny school because they were also gay. Romance. Running. Yeah, I geeked out big time.
    This is such a fantastic thread!! Thanks @yvonne

  68. I don’t remember the name of this book or the author, but it was about a track student and her coach falling in love. My GED prep teacher person at the local community college (I didn’t go to high school, so free GED classes were a big deal for me) gave it to me and she was like “I think you’ll really like this”.

    I read it and was like “man, why does my teacher think I’d be into a sports book?” The denial was strong with me.

    I also read a lot of lesbian utopian SF as a teenager and adult, and managed to stay oblivious for quite a while. Maybe some more bisexual/queer representation would have helped. It’s actually only this year that I’ve started reading some of the standard queer lady novels like Annie on my Mind, and Sarah Waters stuff (thanks Dina!).

  69. When I was about fourteen or fifteen, Radio New Zealand had a serialised reading of Dare, Truth or Promise (http://www.amazon.com/Dare-Truth-Promise-Paula-Boock/dp/0547076177/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1441479804&sr=1-1&keywords=dare+truth+or+promise&pebp=1441479805506&perid=1KYWZB2V2449P20C4PZZ) as part of its Summer Noelle holiday line-up. My mum and I listened to the radio while we were painting the disused fireplace in the dining room, and though I think I missed the first one or two instalments I was totally hooked until the end.

  70. So I’m late to the party again, haha.

    I actually read my first gay book a couple months ago! Well, trans would be a better descriptor actually. It was Redefining Realness by Janet Mock. Such an excellent read, I lent it to a friend.

    Also, off-topic, I learned how to hem pants using a sewing machine! I’m short, so like all my pants were too long on me. I think I did a good job hemming. I made a couple mistakes here and there, but nothing too drastic. Even with the mess-ups, it was well worth it!

  71. The first LGBT+ book I read was Luna by Julie Anne Peters (about a trans character), but I was pretty young (5th grade maybe?) and didn’t really understand what was going on in it until quite a while later. Then, I read were Lost Souls by Poppy Z. Brite (not really specifically a lgbt+ book, but with lots of queer characters) and Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan, that was around 6th & 7th grade. I have to admit I still read boy meets boy if I need something to put me in a good mood, it’s so cute! I am now realising that I’ve read waaay more books with queer male characters than with queer female characters in them, which seems odd. I also used to listen to audiobook casettes of The Famous Five by Enid Blyton when I was a kid, and even though there are no out lgbt+ characters in it I always did enjoy the tomboy character George (Georgina).

    • Luna was also my first (primarily) LGBT book! I read it in late middle school or early high school and loved it.
      I didn’t realize I was queer until years later, but it was my first exposure to obviously. purposefully LGBT characters in literature. :)

  72. I think my first queer book was Keeping You a Secret, too! That or Are You Blue? But I don’t really know how or if it influenced me. I definitely hid it from my parents, though. And I definitely was That Fangirl who was invested in shounen-ai/yaoi stuff. Innocent whistling~~~~

    Meanwhile my dog is still adorable. He’s barking a lot more, though. Very excitable when people show up. He has infections in his ears and paws, and he’s got allergies :c My poor noodle. He doesn’t like the treatments for his ears and paws very much, either. Much stress. Such dislike. Very do not want.

  73. I found a copy of A Love Story Starring My Dead Best Friend when I was like 13 in my middle school library and proceeded to steal it (I think I lost it at some point over the next half decade). I didn’t even realize it was gay I just kinda had a knack for accidentally finding gay shit??? that was the same way I found out about that bisexual cinderella YA novel whose name I’m forgetting.

    • Oh god, I LOVED that book. I found it in Indigo about five years ago, and sat down in a big comfy chair and read it cover to cover. And then I bought it. And then I lent it to a friend and I haven’t seen it since :( I would really like to read it again though, maybe I’ll go buy another copy.

    • A Love Story Starring My Dead Best Friend was one of the ones to make it through our massive book cull a month or so ago. Compelling enough for repeated readings.
      And the Cinderella one you’re thinking of – if I had to place bets, I’d say it’s Ash by Malinda Lo!

  74. I think the first gay thing I read was Hard Love by Ellen Wittlinger. I fell madly in love with Marisol, but I also wanted to be her. She was so fucking cool. But the book was from the point of view of a guy so I think that’s how it flew under my parents’ radar.
    My dog’s pissed at me because I made her ride in a car, walk on hardwood floors, and take a bath this week. The horrors. But, she LOVES my friend(coworker)-with-benefits so I kind of hope that it makes up for it. By the way, because I can’t tell literally anyone about the fuckbuddy situation, I’ll just say here that I’ve never had sex like this before in my life…I’ve struggled so much with how I’ve felt about sex, because it’s really never been all that fun. And my ex used to berate me about how I was in bed, that I sucked at pretty much everything (kissing including). BUT GODDAMN. As it turns out, it wasn’t just me…it was the people that I was sleeping with, too. Right person = fucking mindblowing. Maybe because she’s 10 years older? But the fucking, the cuddling, the dancing, the talking…she’s good stuff. Mmmmmm.

  75. The first queer book I read was technically Pretty Little Liars. In the first book of the series, one of the characters questions her sexuality and has a really cliche first kiss with a girl in a photobooth at a party in the woods or something? I read it in the sixth grade, a couple years before it became popular, and that book rocked my fuckin world. Also, a few other sixth graders saw me reading it, googled it, and I was dubbed “LL” (Loser Lesbian) for the rest of middle school. Then I was distraught but now I’m just like ‘same’.
    My favorite queer book is The Miseducation of Cameron Post. Also, Richard Siken writes incredibly gay poetry (read the first stanza of A Primer for the Small Weird Loves and cry your big queer eyes out).

  76. Oh wow. Um…the only one I can think of at the top of my head as the first gay book was “Weetzie Bat” by Francesca Lia Block in that there were gay people in it

    I don’t remember if there were any lez-tastic parts in all those Tamora Pierce books I read in middle school but that was around the time I started to get overly attached to my friend Catherine while we dabbled in Wicca and sneered at boys. (WISTFUL SIGH)

  77. The first gay book I ever read was Empress of the World, after I read it I used the subject links on my library’s computer to read every other book in the “lesbian” subject that we had- all 4 of them. I was like 13 and seriously contemplated whether I was a lesbian, and decided I wasn’t.

    Laughed so hard at myself when I came out to myself as queer 6 years later.

  78. The first queer book I ever read was by accident. I was in middle school. It was 2004. I was 12. and I regularly hit up my local bookstore’s teen section. One day I picked up The Bermudez Triangle by Maureen Johnson, and some relative I was with bought it for me. (I was lucky in that I could pick out anything as long as it wasn’t from the regular fiction section for adults. No one looked that closely at the titles they purchased for me.) I did not know that the book was about two girls in a friend group of three who started dating each other at first. I don’t know when I realized, but I did, and when I read Mel’s POV after she first kisses Avery (where she talks about it always being there, looking at Hermione in Harry Potter a little too much, and just knowing she didn’t want to date boys), I knew that I related to it, but I was also like wait I can continue to push this down for now, or at the very least, I can hide it. But I’ve always remembered that part. And when friends came over and borrowed books, I would always say, “Oh you probably don’t want to read that one. It’s about two girls dating each other, and I didn’t know it was or I wouldn’t have bought it. I thought Avery was a guy when I read the summary on the inside flap.” And all my friends were like, “That’s so weird.” And in my head I would always tell myself, “I’m not Mel. There’s no way I’m Mel.” Shortly after, I bought Kissing Kate by Lauren Myracle. I definitely knew what it was about.

    After these experiences, I couldn’t stop reading queer books, but it was easier to pick up ones about guys. Bookstores near me carried more of those titles. I was still consuming queer content, but I wasn’t, like, implicating/revealing my own identity while doing it. I did search every bookstore I entered for books about queer women, but never found the titles I knew about until much later in high school. Now, I constantly consume queer books. Some favorite YA titles of recent years are Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley, The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth, and HER NAME IN THE SKY by Kelly Quindlen. I rarely see the last one mentioned, and I LOVE IT!!!!!!!. I usually am bored by religious issues in books about sexuality because it is personally not relevant to my life, but I think this book does it SO WELL. My favorite adult titles are The Color Purple and Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit.

  79. Mine was “The Price of Salt” by Claire Morgan. The old name for Highsmith’s Carol. I found it by accident in my convent school’s library. The spinster librarian as I now recall recommended I check out Olivia by Antonia White. Actually thinking about it she did take a particular interest in what I read.

    Lovely thread this. It’s bring back fond memories of scanning the fiction shelves in our enormous public library looking out for the zebra spines of the women’s press. It introduced me to early Val Mcdermind Lindsay Gorden mysteries and Patience and Sarah which I still don’t understand the fuss about.

  80. My first one was Magic’s Pawn by Mercedes Lackey, at around age 10 or 11. I tore through books like nobody’s business at that age, so I wound up getting a few old fantasy novels from my dad that I became so. obsessed. with. This one (and the rest of the trilogy) was about a noble-born boy/man growing up, figuring out he’s gay, developing magic powers due to Tragic Circumstances, and generally being all noble but also sad and mopey. There was some romance in there, though, and damn if I wasn’t completely taken with that.

    Actually the whole tragic martyr thing probably explains (a) why I felt so connected to these books as a teenager, and (b) part of why I was so freaked out when I started questioning my sexuality. I’m a pretty anxious person and constantly convinced that people won’t like me if they find out personal details about me, so it was weirdly validating to read this Tragic Gay Everything Is Awful type of fantasy.

  81. So. Very late to the party, but I love books and all things book-related (hell, my wife works in publishing!). I had to comment, to a) echo everybody who said Annie on My Mind, and add a few others into the mix.
    I remember borrowing (stealing?) M.E. Kerr’s Deliver Us from Edie in middle school – probably around the same time I borrowed/stole Annie on My Mind. But y’all, even before that? Like, when I was early double-digits in age?

    My mother had a random assortment of books (including The Color Purple, which I still haven’t read because I suuuuuuuuck), and she either didn’t know or didn’t care that I would pick up very adult books at a young age. One of her favorite genres was true crime. So, little me’s first exposure to an LGBTQ person in a book was when said real-life person was horrifically killed for being LGBTQ. This was before it was turned into Boys Don’t Cry… I am old.

  82. The first LGBT book I read was The Joy of Lesbian Sex by Dr. Emily Sisley and the novelist Bertha Harris. I came across it in my teens not long after it was published, and it made a deep impression on me. Among other things, it made me appreciate not only what two women can do with each other, but also what they felt about what they did with each other. It did a lot to enrich my imagination about erotic love between women. I wrote and uploaded an essay about it; you can find it here if you care to know more about my admiration of it.

Contribute to the conversation...

Yay! You've decided to leave a comment. That's fantastic. Please keep in mind that comments are moderated by the guidelines laid out in our comment policy. Let's have a personal and meaningful conversation and thanks for stopping by!