Queer Comfort Reads for Tough Times

This month’s (extra) Ask Your Friendly Neighborhood Lesbrarian is going to focus on what I’ve been yearning for, and probably a lot of you have too: comfort reads with queer characters to soothe you in today’s rough times. I’ve specifically picked books that are available in ebook format so that you can get a hold of them from the comfort of wherever your shelter in place is. Other than that, the eight books below differ wildly from each other. That includes essays, poetry, romance, YA, memoir, and more!

Rebent Sinner by Ivan Coyote


If you aren’t already familiar with renowned storyteller, performer, and author Ivan Coyote, now is a great time to pick up their latest collection of stories. There’s always a love of (queer and otherwise) humans in all their eccentricity that shines through in Coyote’s work, and Rebent Sinner is no exception. As usual, the book is a collection of personal essays, anecdotes, and other unclassifiable memoir adjacent writing. Rebent Sinner differs a bit in that it has an elegiac tone more often than their previous books, and Coyote lets out their righteous anger a bit more. But it’s still the kind of book that leaves readers empowered and feeling full of community. Coyote writes about talking to kids in schools about anti-bullying, being in the world as a queer non-binary person, being used as a spokesperson for diversity, searching for queer elders, travel, family, random human connections, and more.

A Place Called No Homeland by Kai Cheng Thom

Multi-talented author and sometime Autostraddle contributor Kai Cheng Thom has written an extraordinary debut collection of poetry. They are poems with strong roots in oral traditions and spoken word, but they aren’t the kind of poems that seemed lost or out of place on the page. It just feels like she is right there in front of you! Her poems are alternately and sometimes simultaneously tough and tender as she meditates on family, race, being trans, femininity, trauma, relationships, community, sex, books, and love. Of particular interest for these times is the poem “your white cisgender boyfriend can’t save you from the end of the world,” where Thom declares that trans girls are the best apocalyptic heroes. She writes: “girl, you were born to live through the end of the world / and the end after that, and the end after that.”

Landing by Emma Donoghue


Landing is essentially humble bookish lesbian comfort food. It’s those very qualities, combined with Donoghue’s talents for dialogue, characterization, and old-fashioned storytelling that make Landing such a delight. The two women at the center of the love story have a lot of differences to contend with. On the one hand, Síle is a flight attendant from Dublin who thinks of herself as a citizen of the world. She’s 39. Jude, on the other, is a 25-year-old archivist born, raised, and still living in rural Ontario. The funny thing is, Jude is really an 80-year-old in disguise, whereas Síle still has the stamina of an 18-year-old. Also, Jude is a rural butch, and Síle is a classy urban femme. Donoghue’s secondary characters are just as quirky and delightful as Jude and Síle—in particular Síle’s best friend and self-declared hasbian Jael.

Noteworthy by Riley Redgate

This very funny, achingly authentic YA story centers around … get ready … a bisexual girl who cross-dresses in order to get a spot in an all-boys a cappella group. Jordan Sun has a low Alto 2 voice, and when she’s rejected from the school musical for the third year in a row, she’s worried that her future at her performing arts school (and beyond) are in jeopardy. Thus she decides to take the drastic measure of trying out for the “Sharps” — dressed as a boy. It turns out that she fits in perfectly there, as a Tenor 1. How long is Jordan going to be able to keep the façade going? What is going to happen to her crush on a girl? What about her crush on a boy? What will happen to the friendships she’s made with the guys — as a guy? Chinese American queer representation, complex discussion of gender, and a story featuring cross-dressing that doesn’t pretend that trans people don’t exist!

To the Moon and Back by Melissa Brayden

Feel-good romance is always reassuring to me, as I think it is for many people. Prolific lesbian romance author Melissa Brayden’s latest, To the Moon and Back is just the ticket. Lauren Prescott abandoned her dream of being an actress after one too many failed auditions, but she has found success as the stage manager for the McAllister theatre. Their latest production, however, might spell some difficulty for her. Fallen from grace celebrity Carly Daniel has been cast. Carly is entitled, never on time, and stubborn. Also: Lauren is unfortunately very attracted to her. Carly’s only agreed to do this play on the advice of her agent, who’s trying to salvage Carly’s thriving film career that she ruined by non-stop partying in her 20s. When something happens to Carly’s co-star, should Lauren take the opportunity to revisit her dream? And how will acting together affect whatever is growing between them?

Zami by Audre Lorde

Take comfort in the legendary classic “biomythography” that is Audre Lorde’s Zami. Lorde tells the (semi-fictionalized) story of her life so far, from graphic memories of growing up in Harlem to her Black lesbian coming of age in the 1950s. Lorde’s characterizations of the women in her life — like her mother, first female friend, first girlfriend — are incredibly rich. The descriptive settings of time and place like 1950s New York City, Mexico City during the McCarthy era, and Grenada during her mother’s early life are just as lush. She writes “Every woman I have ever loved has left her print upon me, where I loved some invaluable piece of myself apart from me-so different that I had to stretch and grow in order to recognize her.” Zami is a beloved classic for many reasons; above all, it’s the poetry of her language that brings this already vivid work to life.

Full English by Rachel Spangler

This romance has a cozy, quaint Britishness about it. In the wake of a terrible (public) divorce, best-selling author Emma Volant decides that what she needs to do is leave the US and hide for a while in a small town in the North East of England. She doesn’t know anyone there and she’s glad of it. But when the mischievous locals find out there’s a celebrity author in their midst, they get the local pub’s bartender Brogan on board to get Emma out of her shell. Brogan is protecting her heart just like Emma — but for different reasons. Despite their developing friendship and obvious mutual attraction, it doesn’t seem like either is in a position to start a serious relationship. Low angst, just gentle growing and healing!

Wow No Thank You by Samantha Irby

Is there any better comfort than humor? Honestly it feels like Samantha Irby’s latest collection of essays arrived just in time so that we can distract and soothe ourselves with side-splitting laughter. Irby picks up where her life is at now, writing about her now “bourgeois life of a Hallmark Channel dream,” which includes living with her wife and step-kids in a Blue small town in a Red state. But don’t worry, Irby still has bad date stories to tell: friend dates! She also writes about working as a writer on the TV show Shrill and meeting with LA TV execs as a “cheese fry-eating slightly damp Midwest person.” Irby is the kind of effortlessly funny self-deprecating author who is able to make just about any topic — blood, poop, tears, skincare, money, aging — hilarious. Check out Kayla’s full review on Autostraddle.


This list is just a few of my recommendations for queer comfort reads. But what everyone reads for comfort is different! Please share your own comfort reads with queer characters in the comments.

And if you have any requests for queer books for upcoming Ask Your Friendly Neighborhood Lesbrarian posts, let me know! You can send me an email at stepaniukcasey [at] gmail.com, comment below, or write in an A+ message.

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

Casey has written 58 articles for us.

23 Comments

  1. Wow, these sound perfect! At the moment I’m listening to an audiobook of Once & Future (which I think I saw mentioned on another recent list of yours) – along with an assortment of academic books and early modern Spanish and Portuguese works for research. I’ll come back to this page after the audiobook!

  2. Thank you Casey!

    I haven’t been able to concentrate on a lot of books. I have read several folk/fairytale retellings – I think there’s something very comforting about reading a story I already know but seeing the different takes. The Wolf and The Girl by Aster Glenn Grey is a queer retelling of little red riding hood set in 1911 Russia with lesbians. It’s beautifully written – and deceptively simple. The author’s Briarley – Beauty and the Beast retelling set in wartime England with queer men is also lovely.

    And I enjoyed Nottingham -Robin Hood with lesbians and a trans man

  3. Landing by Emma Donoghue has been my queer comfort read for years! It’s a very good one. I picked up Rebent Sinner shortly after it came out when I was in Vancouver last year, but haven’t read it yet – so I’ll have to keep that in mind, along with the new Samantha Irby book that I’ve been meaning to download on Kindle.

  4. casey! i immediately searched up melissa brayden on my library ebook app and read ‘waiting in the wings’ which is another queer theatre romance and it was just what i needed from one to four am.

    if anyone is looking for a fun YA and hasn’t yet read the summer of jordi perez, get on it! cute and gay and there’s fashion and fluff

    also the whole sidekick squad series by CB Lee, starting with not your sidekick. superheroes except the Establishment is totalitarian and gross, so let’s have the queer teens revolt

    • Yay, so happy to hear this! Melissa Brayden is a very dependably great lesbian romance writer.

      Agreed to the Summer of Jordi Perez, it is very fun and fluffy! And a nice representation of a fat queer teen!

  5. Full English looks perfect right now, thank you for this list!

    I highly recommend Poppy Jenkins by Clare Ashton for a romance comfort read, it’s like sunshine in book form and it’s hilarious. Her The Goodmans is wonderful too, a little more angsty but in a good way.

  6. Gotta give a shoutout to KJ Charles, who writes wonderful queer historical romances. I particularly recommend Proper English and Band Sinister for their English country house shenanigans. Cat Sebastian’s Hither, Page is also excellent.

    • I have heard great things about KJ Charles’s queer historical romances but haven’t read any yet. I have read a few Cat Sebastian and have really enjoyed them. I especially like Unmasked by the Marquess which has a non-binary cross dressing person and bi man couple! The next two in that same series also both feature bi characters.

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