15 Books Every Young Gay Woman Should Read

Because all the best ladies are well-read.

1. Inferno (A Poet’s Novel) by Eileen Myles

“My English professor’s ass was so beautiful,” is the first line you’ll read in this story of a young female poet attempting to understand her sexuality in the crazed environment that is New York City. And after you read that opening line? Well, you won’t put this one down until it’s over.

Get a copy here.

2. Ash by Malinda Lo

In this retelling of Cinderella, Ash is young girl left at the mercy of her cruel stepmother after her father’s death. Just like Cinderella, Ash waits for the day her fair prince – or in this case, a fairy named Sidhean – will come and whisk her away. The only problem? She meets the King’s Huntress, Kaisa, and suddenly her “happily ever after” is a bit more complicated. All fairytales should get a makeover like this.

Get a copy here. Also be sure to take a peek at the prequel Huntress.

3. Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson

Winterson’s award-winning novel is the story of a girl adopted by working-class evangelists in the North of England in the 1960′s – and leaves at the age of 16 for the woman she loves. The book (and subsequent BBC mini series) are loosely based on Winterson’s actual life in Accrington, Lancashire. While the story is written in first person, Winterson claims the story “isn’t autobiography in the real sense.”

A parallel account of her life at this time is given in her 2011 memoir, Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal? which is also a must read.

Get a copy here.

4. Unbearable Lightness by Portia De Rossi

“Shame weighs a lot more than flesh and bone.” It’s lines like that from actress Portia De Rossi’s honest memoir that make this a must-read for anyone struggling to accept themselves. The pages cover her struggles with anorexia, her experiences being a gay woman within the Hollywood realm, and – of course – how she meets and later falls in love with Ellen DeGeneres.

Get a copy here.

5. Fried Green Tomatoes At The Whistle Stop Care by Fannie Flagg

A story-within-a-story, two women meet in a nursing home and develop a friendship through the older woman’s fantastic telling of her life – particularly her story about two women named Ruth and Idgie. For anyone who has seen the film, you already know how perfectly the two stories play off each other, each taking place in very different time periods (the mid-1980s and 1920s). Both sides of the novel remind you that family is something you choose, not something you’re born into. Grab a box of tissues for this one and maybe make some fried green tomatoes of your own.

Get your copy here.

6. The Price Of Salt by Patricia Highsmith

Take Manhattan in the 1950’s, add a budding friendship between two lonely women and a cross-country road trip, finally sprinkle in a game of cat-and-mouse involving a private investigator (hired by Carol’s husband - GASP!) – and you end up with The Price Of Salt. This 1952 romance novel was very popular among lesbians of the time period. Not all that surprising due to the unconventional characters that defied stereotypes about being gay.

Get your copy here.

7. Her Name in the Sky, Kelly Quindlen

Falling for your best friend is confusing. Falling for your best friend is difficult. And, perhaps most of all, falling for your best friend is unbelievably scary. In Her Name In The Sky, 17-year-old Hannah falls for her best friend Baker – really the last thing she ever wanted to do during her senior year – and we are reminded just how true all those sentiments are. While this book focuses on a young gay teenager, it’s completely relatable to anyone at all who went through (survived) high school.

Get a copy here.

8. Rubyfruit Jungle by Rita Mae Brown

Brown’s novel, which often parallels with her own life, is first and foremost about growing up as a lesbian in America. Or, as the cover says quite nicely, “being different and loving it.” Molly Bolt – fearless and feisty – grows up dirt poor in the South where she realizes early on that she is attracted to girls. The story follows her escapades as she attempts to find herself and actively takes pride in what makes her so “different”. Bonus: The term “rubyfruit jungle” is slang for lady parts.

TL;DR: Badass coming of age novel for all the young badasses out there.

Get a copy here.

9. Happy Accidents by Jane Lynch

Sometimes it’s nice to read something that simply makes you laugh. Jane Lynch’s memoir will make you laugh. One chapter begins with with this confession: “Like any good, closeted young lesbian of the seventies, I developed a raging crush on Ron Howard.” But don’t expect to be in stitches the entire time, as Lynch also delves into her personal fight against alcoholism and her struggle to become comfortable with her sexuality. Even through the serious topics, Lynch constantly adds her touch of wry humor that seems to come so naturally.

Get a copy here.

10. The World Unseen By Shamim Sarif

 

Sarif’s novel immerses you in 1950s South Africa, where apartheid is only just beginning. The laws won’t stop Amina from running a cafe with her business partner, who happens to be a black man, in a conventional Indian community. Miriam on the other hand is a traditional housewife that wouldn’t even dream of breaking, let alone bending, any rules. When the two women are thrown together you can imagine what happens… so, I’ll just let you read it. Two of Sharif’s novels are now feature length films that are also worth seeing after you’ve done your reading.

Get a copy here.

11. Annie On My Mind by Nancy Garden

Published in 1982, Garden’s novel tells the story of two teenage girls whose friendship turns into a lot more than just friendship, if you catch my drift. What makes this story different [Spoiler Alert] is that despite the pressures from family and school, they actually get a happy ending.

Get a copy here.

12. Fall On Your Knees by Anne-Marie MacDonald

There is a good reason Ann-Marie MacDonald’s novel has been translated into over seventeen different languages. The story begins in Nova Scotia in the midst of World War I and ends in New York City. What happens in-between? Terrible family secrets, attempted murder, and forbidden love. Enough said.

Get a copy here.

13. Empress Of The World by Sara Ryan

Nicola Lancaster has her world turned upside down when she meets a charming blonde dancer named Battle at a summer institute for “gifted youth”. After all – she has always liked boys! AH, those famous last words. An Oregon Book Award winner, Empress Of The World was re-issused recently and now includes three graphic novel stories about the characters.

Get a copy here.

14. Valencia by Michelle Tea

Valencia is a drama-filled account of the narrator’s own personal experiences in San Francisco’s queer neighborhoods. Tea takes you through a string of experiences – and ex-girlfriends – as she rebels against her tight-laced southern upbringing in the city by the bay.

Get your copy here.

15. Zami: A New Spelling Of My Name by Audre Lorde

Audre Lorde’s stunning autobiography begins with childhood memories in Harlem and spans through her early-adulthood in the 1950s. She creates a “biomythography” by flawlessly blending together her own poetry, popular songs, journal entries, and personal memories.

Get a copy here.

This is a great start, but now we turn it over to you. Add your own suggestions below!

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