Contributed to Rad Babes Reads by @booksndragons
Before we jump into my favorite diverse reads today, I wanted to take a second to touch on why seeing LGBTQ+ representation in novels, and media in general, is so important to me. Growing up it was very rare that I saw LGBTQ+ characters in media, but when I did, I instantly loved the character without even knowing why. It wasn’t until a few years ago I realized I was bisexual after being exposed to the increase of LGBTQ+ representation over the years. Now I know why I was so drawn to LGBTQ+ characters as a kid, without realizing it I was identifying with those few LGBTQ+ characters I saw. I think I would have figured myself out sooner if I had seen better LGBTQ+ representation as a child. Diverse reads are important to me because the more LGBTQ+ characters are in the world, the more LGBTQ+ can see themselves in media. Alright, now that I’ve completely over shared, let’s get into my favorite diverse reads!
The Alchemists of Loom
Her vengeance. His vision.
Ari lost everything she once loved when the Five Guilds’ resistance fell to the Dragon King. Now, she uses her unparalleled gift for clockwork machinery in tandem with notoriously unscrupulous morals to contribute to a thriving underground organ market. There isn’t a place on Loom that is secure from the engineer turned thief, and her magical talents are sold to the highest bidder as long as the job defies their Dragon oppressors.
Cvareh would do anything to see his sister usurp the Dragon King and sit on the throne. His family’s house has endured the shame of being the lowest rung in the Dragons’ society for far too long. The Alchemist Guild, down on Loom, may just hold the key to putting his kin in power, if Cvareh can get to them before the Dragon King’s assassins.
When Ari stumbles upon a wounded Cvareh, she sees an opportunity to slaughter an enemy and make a profit off his corpse. But the Dragon sees an opportunity to navigate Loom with the best person to get him where he wants to go.
He offers her the one thing Ari can’t refuse: A wish of her greatest desire, if she brings him to the Alchemists of Loom.
Even without the LGBTQ+ rep in this book, I would recommend it (I’ve already done a separate review post actually). I mean, steampunk? dragon magic? This book was already the full package, the fact that our main character, Ari, is bisexual just makes everything so much better. This is one of those novels were the sexuality of the LGBTQ+ character isn’t even explicitly stated and not even a huge part of the plot. It just happens that she used to love a woman and is now involved with a man. I also love that Ari enters into a relationship with a man and her sexuality is still solidly defined. I think Rachel said it so well when talking about Nina in Six of Crows, but I’ve also noticed that there is this expectation that for a character’s bisexuality to be legitimized, they have to end up with the same-sex. There aren’t many instances I can think of that break this expectation but The Alchemists of Loom (and Six of Crows) are fantastic examples. This is just a little side note, but Elise Kova also as an adorable mlm relationship in her Air Awakens series, which is another series I’d highly recommend.
Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda
Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised.
With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.
Of course I had to talk about Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda! Honestly, I read the book because I was excited for the Love, Simon movie to come out and I’m glad I did. Both versions are absolutely adorable. The meet-cute aspect of Simon and Blue starting to talk to the guessing who blue is throughout the novel is the epitome of a young adult romantic contemporary and it was everything I was looking for when I read it. I really enjoyed how Simon was shown struggling with coming out even though he was ultimately accepted by his loved ones. I think it accurately portrayed what it actually feels like to come out. I know I was scared and still get scared anytime I tell someone new even if I know they’ll be accepting. It was very validating to see that fear in someone else. Overall this is a beautiful story of love, in the romantic sense and the platonic.
(Red Queen’s synopsis to avoid spoilers of King’s Cage) This is a world divided by blood – red or silver. The Reds are commoners, ruled by a Silver elite in possession of god-like superpowers. And to Mare Barrow, a seventeen-year-old Red girl from the poverty-stricken Stilts, it seems like nothing will ever change. That is until she finds herself working in the Silver Palace. Here, surrounded by the people she hates the most, Mare discovers that, despite her red blood, she possesses a deadly power of her own. One that threatens to destroy the balance of power. Fearful of Mare’s potential, the Silvers hide her in plain view, declaring her a long-lost Silver princess, now engaged to a Silver prince. Despite knowing that one misstep would mean her death, Mare works silently to help the Red Guard, a militant resistance group, and bring down the Silver regime. But this is a world of betrayal and lies, and Mare has entered a dangerous dance – Reds against Silvers, prince against prince, and Mare against her own heart.
(Slight King’s Cage spoilers ahead) I enjoyed the first two books in this series but this one blew the first two out of the water for me. Not only can you see the progress that Victoria Aveyard has made in her quality of writing, but she revealed that two main characters are LGBTQ+. Mind you, one of them is the psychopath that is Maven Calore and the other is Evangeline Samos who you hate in the first two books (I mean I loved her but I know she was supposed to be disliked). You do grow to love Evangeline in King’s Cage when you hit her PoV. When Maven was revealed to be bisexual, I did a little fist pump (like I always do when a character is bi) then I remembered who this person was and I instantly had mixed feelings. I do like the fact that Maven isn’t a villan because he’s LGBTQ+ but he’s a villan that happened to be LGBTQ+ which I’ve noticed isn’t typically differentiated most of the time. I’ve loved Evangeline since the first book in the series but finding out she’s sapphic and that she was going to have her girlfriend be her mistress when she was queen made me love her even more. Going into the final book, I’m most excited to see more of Evangeline and her girlfriend manipulating the shit out of people to stay together.
Let’s Talk About Love
Alice had her whole summer planned. Non-stop all-you-can-eat buffets while marathoning her favorite TV shows (best friends totally included) with the smallest dash of adulting–working at the library to pay her share of the rent. The only thing missing from her perfect plan? Her girlfriend (who ended things when Alice confessed she’s asexual). Alice is done with dating–no thank you, do not pass go, stick a fork in her, done.
But then Alice meets Takumi and she can’t stop thinking about him or the rom com-grade romance feels she did not ask for (uncertainty, butterflies, and swoons, oh my!).
When her blissful summer takes an unexpected turn, and Takumi becomes her knight with a shiny library employee badge (close enough), Alice has to decide if she’s willing to risk their friendship for a love that might not be reciprocated—or understood.
This was the very first book I put on this list when we decided to do Pride week. I absolutely adored everything about this novel. Not only was it an adorable romantic contemporary but it was very educational for me as well. One of my favorite things about reading is that it can give insight on feelings and emotions that we may not be able to understand otherwise. The main character in Let’s Talk About Love is asexual and biromantic. Asexuality will and always has been a valid sexuality, but I never really understood it. This book gave me insight on how asexuals may experience attraction that I wouldn’t have been able to comprehend otherwise. The characters themselves are so cute and their relationship was “goals” as one may say. Side note: the whole time I was picturing Takumi as Alex Shibutani. I think my favorite part of this book might be Alice’s cutie code or just how funny she is in general. Alice is one of those character where I wish she were real because I would love to be friends with her. This novel for sure broke my cutie code.
J. Sheridan Le Fanu
A classic Victorian vampire novella, which influenced Bram Stoker’s later treatment of the vampire mythos in Dracula.
A short synopsis for a short novella. Honestly, this one should probably be considered an honorable mention because while this is a very good novella, I don’t think I would like it nearly as much if I didn’t have the Carmilla web series in my head while reading it. Yes, you heard me right, there is a hella gay web series based on this tiny little novella and it is incredible! This might be a bold statement but I think Carmilla would totally destroy Dracula in a fight, at least she does in my head. Real talk, that’s pretty much all I have to say about the novella itself and half of it was already talking about the web series, so let’s just go all in here.
This web series is everything. I mean, look at this two! (I’m also so in love with Natasha Negovanlis it’s ridiculous). The series is about Laura (the little creampuff on the right) video blogging for her journalism class when things start getting pretty sticky. Enter Carmilla (the goddess on the left) who is Laura’s new roommate after the first goes missing. This series also has non-binary representation in it as well which is a facet of the LGBTQ+ community that I wish was represented more in other media.
If you do enjoy Carmilla, the channel KindaTV does have a bunch of other fantastic LGBTQ+ series! All For One is a great one based off of the three musketeers!
Here is a link to the first episode of Carmilla if you want to give it a try! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h4QzRfvkJZ4&list=PLbvYWjKFvS5rX2yv-k5AJ8oxPoZ9zHcpe
Okay so I kiiind of cheated and went with my top five instead of my top three but there was no way I was going to be able to take out two of these fantastic novels. If you take anything away from this post, and I mean if you only take one of these suggestions, watch Carmilla. I know that I should tell you to read my favorite book out of my list (which would probably be Let’s Talk About Love fyi) but I love Carmilla so much and want as many people to watch it as possible. I loved gushing over all this books and would love similar recommendations if you want to leave any for me in the comments! I hope everyone has a happy Pride!