Check out these must-read books with Queer Black protagonists
With social distancing, I’ve had a great deal of time to read, and most of my reading material has been queer books. Lately, I’ve realized that the books I read are not terribly diverse. A lot of the big, celebrated authors of the genre are white. I don’t want to read only about people who are exactly like me. I’ve probably missed out on a ton of great books because I don’t often go outside of my comfort zone often enough.
This Pride Month, I realized that I really needed to read some queer books by Black authors. Black Lives Matter, and Black stories matter, too.
A Blade So Black by L.L McKinney: The first book I read was something I had been looking forward to for several months. What sold me on the book was that it was supposed to be a YA combination of Alice in Wonderland and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The premise grabbed me, and the book did not disappoint.
Alice is the book’s bisexual protagonist, and she is both badass and deeply relatable. There are also queer side characters, including an f/f couple I wish I’d seen a little more of. However, there’s a sequel, A Dream So Dark, that’s already out, and a third book, A Crown So Cursed, to be released in 2021, so hopefully that couple (and possibly more queer side characters) will be featured in those.
I had difficulty putting the book down: it’s a definite page-turner. It takes Lewis Caroll’s Wonderland and turns it into an entirely different kind of urban fantasy adventure. Some of the best parts of the book are the action sequences and Alice’s well fleshed out relationship with her mother.
The Stars and the Blackness by Jaunauda Petrus: This was an entirely different kind of read. It’s about two very different girls, both of whom are questioning their sexuality.
The writing is beautiful, and often very lyrical. There are poems before several chapters, and while I often have trouble “getting” poetry, I enjoyed the poems in this book. They felt like an extension of the story.
Many parts of this book are quite sad, as the girls confront homophobia and their own mortality. Once or twice, I even cried. It’s certainly not a light, happy read, but it was beautiful and I highly recommend it.
Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender: Felix Ever After is about a trans teen dealing with his identity and searching for love.
When Felix is cyberbullied, his deadname revealed and photos of him pre-transition put up online, he sets out to get revenge by catfishing the perpetrator.
The book is set during Pride Month. Reading about Pride made me miss the way we celebrate when there isn’t a horrible pandemic going on.
For many people, this book may be an uncomfortable read. Cyberbullying, transphobia, homophobia, parental abuse, deadnaming, and racism are touched on. Though the book was a little painful in parts, it was also beautiful. The side characters were very well written, especially Leah.
I love happy endings - even more so for queer characters. We don’t get enough of them. Despite the struggles that Felix faces, this is really a feel-good book, and I was left with an amazing joyous feeling by the time I had finished.
There were also a number of books that piqued my interest this month that haven’t been released yet. Here are some books I plan to pick up once they release.
A book I’ve been anticipating for several months is Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayron. I’m a sucker for retellings of fairy tales, especially when they’re YA. This book definitely seems like it has something new to add to the Cinderella mythos.
Two hundred years after the story of Cinderella, teen girls must go to the annual ball, where men select their wives. If they aren’t chosen, they are never seen again. A group of girls decides they must bring down the king and stop the tradition, and in the process, they learn more about the true story of Cinderella.
The main character Sophia is a Sapphic Black girl who teams up with the last descendant of Cinderella to destroy the patriarchy. The release date is July 7th.
The next book that caught my eye was Legendborn by Tracy Deonn. It’s a YA contemporary fantasy set as a residential program for gifted teens at a college. When Bree’s mother dies, Bree leaves home to go live at the program. She soon finds herself face to face with a flying demon that feeds on people’s energies and discovers the “Legendborn”, a secret society of monster-hunters on campus.
I absolutely love stories of monster-hunting teens, and this one has a bi main character as well as being based on the legend of King Arthur. I could not be more excited about this book. It releases September 15th.
The final book I looked into was The Summer of Everything by Julian Winters. It’s a YA m/m contemporary romance. I don’t usually read contemporary romance, as I’m something of a fantasy/sci-fi buff, but this one caught my eye because it’s about a comic book geek who works at an indie bookstore.
Wesley Hudson has a secret crush - his best friend Nico. Wesley’s job at a bookstore called Once Upon a Page is in jeopardy when a coffee shop offers to buy the space up. To top it all off, his annoying brother wants wedding advice. Can Wesley juggle all this? Can he save the store, get the boy, and deal with his strained sibling relationship?
As a massive geek myself - who in younger years dreamed of working in a bookstore, The Summer of Everything sounds like it’s right up my alley. If you’re a book-loving geek, it might be for you too.