Now drawing to an end, it’s safe to say that 2015 has seen a rise in LGBTI characters used for more than just window dressing or taking roles full of stereotyes; bisexual Lisbeth Salander, a genius of her own, was just the start when she first appeared in 2004.
Literature is rife with strong, diverse characters, be they trans, gay, bi or lesbian – and to spare you the need to sift through the hundreds of thousands of books published each year, here are our ten literary favorites, featuring LGBTI characters or written by LGBTI authors.
The Art of Being Normal – Lisa Williamson
Being ‘normal’ is hard enough for teenagers already – but what happens when you’ve got more than spots, grades and the other sex to worry about? Delving into what it means to be trans, Williamson explores relationships and finding oneself in a story written not just for teenagers.
A Little Life – Hanya Yanagihara
Following four men through three decades of their friendship, A Little Life challenges and breaks with the stereotypical images of gay identities; avoiding the familiar narratives of HIV, AIDS and coming out in favor of elevating her characters, Yanagihara draws on queer suffering in all its shapes, creating a pageturner par excellence.
Make Something Up – Chuck Palahniuk
There’s no doubt Palahniuk’s writing isn’t to everyone’s taste, but this anthology of short stories seamlessly follows in the (rather large) footsteps of the openly gay writer’s biggest successes, from the gross violence of Snuff to Fight Club’s homoerotic undertones – and just like his other works, the stories will stay on your mind for a long time.
Muse – Jonathan Galassi
Following Paul Dukach, a young gay author, Galassi’s book draws readers into the world of New York City’s publishing houses; between blind items and Paul’s passion for – and extensive knowledge of – a mythic writer, landing him in the middle of an age-old feud between his mentor and his long-term adversary, it’s full of vibrant characters just waiting to come to life.
The Girl in the Spider’s Web – David Lagercrantz
The world-famous duo of journalist Mikael Blomkvist and (bisexual) badass hacker Lisbeth Salander are plunged into a new, exhilarating adventure penned in a bid to continue to story of Stieg Larsson’s award-winning Millennium Trilogy – just the right read for long, dark Winter nights, you may just want to read it back to back.
Still Life Las Vegas – James Sie
You wouldn’t expect Las Vegas to host a still life, but that’s exactly what Sie’s debut reveals: the nascent relationship between Walter, a high school student, and Chrystos who works as a living statue and introduces Walter to alcohol and sex, is set off against dysfunctional families, the plight for happiness and the glittering skyline of Las Vegas.
Lizard Radio – Pat Schmatz
In an alternative world with rigid gender binaries, Kivali – raised by gender-nonconforming parents – struggles to make any gender fit; sent to a re-educational camp, she has to decide whether to conform or break out, but Schmatz’s beautiful prose is probably what makes Lizard Radio stand out from masses of Young Adult literature.
Under the Udala Trees – Chinelo Okparanta
Set against the backdrop of Nigeria’s civil war, Okparanta’s elegantly written book offers a captivating insight into a young woman’s thoughts and struggles – and with its courageous, timeless story, it’s set to become a lesbian classic, full of heart and giving a voice to Nigeria’s persecuted LGBTI minority.
Long Red Hair – Meags Fitzgerald
We can’t finish this list without including at least one graphic novel, and Meags Fitzgerald’s biopgraphic coming out story – of a bisexual woman, committed to celibacy – is just the perfect item: spanning 98 pages, it may be short, but the wonderfully low key art’s message remains long after you’ve closed the book.
Lords of the Sith – Paul S Kemp
With Moff Mors, Kemp introduced the Star Wars universe’s first LGBTI character, and with Lords of the Sith he created a must-read for fans old and new: further extending the universe’s rich story, Moff Mors was hailed as a breakthrough to finally make the franchise ‘as diverse as humanity’.