Highlighting LGBTQIA+ Historical Fiction
By Becca Binnie and Carly Bennett
Historical fiction is an exciting genre of literature, it combines both the past and the imaginative to construct enticing and creative stories for all readers. Historical fiction representative of the LGBTQIA+ community is crucial. Bringing to light the experiences of an LGBTQIA+ individual solidifies and celebrates the LGBTQIA+ community’s rightful place in societies not just present and future, but past too.
Here we have recommended some amazing LGBTQIA+ historical fiction authors and novels for you to check out! If you’re looking for complex characters, intricate story lines and inclusive historical fiction, these suggestions will be perfect for you!
Sarah Waters and Victorian Lesbian Visibility
Perhaps one of the best-known writers of lesbian historical fiction, Sarah Waters found much of her inspiration while researching queer historical fiction for her PhD. While the time periods of Waters’ novels range from Victorian to post-World War One to the 1940s, something they all share is the author’s intention “in teasing out lesbian stories from parts of history that are regarded as quite heterosexual.”
As well as bringing queer historical stories into the literary mainstream, a number of Waters’ books have been adapted for television: both Tipping the Velvet and Fingersmith have seen successful BBC adaptations. In addition to numerous Lambda Prize wins and a Booker nomination, perhaps the highest honour Waters’ work has received was David Bowie citing Fingersmith as one of his favourite reads.
Maya Deane and Wrath Goddess Sing
Wrath Goddess Sing is a historical fiction novel published extremely recently by HarperCollins at the beginning of June 2022. The novel depicts the Trojan War like never before, combining ancient texts and modern archaeology Deane tells the story of a trans woman named Achilles.
Maya Deane spoke to Publishers Weekly explaining how her touching rewriting of the Iliad myths stemmed from her love of writing and her own experience transitioning, she explains how the lack of literature for the trans community is isolating but that “retellings give you the ability to let those suppressed versions of the story breathe again” (2022).
This historical fiction provides all the characters you may already have heard of in a refreshing new light. Wrath Goddess Sing tells a story of torment and trust in a new and exciting way, one you don’t want to miss!
A Lady for a Duke by Alexis Hall
Alexis Hall is a wonderful author and her historical fiction novels are must reads! Most recently Hall released A Lady for a Duke, the novel follows trans heroine Viola Caroll. Viola lost everything, her title, wealth and closest friend and in return she gained her freedom. However, after a war results in the rekindling of family connections Viola feels the depth of her losses and fights to help her friend and keep her freedom.
Alexis Hall spoke to Book Page after the release of A Lady for a Duke to explain how she writes LGBTQIA+ historical fiction. Hall described how she never lost sight of the modern audience she was writing for and that it was vital the story first and foremost resonated with them. A perfect historical queer romance for the modern age!
More LGBTQIA+ historical fiction from Alexis Hall includes the Prosperity series. Six books construct the series set in a lawless 1863 skytown. Hall combines a cool mix of fantasy and science fiction elements to create a thrilling and diverse historical series.
This Rebel Heart by Katherine Locke
The novel written beautifully by Katherine Locke takes place in post-WWII Communist Budapest during the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. It follows Csilla as she plans to escape the county that has never accepted her. This fantasy novel depicts brave, strong and loving queer characters who must decide whether to risk their lives to save the fate of the country. This Rebel Heart is a YA masterpiece, devastating, complex and a must read!
TikTok Made Me Read It
With the current, significant presence of book recommendations circulating on TikTok, it would be impossible to discuss LGBTQIA+ historical fiction without highlighting some of the incredible novels getting notable recognition on the social media platform. Firstly, The Song of Achilles and Circe both written by the talented Madeline Miller and retellings of well-known Greek mythology in touching and emotional ways.
Secondly, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo written by Taylor Jenkins Reid. Reid writes a heartfelt, honest and thought-provoking novel about Evelyn Hugo and her experience with relationships and fame in Hollywood from the 1950s to the 80s. This clever historical fiction speaks to ambition, struggle and the fight for forbidden love.
Finally, Alice Walker’s The Colour Purple Selection. The three-book series starts with The Colour Purple which depicts the story of sisters Celie and Nettie in the early twentieth century rural Georgia. Not only is this novel inclusive of the LGBTQIA+ community but it confronts the silence surrounding domestic and sexual abuse in a compassionate and poignant story of love.
These are just a few of the authors making an outstanding impression on TikTok and stand out as perfect additions to all TBR (to be read) lists!