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LGBTQIA+ Representation in Audiobooks

By Cameron Phillips, Rose Cook and Nathasya Gunawan


This pride month, we wanted to highlight some LGBTQIA+ representation in audiobooks. We want to cover each aspect of what makes an audiobook fantastic, from the author and narrator to the characters inside them.


Author: Johnny Garza Villa


Texas-born Johnny Garza Villa is an author of contemporary Young adult novels. Their books take inspiration from their Tejane & Chicane and queer identities, each one centring around a queer protagonist who accurately reflects and celebrates their LGBTQIA+ identities.


Their debut novel Fifteen Hundred Miles from the Sun (narrated by Avi Roque) tells the story of Julián, who accidentally comes out after posting an impulsive tweet. Now he’s out of the closet and his Twitter crush has slid into his DMs, he’s living the life he’s always wanted. But when his worst fears come true and the person he needs is 1500 miles away, Julián must face it alone. A 2022 Pura Belpré Honor Book, and a finalist for the Texas Institute of Letters’ Jean Flynn Award for Best Young Adult Book, Fifteen Hundred Miles from the Sun is a sensitive and soulful listen, which reflects both the joys and difficulties of Julián’s experience. 


Garza Villa’s other works include Ander & Santi Were Here (narrated by Avi Roque) and Canto Contigo (narrated by Alejandro Antonio Ruiz), which each feature queer characters’ stories intertwined with themes of identity, immigration and belonging. Whilst all three novels are undoubtedly influenced by the author’s experiences, wherever the reader comes from Garza Villa’s writing welcomes them into their characters’ worlds. The carefully selected narrators read Garza Villa’s novels perfectly, capturing the characters through their highs and lows, whilst creating beautiful listening experiences that celebrate identity and love which reflects the LGBTQIA+ experience.


Narrator: Natalie Naudus


Natalie Naudus is one audiobook narrator that I’ve enjoyed listening to. With a background in opera and a talent for bringing characters to life, Naudus has narrated over 400 titles across various genres. She’s also an Audie and Earphone award-winning audiobook narrator.


I first came across Naudus’ performance through Casey McQuiston’s I Kissed Shara Wheeler. The narration is captivating with its expressiveness and Naudus’ ability to convey deep emotion, making her an ideal voice for McQuiston’s dynamic characters and storytelling. She also narrated One Last Stop, also written by McQuiston, where her skills in differentiating character voices enhances the immersive experience of the audiobooks. Her performance in both books captures the romance, humour and heartfelt moments in the novels. Naudus’ delivery is both energetic and empathetic, making every twist and turn of the plot more fun. It was a really engaging listening experience.


Naudus also released a sapphic young adult novel called Pray the Gay Away. Described as part memoir, part fiction, the novel explores a young girl’s journey of self-discovery in a conservative Christian community. The audiobook is also narrated by Naudus herself, making it an even more emotional and authentic narration.


Character: Balthamos and Baruch


I am going to cheat a little and choose a pair for the character pick. Balthamos and Baruch are of course angels in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series. Pullman places these characters as a mirror of Will and Lyra’s heterosexual love. And their homosexual love as a paradigm of the character's struggles against the authoritarian society they are facing. Firstly, what is very striking, is that when Will first meets Balthamos, he asks him whether he is a man, saying he sounds like a man. Balthamos retorts “Baruch was a man, I was not. Now he is angelic.” Within the context of the incorporeal form angels take, it might seem that Balthamos is insinuating that he was never a man as he has always been a “male” angel. Pullman uses male pronouns when framing Balthamos, but nevertheless I thought that was interesting. 


Once more mirroring Will and Lyra’s primitive, emergent love, Balthamos and Baruch represent the ultimate goal of transcendental, incorporeal love. Their words are so fiery, beautiful and passionate: “wherever he goes, my heart goes with him; we feel as though we are one, though we are two.” What is important is that Will is deeply moved by this love, with his understanding of love greatly expanded, finding himself “intrigued and moved by their love for each other.” 


I love the depiction of this queer love in Pullman’s series, especially the irony in the fact that the two characters are angels, which leans into Pullman’s not so subtle critique of organised religion. I listened to the full cast version of the audiobook, which includes Pullman in it, and found myself entranced in the passages with these two characters in them. It was everything love should be, but with the added flair of fantasy literature. 

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