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Polyamory Representation in Literature

By Becca Binnie, Amy Blay, Shan Heyworth and Rosie Green

There are many diverse relationship communities where love and acceptance flourish, and it is important we see these valuable communities included in the literature we read. Below are a handful of books, both fiction and non-fiction, which contain polyamory representation.

Love's Not Color Blind: Race and Representation in Polyamorous and Other Alternative Communities by Kevin A. Patterson

Published in 2018 by Thornapple Press, this non-fiction book lays out a framework – through research, anecdotal testimony, and analogy – for understanding, acknowledging and confronting racism within polyamorous communities. Kevin Patterson describes the existing obstacles, such as exclusion, everyday racism and fetishisation, which make both monogamous and polyamorous dating daunting for people of colour.

With helpful descriptions of how it feels to be a polyamorous person in a monogamous world, this book also calls for action to make all relationship communities more inclusive and culturally diverse, safe spaces. Patterson puts forward educational and constructive steps that include acknowledging our part in perpetuating racism and listening to people of colour. 

This sociological book is accessible and important, bringing together multiple voices and perspectives to encourage inclusivity and action within polyamorous circles and wider relationship communities. An incredibly insightful read!

Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao

Described as Pacific Rim meets The Handmaid’s Tale, Iron Widow is a YA (young adult) sci-fi novel set in a future influenced by historical Chinese culture. It won the 2021 BSFA Award for Best Book for Younger Readers and has since been nominated for many other prizes.

Eighteen-year-old Wu Zetian offers herself up to pilot a Chrysalis, a giant transforming robot used to defeat the aliens that lurk beyond the Great Wall. The chances of her dying from the mental strain are high, but she takes the risk to assassinate the pilot responsible for her sister’s death. When she emerges from the cockpit unscathed, she is labeled as the “Iron Widow,” a force to be reckoned with – and silenced.

Zetian is paired up with Li Shimin, the “Iron Demon,” to tame her invaluable mental strength. In a fashion typical of the YA genre, she finds herself caught up in a love triangle. However, in a fantastic subversion of tropes, Zhao does not make her protagonist choose between one or the other. Instead, their debut novel depicts a healthy polyamorous relationship between Zetian and her two male suitors, who love each other as much as they love her.

Zetian’s story explores misogyny and female rage within an intriguingly constructed world. It is complemented, not overshadowed, by the three-way romance; Zhao’s debut provides great polyamory representation in a genre that lacks it.

A Dowry of Blood by S. T. Gibson

A Dowry of Blood is a retelling of Dracula from the perspective of Constanta, a wife of the infamous vampire. Told in a beautifully evocative epistolary style, this is a dark, haunting novel that explores a different side to a classic tale, bringing to it a new perspective on relationships and queerness.

Constanta is saved from death by Dracula, who makes her a vampire and his wife. But this means that she is trapped in an abusive marriage spanning centuries. In a letter to her now-dead husband, she recounts how she came to rise up against and kill him, freeing herself and her other lovers.

While A Dowry of Blood emphasises the relationship between Dracula and his first wife, especially in the earlier sections of the book, polyamory is central to the novel. Dracula collects humans and sires them as vampires; he is cruel and manipulative and wields power over his consorts, who struggle between feelings of competition and desire, but find comfort and strength in each other.  

A Dowry of Blood is a great choice for fans of Gothic fiction. Gibson expands upon the eroticism and queerness of the archetypal vampire (and the polyamorous aspect of Dracula’s multiple wives), bringing to the darkness tenderness, hope, and plenty of queer, polyamorous yearning. 

The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin

The Sanzed Empire is a society built on disaster, on the fear of an oncoming Season – apocalyptic events that last years – and the bones of dead civilisations that have not withstood past ones. The end of the world is once again approaching, but this season – which will endure for centuries and more – will be the last.

Queer representation is scattered throughout the story; mentions of transgender characters and same-gender relationships are casual and are refreshingly unremarkable in this society.

Relationships in the book are complicated; they are constantly changing with the characters and not quite definable. The polyamorous relationship between a man and his two lovers who have a child together but are not attracted to each other – all of whom share a bed – encompasses friendship, understanding, sex and love in a way that is inherently queer.

Threads set in three different periods – with narrators that each understand and navigate the world differently – all lead to the present, as Essun desperately seeks out her daughter while the sky clouds with dust and the earth is ripped apart. In an original, fantasy setting, with an entertaining and engaging writing style, Jemisin weaves together a thrilling story of magic, oppression and catastrophe that makes for an absolutely unputdownable read.



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