By Lauren Dooley, Emma Holbrook, Alyssa Miles and Becca Binnie
Another difficult year has passed. Despite the uncertainty and anxiety of 2021, there was some light that emerged from the darkness. These beacons of light were contained within the pages of multiple releases that positively represented the LGBTQ+ community. To celebrate these amazing representations, below is a list of great 2021 LGBTQ+ books from four genres.
She Who Became The Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan
Our science-fiction/ fantasy recommendation is Shelley Parker-Chan’s epic debut novel. She Who Became The Sun is described as Mulan meets Song of Achilles. The story is set in ancient China during the rise of the Ming Dynasty and follows the tragic life of Zhu, as she sheds the life she knows to become a monk. To don the monk robes, Zhu must dismantle the gender binary she was forced into from birth. With this comes the freedom for Zhu to find who they are and what they want in life. Through connecting to the powers of the divine, Zhu begins to perform miracles, which attracts the attention of some dangerous and powerful individuals.
This story wonderfully explores the fluidity of gender and sexuality. In a world with little genderqueer representation, She Who Became The Sun is a beacon of hope for those outside of the gender binary and presents a heroic, brave character with whom people can identify. This is a historical fantasy epic written in a lyrical fashion, with rich characters, political intrigue and perfect world-building.
Honourable Mentions: Winter’s Orbit by Everina Maxwell and Under the Whispering Door by TJ Klune.
Jay’s Gay Agenda by Jason June
Next, is the wonderful, hilarious, coming-of-age debut novel Jay’s Gay Agenda by Jason June, which offers a sex-positive and moving teen romance. This book highlights our male protagonist’s journey of discovering the complexities of going through your first love (and subsequently first heartbreak), as well as embracing who you truly are. It is an engaging, heartfelt story of a young teenage boy embracing his sexuality and coming up with quite a funny agenda for how to make the most out of the romantic side of life.
Jay’s Gay Agenda has received high-praising reviews by accomplished authors such as Aiden Thomas (the bestselling author of Cemetery Boys). It is easy to say that this book has certainly appealed to readers within the young adult genre, as the book has received an average of 3.6 stars out of 5 on Goodreads with most readers claiming it was a well-needed story for those who come from smaller towns or areas. I would definitely give this a read if you’re looking for a book that not only fills your belly with laughter but pulls at your heartstrings also!
Honourable Mentions: The Darkness Outside Us by Eliot Schrefer and The Witch King by H. E. Edgmon.
Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo
Our next recommendation is Malinda Lo’s historical fiction piece: Last Night at the Telegraph Club. This sapphic romance, which won the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature, is set in San Francisco’s Chinatown during the Red Scare and focuses on seventeen-year-old Lilly Hu and her coming-of-age story. At a time when it isn’t particularly safe for two women to be in love in America, especially a Chinese-American woman, Lilly and Kath must come to terms with what they are willing to sacrifice to let their love be known.
This wonderfully enchanting love story focuses on lesbian culture and the sanctuary and support that could be found during this time in clubs and bars.
Honourable Mentions: One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston and Detransition, Baby by Torry Peters.
Coming Up For Air by Tom Daley
The final book is Tom Daley’s autobiography, Coming Up For Air. This inspiring Sunday Times Bestseller follows the successful athlete as he dives into both his professional and personal life. Daley gives the reader a unique insight into what it takes to be an Olympian, along with detailing life in the public eye and the experiences that have shaped his mindset. He explains the perspective life as a father has given him and the resilience he’s developed competing at the highest level of diving. Daley is a successful, fierce and powerful athlete regardless of his sexuality, but his story describes the courage it took for him to reclaim the narrative surrounding his sexuality. His courage was and is inspirational for all sports people belonging to the LGTBQ+ community.
This candid and moving autobiography gives insight into the life of well-loved Olympian Tom Daley, and after reading his story, it isn’t hard to tell why he is a beloved role model for so many.
Honourable Mentions: This Much is True by Miriam Margolyes and Hola Papi: How to Come Out in a Walmart Parking Lot and Other Life Lessons by John Paul Brammer.