What Are Good Books Featuring LGBTQ Characters?
Posted on 19th of April, 2019


LGBTQ representation has come a long way in recent years and I think it has now reached a point where you can walk into any bookshop or browse one online and you will have a whole section dedicated to it. It wasn't always this simple and convenient, so if you are looking for books from less enlightened times I would recommend you peruse one of these ones;

1. The Bell jar (1963) by Sylvia Plath - This is a very sad book in many ways because it mirrors the life of the author who also suffered from mental illness. It wasn't long after the publication of this book that Plath took her own life, so it remains her one and only novel. It isn't the protagonist of this story, Esther Greenwood, who non-cisgender, but actually one of the other characters, Joan Giling, who is a longstanding friend of her from high school. She's a relatively minor character in the story, but one of the most memorable. Joan ends up in the same asylum as Esther after trying to commit suicide, but ends up taking her own life in the end. Joan is openly a lesbian in the book and it certainly seems that she has feelings for Esther, so there has long been speculation that her suicide was due to her friend not returning her affections.

2. The Charioteer (1953) by Mary Renault. It wasn't until 1953 that this book by English author Mary Renault saw the light of day in the United States. What truly makes it unique for its time is that although it is a war novel, it doesn't shy away from making homosexuality one of the focus points of the story. The lead of the story is soldier named Laurie, who is injured and spending time at a military hospital. It is here that he has to choose between two potential love interests, both of them men. The author handled this controversial topic quite well and I think that to this day, it is still one of the favorite "classic" books in the LGBTQ community. The author also wrote historical novels that are set in ancient Greece, which contain a lot of LGBTQ elements. The reason why Mary, who was a lesbian herself, was able to write quite freely about these controversial (for the time) topics, was that she emigrated to South Africa. For all its faults, the country was quite liberal in their views of homosexuality, especially compared to Britain.
You may think that LGBTQ characters in literature is a fairly modern phenomena, but I have actually read a couple of really old books that feature them. They are not always as obvious about it as modern books, due to the norms of the time in which they were written, but it is usually pretty easy to spot them. I'm sure there are plenty of other people with more modern suggestions, so for the sake of interest here are two of the oldest books that I have read that contain LGBTQ characters.

1. Carmilla (Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu - 1872). Quick quiz, who wrote the very first fictional tale about vampires? If you answered Bram Stoker, then I am afraid that you are wrong! While Dracula is obviously the most famous fang faced blood sucker, Carmilla was written a couple of years before and featured a female vampire by the name of Carmilla. The story is told from the perspective of a teenage girl who befriends another girl named Carmilla. It wouldn't be a spoiler to reveal that Carmilla turns out to be a vampire, it is also quite evident that she is a lesbian. Not only are all her victims female, but she also makes a couple of sexual advances towards Laura, the protagonist of the tale. It also wouldn't be a stretch to say that Carmilla laid down the template for a lot of tales to follow where the female vampire is portrayed as a lesbian.

2. The Picture of Dorian Gray (Oscar Wilde - 1890). This book is perhaps a bit better known, but in case you don't know, it features not just one, but two queer characters. If you haven't read the book in a while it might not actually be that obvious since at the time when the book was written, it was still a crime to be homosexual. This resulted in Wilde's editor wading in and censoring most of the obviously homosexual content. It was obviously impossible to remove everything, but he certainly toned things down a lot. It wasn't until more than a hundred years later that the full uncensored version of the book was released and everyone could clearly see that Basil Hallward was obviously gay and Dorian Gray himself bisexual.

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