Seeing You Guys Get Mad About The Lack Of Diverse Fantasy Books Is Starting To Piss Me Off [And Here’s Why], feat. Some Book Recs

Here’s a sample draft of a blog post I have read several million times:

There’s no diversity in YA fantasy and sci-fi!! We need to change that. Here are the only lgbtq fantasy books I like and have read:

  • The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare
  • The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater
  • Six of Crows by
  • Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

Uh… huh. Let’s talk.

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So here’s the thing: These posts are really great and fun, and I’m glad people are beginning to read more diverse YA lit, and I really do understand that it’s hard to find good diverse lit, as it often goes under the radar.

But those being the only four lgbtq genre fiction books you’ve read is sort of… part of the problem?

Let me explain: posts like this being so freaking constant normalizes not trying to read diversely. It’s an attempt to rationalize and make it totally socially acceptable to say “hey, I don’t make any effort to read diversely, but I still complain about it a lot.” When I’m reading that as an actual lgbtq person, my immediate reaction is to remember that there’s a good chance you don’t actually care that much and you’re writing this for clicks.

Or, better yet, there’s a good chance that you only care about lgbtq novels because you like reading m/m and have no intention of never reading f/f!! Which also… feels bad, dude. Like, don’t get me wrong, we all have reading preferences, but just “not being interested” in reading about sapphic girls is. homophobic.

And please don’t think the sapphics on your feed don’t notice the people who have never read an f/f book and never plan to. We do.

Please don’t get me wrong, I love the intent of pointing out lack of diversity in fantasy novels. That is very real problem. It is relatable as hell. I also recognize that many readers and bloggers don’t read more than a few books per year and it’s really difficult to prioritize in that situation. But there are a lot of problems with this kind of post!!

First of all, diverse and lgbtq are not synonyms. If you’re talking about the lack of lgbtq fantasy series, talk about that, because when you title posts like these with “diverse book list,” you are actively ignoring that diversity also means characters of color, disabled characters, mentally ill characters. The term “diversity” has so many meanings. Be specific unless your post is purposefully unspecific.

Second of all, these books are often… not exactly the holy grail. Gotta be honest, it seems very, very weird to point out a lack of diversity while mentioning only four fantasy series, none of whom are by authors who are publicly out, all four of which are m/m by white women (we won’t assume they’re all straight; none are out). That’s not to say those books aren’t great – I’ve read and enjoyed all four of those books!!  – but it seems veeeeeery weird, and super super super not-intersectional.

And yes, this example list was quite specific, but this is not just one blogger or just one list!! I have read far longer lists with literally not one wlw book and literally not one book by an author of color.

Third of all, YOU JUST WROTE DOWN FOUR BOOKS!! and there are a lot more out there!! and I don’t think this is usually the intent, but when you write a post like this ranting about the YA lit market, it reads like the implication is that no other queer fantasy books exist. 

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So let’s say you had good intentions. First of all, if you needed recs for really good fantasy and/or genre fiction novels with lgbtq leads, I have an entire shelf dedicated to this subject! But here are some that I never see mentioned:

  • The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza by Shaun David Hutchinson, which is weird and funny and all about the goodness of humanity, and the lead is latina and bi!!
  • Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore, postcolonial lit & magical realism by a queer latinx author, with an all-bi cast and genderqueer & trans side characters!!
  • Spellbook of the Lost and Found by Moïra Fowley-Doyle, a magical urban fantasy book that won’t work for everyone about sexual assault, self-hate, and with two leads, a bi girl who ends up with a guy and a lesbian who ends up with another bi girl
  • Jane Unlimited by Kristin Cashore, which is weird, and sapphic, and fantastically compelling, and genuinely glorious
  • The Abyss Surrounds Us (#1) by Emily Skrutskie, an angsty two-book duology about sapphic pirates falling in love. this has everything!! an amoral sapphic lead, a really badass complex pirate villain, environmentalism, m o r a l c o n f l i c t s
  • Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire, a fascinating Neverwhere-esque urban fantasy series with trans and ace and lesbian leads, by a bi woman
  • Reign of the Fallen (#1) by Sarah Glenn Marsh, the beginning of a fantasy duology about a bi necromancer and also, trauma, with a main f/f romance
  • The Wicker King by K. Ancrum, an urban fantasyish suspenseish biracial black bi woman and very weird and creepy and gay?
  • Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust, a wonderfully dark snow white retelling focused on the relationships between women, where snow white herself is gay and her prince charming is a girl!!
  • Nevernight (#1) by Jay Kristoff, a fantasy book essentially about Hogwarts for assassins, starring a bi lead and a sapphic couple in book two!!
  • Girls of Paper and Fire (#1) by Natasha Ngan, a very angsty very good fantasy novel about sapphic!!! !!!! Asians !!!! and has a sapphic Asian author, and talks a lot about rape and trauma.
  • Into the Drowning Deep (#1) by Mira Grant aka Seanan McGuire, a scifi horror suspense book starring a biracial Native Hawaiian professor and one autistic lesbian and one bi scientist. also, sapphic love. it’s GREAT.
  • The Brilliant Death (#1) by Amy Rose Capetta, a fantasy book starring an Italian genderqueer main character, with a genderqueer love interest, and guess what? it’s by a genderqueer Italian author who has a genderqueer partner !!!!!!!!! I LOVE THAT

And then some books I haven’t read yet, including NEW RELEASES:

  • Timekeeper by Tara Sim, historical urban fantasy by an Indian queer author (WHICH I OWN AND I NEED TO READ IMMEDIATELY IM SO EXCITED)
  • We Set the Dark on Fire (#1) by Tehlor Kay Mejia, an upcoming fantasy book about a school for girls and the sapphic latinas who take it down together!! the author is sapphic and latina.
  • Beneath the Citadel by Destiny Soria, an upcoming fantasy book all my friends have been loving containing an m/m relationship between two characters of color!! the author is latinx and I think is also queer? but I’m unsure.
  • Sawkill Girls by Claire Legrand, women-driven fabulism about rape culture with several lead characters of color and a sapphic romance. the author is bi!

And here’s the thing: even this list is not enough!! We still need to do more. There aren’t enough authors of color on this list!!

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32 thoughts on “Seeing You Guys Get Mad About The Lack Of Diverse Fantasy Books Is Starting To Piss Me Off [And Here’s Why], feat. Some Book Recs

  1. acquadimore says:

    I’m tired of of this too. Of people talking about the lack of [x] rep when there are many traditionally published books with it which they haven’t read. Or the “I have never read [genre], but I will always complain about how [genre] is all white men and that’s why I don’t read it” version. It could be better, yes, but those books exist.

    I have read all the ones on your list that already out except Nevernight (waiting for the trilogy to be complete), Beneath the Citadel (I’m behind on new releases but this sounds awesome) and The Brilliant Death (I won’t read things involving the mafia, doesn’t matter the genre, it’s just… not fun to me), and there are still so many queer books on my TBR. Those who think queer books do not exist just aren’t looking, and I think this is true for all genres.
    And I hope you like Timekeeper!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Kathy @ Books & Munches says:

    I absolutely agree with this post, except for the “Like, don’t get me wrong, we all have reading preferences, but just “not being interested” in reading about sapphic girls is. homophobic.” part but I do believe that’s something.. personal? It doesn’t necessarily have to be homophobic. With the risk of this coming across entirely the wrong way [sometimes it’s so hard to express points like this in English, ugh.]: We all have things / tropes / subjects / romances we love reading about and others we simply don’t really care about. I do feel like f/f or m/m or whatever can be one of those things. Maybe it’s too confronting, maybe you simply enjoy other relationships more. But I simply believe it doesn’t necessarily have to be homophobic. [Not saying it can’t be just that; it all depends on the reason why.] Ugh, I hope I explained my point properly and didn’t start something huge. :’)

    Love the recommendations though! I was planning on doing some kind of “best diverse books I read” in December and now I’m even more certain to do so. 🙂

    Like

    • Elise @thebookishactress says:

      I mean, I understand having preferences in reading fiction – i LOVE reading f/f, and Mildly Enjoy reading m/f, because i can relate to it. that’s a preference, a lot of people have a vice-versa preference, that’s fine – i still have a lot of m/f pairings i cry about and adore. but like. i feel like people saying “i don’t read f/f because it makes me uncomfortable” is really, really common, and i really think that statement comes from a point of internalized prejudices. that’s the exact same rhetoric that causes some straight women to avoid hugging their sapphic friends, or to just “not be comfortable” with close friendships with sapphic women.

      so basically what i’m saying is the phrasing “not being interested” is meant to denote “explicitly never reading” not “preferring m/f” – hopefully that makes things clearer !!!! and I’m so glad you loved the rec list ❤ ❤

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Camilla @ Reader in the Attic says:

    Oh, I think this is a really interesting post. Sometimes this important details in the discussion get ignored and no one notice, maybe passing as “woke”.

    I know al lthe book you cited and I’ve to read them. But not The Brillaint Death. I’m Italian, living in Italy. And… I can’t. I would love to read it for the presence of queer characters, but the blurb alone is really offensive to me. It makes look mafia as some magic game and heavily romanticized. It’s one of Italy biggest problem (I don’t want to explore all the details because I could write an entire essay on this, and it’s grugesome) and seeing it treated like this makes me feel ill.

    Like

      • Camilla @ Reader in the Attic says:

        I did some research on the author, and despite everything, this is a huge let down.

        And a huge issue. Is a bit more than just a media trope… but the more I talk with people who don’t know italian mafia, the more I realize they don’t grasp how much it still exist and how much is kiling my nation.

        I hope the author, in the future, will take into consideration to write something else about Italy with queer characters. I would totally pick it up.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Madalyn @ Novel Ink says:

    I LOVE this post. I don’t read a ton of fantasy, but I see those same series getting upheld as the pinnacles of diversity in fantasy all the time, and it’s frustrating. Thank you for writing this! also, “please don’t think the sapphics on your feed don’t notice the people who have never read an f/f book and never plan to. We do.” YUP.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Surina says:

    This post is amazing and brilliant and THANK YOU SO MUCH for doing this. Everything you said is so valid and right and important. And thank you for the rec list! I’ve read Girls of Paper and Fire and The Brilliant Death, but the rest I need to read!! Especially Sawkill Girls and Every Heart a Doorway, which I’ve heard so many great things about!

    AND HOW DID I NOT KNOW ABOUT TIMEKEEPER?! AN INDIAN QUEER AUTHOR?! (I’m Indian so I’m freaking out.) Adding it to my TBR immediately.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Eleanor @ On the Other Side of Reality says:

    This was an interesting post to read because I’ve never considered this side of the issue, but I completely agree with your points. And The Wicker King is so good!! I also really like Trick by Natalia Jaster, The Love Interest by Cale Dietrich, the Vampire Chronicles series by Anne Rice, and the City of Spires series by Claudie Arseneault (this has the most by far: gay, ace, and bi characters, polyamory, and agender rep). The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness, Windwitch by Susan Dennard, and Artemis by Andy Weir are also good, though their lgbt+ characters aren’t the mcs.

    Awesome post and book list!

    Eleanor | On the Other Side of Reality

    Liked by 1 person

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