Your Ultimate Gay Girl Summer Reading List

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Ladies, bring on the sweat and the sunscreen, because summer is finally here! While you’re perched on your favorite park bench, lounging poolside, sticking your toes in the sand, or maybe just hiding out from the heat in your favorite chair basking in the air conditioning, you need some page-turners to keep you company. I’ve put together a list of some of the best new (and a couple slightly older) titles from the first half of this year featuring lesbian and bi women. So go soak up the sun and the storytelling with these books. AfterEllen approved! We’ll update the list mid-summer, so don’t worry if you’re favorite title isn’t mentioned – let us know about it!

Tough Mothers: Amazing Stories of History’s Mightiest Mothers by Jason Porath

Photo via Harper Collins

You might be familiar with Porath’s other book, Rejected Princesses, which boasts gorgeous photos and descriptions of badass girls who refused to buckle to the patriarchy like Virginia Hall and Mary Patten. Volume two features history’s most badass moms from all over the globe. Come for the feminism, and stay for the incredible art work of these phenomenal little-known icons. Learn about Soraya Tarzi, the human rights queen of Afghanistan, and Sutematsu Oyama, Japan’s first college-educated woman. Forget fairy tales, these are the bedtime stories we need to be reading to our children.

Godspeed by Casey Legler

You might have heard of this trailblazing lesbian model. Casey is currently managing restaurant La Mercerie in Soho and was recently dubbed the ‘perfect man’ by The Guardian, thanks to her work in fashion as the first woman to be signed onto the prestigious men’s roster at FORD models. Godspeed is a story of survival and defiance, a story of what it is like to live life as a misfit, untethered from family or normal experiences of childhood that help form identity. Written in a splintered lyric all her own, Casey’s is a story of startling survival, of the embers that still burn when everything else in us goes dark.

The Unbinding of Mary Reade by Miriam McNamara

Photo via Sky Pony Press

Pirates and lesbians. What more do you really need to know here? This YA novel is based on a real person, Mary Reade, who disguised herself as a boy in order to be able to sail with Anne Bonny. The duo are the only two women who have ever been convicted of piracy. Miriam McNamara’s version of Mary’s story follows a girl who becomes emboldened to be her true self once she sees a proud, female pirate in charge of an opposing ship. Because isn’t that what we all need, to see a version of ourselves in order to feel like we can succeed exactly the way we are? Sounds like swashbuckling, soul-searching fun to me.

Who is Vera Kelly? by Rosalie Knecht

Any fans of last year’s summer smash movie Atomic Blonde, which features Charlize Theron as a bisexual Cold War-era spy, will absolutely love this adventure by Rosalie Knecht. Vera is a sexy, hard-hitting, globe-trotting, gay girl spy who kicks ass, takes names, and smokes lots of cigarettes while doing it. After going from working the night shift at a local radio station in New York City to being recruited by the CIA, Vera finds herself in Argentina, tangled up in the government. Books about strong women, by strong women should be topping all of our lists this summer, and this one deserves a prime spot.

The Summer of Jordi Perez by Amy Spalding

Photo via Sky Pony Press

Abby Ives has a plus-size fashion blog, a dream of a style career, and a promising new internship at her favorite clothing boutique. The only thing standing in her way is the competition, Jordi, who also happens to be her new smooching partner and the object of Abby’s affections. The plot is as sweet as bubblegum, and probably the lightest, most enjoyable read you’ll have all summer. Don’t let the bright colors and stellar shopping fool you, this book carries themes like body positivity, following your dreams, and maintaining friendships too.

The Treehouse by Randi Triant

We know parental alienation can happen within the lesbian community, particularly when the laws don’t protect both parents. Randi Triant’s novel explores, love, loss, lesbian drama, and a treehouse built for a son whose parent is forbidden to see him. The Treehouse reads like a fabulous lesbian soap opera, chock-full of wit and overflowing with heart. Secrets, sweetness, and tearing down an old life in order to build a new one are what you’ll find in this novel. Sit in your backyard with a glass of vino and fall in love with Camilla and her quest to create the perfect life.

On a Larp by Stefani Deoul

Photo via Bywater Books

Some of the most exciting stories and fleshed out worlds come in the form of Young Adult novels, and this debut of the Sid Rubin Silicon Alley Adventure series is no exception. A wise-cracking, code-breaking teen finds herself entangled up in a murder investigation and an online LARP adventure. This book has all of the elements of a perfect poolside read, complete with lots of pop culture references to top it all off. The author is a lesbian, and she’s continuing the series with the follow-up title, Zero Sum Game, to be released this fall, so now is the perfect time to get caught up!

Girlish: Growing Up in a Lesbian Home by Lara Lillibridge

People are flawed, and sometimes we don’t spend enough time uncovering the grim realities that can permeate any family, “unconventional” or not. Girl lives in the shadow of her family dynamic, which is less than typical. She lives with her mother and stepmother, and travels to Alaska to visit her father. Lara Lillibridge sets out to redefine what it means to be different, and explores her experiences trying to fit into conventional, suburban life. She tells her story in the third person, creating a bit of distance between the narrator and its author that creates a tone that’s unique in a memoir, indicative of a healing process that’s taking place through this book.

The Letting Go by Deborah Markus

Photo via Sky Pony Press

A series of murders and some Emily Dickinson? What’s not to love about this sexy, suspenseful romp by first-time novelist Deborah Markus? A young girl, also named Emily, goes into hiding and seclusion after realizing she is the common thread among a string of killings. What she’s not expecting in a surprise romance with a new girl to complicate things even more. Snappy dialogue, a fast-paced plot, and a lesbian romance make this the perfect beach read for the summer. Plus, how fun is that cover art?

Starving in Search of Me by Marissa Larocca

Eating disorders are only a taboo topic because we all speak in hush tones about body image and food consumption. The broad strokes that paint the portrait of an eating disorder contain bristles of struggle with self acceptance. You see pieces of you as different than they actually are. Melissa Larocca explores those pieces, which she discovers go hand in hand with how she views and accepts her sexuality. This book is part memoir, part self-help guide, and wholly beautiful.

Heart of the Game by Rachel Spangler

(excerpt from review by Jenna Lykes)

This one is from 2015, but since it was left off of our older summer reading lists, we’ve included it here.

Duke’s world is shaken up when she meets Molly Grettano and her two sons, Joe and Charlie, at the ballpark one day. Duke and Joe, Molly’s older son, hit it off immediately, bonding over the Cardinals and the game they both love. A single mom, Molly is hesitant to open up her heart to anyone new, but, eventually, Duke wins her, and the whole family, over. One of the highlights of the novel comes in the unexpected form of the relationship between Duke and Joe, not Duke and Molly. He looks up to and respects Duke, calling her the “best sportswriter ever.” Duke respects Joe just as much; she fosters his love of baseball and teaches him about life.

Red as Blue by Ji Strangeway

Powerful and poignant, Ji Strangeway’s unique hybrid of graphic novel and young adult literature is an addictive, eclectic fusion of styles and identity that blazes a brand new path for storytelling. The throwback tale of an angsty, teen girl who stumbles her way through her sexuality and the repercussions of a small town mentality is chock full of quippy one-liners, gorgeous graphic artwork, and edgy sex scenes. Every young, inquisitive, soul-searching lesbian and bi woman should have Red as Blue on her nightstand, to serve as both a comforting reminder that she’s not alone and a zany escape from everyday life.

The Gloaming by Kristy Logan

(excerpt from review by Claire Heuchan)

Filled with mermaids and magical realism, set on a secluded island that eventually turns everyone who lives there to stone, The Gloaming has all the hallmarks of a modern fairytale. And yet what makes this book special is that it’s anything but. The second novel from Polari Prize winner Kirsty Logan, The Gloaming is a subtly subversive take on loss and love between women. If anything, The Gloaming is a coming-of-age story. And although grief is a central theme of the novel, there is a great deal of humor and joy in Mara’s journey to maturity. Not that many of us will have missed it, but Mara’s experience captures perfectly the agonizing awkwardness of life as a teenage girl.

Paper is White by Hilary Zaid

My wife prefers nonfiction, with a passion for World War II era history. I like to escape, so we often meet in the middle and read fiction together that focuses on the WWII time period. Imagine how thrilled we both were this past February when Paper is White was released. Historian Ellen Margolis and her girlfriend want to get married, but Ellen realizes she can’t wed the love of her life without telling her grandmother. The trouble is, her grandmother is gone. What ensues is a fascinating journey into the Holocaust, history, and buried secrets, the true test of a relationship

Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli

Did anyone watch Love, Simon earlier this year, really adore the film, and appreciate the mainstream exposure the gay community got from the story but still really wish a film featuring a teen girl would have been this level of lift upon release? Yeah, me too. But have no fear, the sequel to Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda is here, and it’s about Simon’s bisexual bestie, Leah. With great friends, an awesome mom, and some dope drumming skills, you’d thing Leah’s senior year would be a breeze. But she’s hiding a secret about her sexuality, even from Simon. Now, where’s the petition for me to sign to make this sequel a movie too?

What are you reading this summer? Let us know in the comments!

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