Seven Lesbian Themed Books to Read this Summer

Summer is a great time to catch up with lesfic. Whether you’re on holiday or chilling at home, it’s the perfect season for letting your mind wander with a good book. And we have plenty for you to choose from.

The Life and Lies of Rukhsana Ali, by Sabina Khan

The Life and Lies of Rukhsana Ali will take your breath away. 17 year old Rukhsana Ali does her best to meet the expectations of her socially conservative parents. But the balancing act between their hopes and Rukhsana’s dreams is getting harder by the day. Her mom and dad want Rukhsana to go to a local college in Seattle, but she aims to study engineering at the prestigious CalTech. Rukhsana sneaks out to parties with friends while her family believe she is studying. Her parents mean for Rukhsana to marry a nice Bengali boy, but she’s only interested in girls – one in particular. And Rukhsana’s world implodes when they find out the truth.

Sabina Khan’s debut novel is a highly readable work of YA fiction. It’s a compelling coming out story about a Muslim lesbian whose family must reconcile their faith with her sexuality. Lesbians from any minority group are often expected to choose between straight cultural spaces and white-centric LGBT spaces. The Life and Lies of Rukhsana Ali is ultimately an uplifting read because Rukhsana escapes that false binary.

Here Comes the Sun, by Nicole Dennis-Brown

Here Comes the Sun is a story of poverty and prejudice told through three generations of Jamaican women. Thandi, a teenage girl, carries her family’s hopes and dreams of a better life – they scrimp and save to send her to the expensive private school so that she can become a doctor. Margot, a sister who is twice her age, works in a posh hotel that’s owned and frequented by wealthy whites. Margot funds her sister’s education and pays the family’s bills through prostitution. It is only with her secret lover, a woman named Verdene, that Margot can explore her sexuality on her own terms. Their mother Delores is a popular vendor, selling souvenirs to tourists. But the charm she switches on with customers doesn’t extend to their home life; when Margot was still a child, Delores sold her to a sex tourist for $600.

Nicole Dennis-Brown’s debut novel is extraordinary in scope and execution. She deals effectively with themes of colonialism, intergenerational trauma, and colorism – and although these subjects can be challenging, this book is captivating from start to finish. It is impossible not to feel for her characters – in particular Margot, who is torn between duty and desire – although each is complicated in her own right. The world Dennis-Brown builds is so vivid that as you read her words, you will feel the heat of the Jamaican sun on your skin.

Women, by Chloe Caldwell

Women tells the story of an unnamed young woman’s first lesbian romance – and obsession – with a hot older lesbian named Finn. It’s lust at first sight. They meet at the protagonist’s reading and exchange book recommendations, emails, and more; a perfect seduction. Finn is dapper, charming, and androgynous – unlike anybody the protagonist has ever met. But Finn is also in a committed relationship. And as Finn becomes increasingly unavailable, her young lover spirals into an identity crisis.

Novella length and exciting from start to finish, Women is a delicious single-sitting read. This book is lesbian pulp fiction updated for the Instagram generation. It’s sexy, sad, and relatable to anybody who has ever fallen in love with the wrong person.

Eat Up, by Ruby Tandoh

Every summer, women are bombarded with messages about ‘beach bodies’ and ‘bikini season’. If you’re not skinny, white, and able-bodied, it’s likely that you have been made to feel like you’re not fit to be seen in summer clothes. Magazines, adverts, and Instagram posts all pressure women to lose weight. It can feel overwhelming. Media messaging about the ‘ideal’ body – and the dieting we must do to achieve it – can poison our relationship with food.

Ruby Tandoh’s Eat Up: Food, Appetite and Eating What You Want is the perfect antidote. With this book, the Great British Bake Off winner brings the joy back to eating. A mixture of anecdotes, essays, and straightforward recipes, Eat Up nourishes the soul as food nourishes the body. With good humor and meticulous research, Tandoh debunks the myths at the heart of the diet industry. She unpicks the class judgments attached to food, and will have you delighting in everything from freshly picked berries to a bar of your favorite chocolate.

Eat Up is seasoned with stories about Ruby’s relationship with Leah Pritchard, her then-fiancée. Food is shown to represent intimacy, and care between these two women. Tandoh and Pritchard tied the knot last year, which shows that food really is the way to a woman’s heart.

Oh You Pretty Thing, by VG Lee

VG Lee’s latest collection is a kaleidoscope of lesbian experiences. The stories in Oh You Pretty Thing feature everything from a holiday romance on a sunny Greek Island to the last gasp of a loveless in a loveless marriage, when one character wonders if her life would be better if her husband were to die suddenly in a car crash. An elderly man fails to grasp that the neighbor he is set on seducing happens to be a lesbian, despite noticing the way she wears vests under her blouses. There is even a remarkable tale of lesbian desire – and the dangers attached to it – set in the Wild West.

Lee strikes a perfect balance between tragedy and comedy. Every story perfectly chronicles some aspect of lesbian life Even though her collection deals with some difficult subject matters, there is a lightness to her writing that makes it thoroughly enjoyable – making this book a perfect summer read.

The Tensorate Series, by JY Yang

JY Yang’s Tensorate novellas will blow your mind. They are imaginative, gripping, and plenty gay. Mages do battle with Machinists in a power struggle that shapes the fate of a nation. For fifty years the Protectorate has reigned supreme; and now her rule is destabilized. Her twins, Mokoya and Akeha, are at the heart of the resistance – and the protagonists of the first two books. While opposing their mother’s rule, each explores their own identity and sexuality in a way that will appeal to many lesbian readers.

Yang’s writing is thoroughly original, using “the human body as a vessel for storytelling.” The relationship between gender and language in these books is interesting; for instance, all children receive gender-neutral tunics and pronouns. It is a fascinating glimpse into what the world might look like if children were not aggressively gendered from the moment their sex was known. But the Tensorate books are not feminist polemic – they are storytelling at its finest.

Little Gold, by Ali Rogers

Shorlisted for the Polari Prize, Little Gold is a heart-warming work of lesbian fiction. Set in Brighton during the 1980s, it is a coming of age story that follows an unfeminine young girl as she finds her place in the world.

Little Gold’s family are in a precarious position; her father has walked out on them and her mother is on the brink of losing her job. LG’s older sister, the stable point in her world, is on the cusp of leaving for university. And her brother has fallen into the orbit of a wealthy family who have a habit of drawing in vulnerable young boys. But LG finds some much-needed joy in befriending her neighbour, a forthright older lesbian by the name of Peggy Baxter.

Little Gold will break your heart and put it back together again. It’s a story that’s profoundly moving without being melodramatic. It is also a testament to the power of positive female role models; seeing how Peggy lives her life enables LG to imagine new possibilities for herself. If you need a book to restore your faith in humanity, this is it.

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