~ sapphic summer reading list ~

Growing up in the Bible Belt in the early 2000s, I had very little, if any, positive representation of LGBTQ+ folks. It wasn’t until my early 20s that I encountered stories of queer young adults discovering and owning their identities, and it was nothing short of life-changing. I finally saw and understood my authentic self and began wading through the internalized homophobia that had shaped most of my life. To celebrate Pride this year, I am excited to share a compilation of sapphic books that have helped to heal my inner queer kid. Some deal more directly with homophobia and religious trauma, while others simply celebrate the joy of knowing yourself and being part of the LGBTQ+ community. Happy reading!

  1. I Kissed Shara Wheeler by Casey McQuiston

I Kissed Shara Wheeler is the first YA release from Casey McQuiston, bestselling author of queer hits Red, White, and Royal Blue and One Last Stop. Chloe Green and her gay moms relocated from California to Alabama, where she attends a strict Christian high school. There Chloe faces discrimination for being out as queer as well as a battle for valedictorian with her academic rival and the most popular girl in school, Shara Wheeler. Then on prom night, Shara kisses Chloe and vanishes, leaving behind a web of notes and clues for Chloe and two others that she kissed – her football quarterback boyfriend and the boy next door. The three form an unlikely alliance and end up discovering themselves and building community in ways they never expected. 

  1. The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily Danforth

The Miseducation of Cameron Post tells the story of Cam, a teenager with a tendency to “act out” who is forced to move in with conservative family members after the death of her parents. When Cam forms an intense, potentially romantic friendship with another girl, her caretakers send her to a conversion camp called God’s Promise to “fix” her. There Cam meets a variety of characters – some youth who chose to be there, some who definitely did not, and well-intentioned staff who truly believe they are helping, while causing significant harm. Cam goes on an arduous journey to accept herself and find the courage to live her truth. The story is heavy, but also heartfelt, and the movie adaptation is also worth watching!

  1. Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera

In Juliet Takes a Breath, Rivera explores complex social, political, and personal identity issues through lyrical prose and intriguing dialogue, without holding back on depth or nuance. Juliet, a self-proclaimed “Puerto Rican baby dyke,” has just come out to her family and left the Bronx to spend the summer in Portland, Oregon interning with Harlowe, an acclaimed feminist author. However, Harlowe’s brand of white feminism turns out to be far less inclusive than Juliet was led to believe. She must discover for herself what intersectional feminism looks like, with the support of a community of queer people of color she connects with, and decide how to confront Harlowe. 

  1. Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit by Jaye Robin Brown 

While Jo is attending high school in Atlanta, she is out and proud; however, when her father, a progessive Christian radio preacher, remarries and relocates the family to conservative Rome, Georgia, he asks her to lay low until graduation to avoid ruffling any feathers in their new town. Jo reluctantly agrees, until she meets a girl who makes her secret difficult to keep. Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit is both surprising and sweet, with dynamic characters and realistic conflicts. It is a story about finding friendship and family in unexpected places and of discovering the courage to live freely and fully. It also includes refreshing representation of Christian communities full of openness and inclusive love. 

  1. The Henna Wars by Adiba Jaigirdar

Adiba Jaigirdar’s The Henna Wars deals with serious topics – such as racism/xenophobia, homophobia, and cultural appropriation – in an extremely approachable and sensitive way. The main character Nishat is a Bangladeshi Muslim immigrant living in Dublin, and has just come out to her family as gay. Her life is further complicated when she reconnects with a childhood friend Flávia, who then becomes her business rival and her crush. Both Nishat and Flávia are running henna businesses in their school’s business competition, and while henna is an important part of Nishat’s culture, Flávia has no cultural connection to the craft. What ensues is a story of fierce competition full of controversy and sabatoge, layered with the confusing emotions that often accompany first love, especially when its queer.

  1. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Evelyn Hugo is a Hollywood movie star who prefers to keep to herself; however, approaching the end of her life, she decides to release a tell-all memoir revealing decades of glamor and scandal. Monique Grant is a relatively unknown magazine reporter, recently left by her husband, and she is the one Evelyn has specifically chosen to write this book, for reasons unbeknown to her. The saga of Evelyn’s story spans from her start in Hollywood in the 1950s to her retreat into retirement in the 1980s, with 7 husbands and a hefty dose of forbidden love in between. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is utterly compelling, just like the icon herself. 

  1. Delilah Green Doesn’t Care by Ashley Herring Blake

Delilah Green is living in NYC, growing her photography career and her string of one-night-stands. The last thing she wants to do is return to Bright Falls, the small town where she grew up feeling like a burden to her stepfamily and a muted version of herself. When she is roped into photographing her stepsister Astrid’s wedding, Delilah decides to have some fun messing with Astrid’s bridesmaid Claire Sutherland. Claire has never left Bright Falls, where she runs a bookstore and is raising her 11 year-old daughter Ruby. What begins as playful antics and a mutual hatred of Astrid’s fiance eventually leads way to a romantic connection, surprising both women. Cue the cute roller-skating dates, family camping trips, and steamy romance scenes. Delilah Green Doesn’t Care is the sapphic adult rom com we’ve been waiting for – devoid of homophobia or traumatic coming out scenes, this book is a pure celebration of queerness with dynamic characters that are easy to root for. 

  1. Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo

Last Night at the Telegraph Club takes place in San Francisco’s Chinatown during the 1950s, at the height of the Red Scare. Amidst this backdrop, 17 year-old Lily Hu is struggling to come to terms with her sexuality, intensely curious yet also fearful about the possibility of being gay. Everything changes when Lily and her friend Kath visit an underground lesbian bar called the Telegraph Club and meet a community of women loving women. Suddenly, they see new, freeing, joyful possibilities for their lives; however, also looming around them are the threats of rampant homophobia and xenophobia, especially against Chinese Americans. If you are a fan of historical fiction, coming-of-age stories, and tender romance, I can’t recommend this novel enough. 

P.S. If you are interested in joining a lovely online community to discuss queer books, check out Sapph-Lit on instagram (@sapphlit) or join the book club on the Geneva app using this link: Join Sapph-Lit on Geneva!

P.S.S. Consider supporting a local queer-owned bookstore to purchase your sapphic summer reads. In Atlanta, check out Bookish ATL (@bookishatl) in EAV, or you can order online here: bookshop.org/shop/BookishATL

Cait is an Atlanta-based artist and educator. She works as a bookseller at Bookish Atlanta (come say hi!) and is currently pursuing her Master’s to become an art therapist.

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