Five Inspiring Books With Female-Female Relationships
My favourite lesbian and bisexual books, from classics to YA.
Romantic relationships between two women are present in many modern-day narratives, not only in young adult literature.
LGBTQ+ representation in literature improved a lot in recent years, in both quality and quantity. Earlier works mostly represented lesbian and bisexual women as sinful or even “sick”.
Luckily, this isn’t the case anymore and there are various positive examples in which women who love women are represented in a natural and progressive way.
The following five books take us on a journey through the history of female-female romance in literature.
1952: “Carol” by Patricia Highsmith
When Patricia Highsmith published this book under the original title The Price of Salt, she used a pseudonym to protect her own name. In 1952, lesbian relationships weren’t something a famous author like Highsmith could write about without negative consequences.
Nevertheless, Carol ended up being a groundbreaking work.
The obsessive love between a young, inexperienced girl named Therese and the more mature and slightly posh Carol was by no means the first lesbian relationship in literature.
But it was the first that didn’t end in complete disaster.
Up until then, most lesbian relationships in literature ended with the two women miserable or even dead. Carol was one of the first novels to at least hint at the possibility of a happy end.
1985: “Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit” by Jeanette Winterson
Some thirty years later, my all-time favourite lesbian author entered the scene: It was Jeanette Winterson.
I read Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit for my final examination at high school and it played an immense role in helping me understand my own sexuality.
The reason it resonated with me so much is that the semi-autobiographical main character Jeanette comes from a conservative Christian family — like myself.
Jeanette is an incredibly inspiring character: She is strong and willing to fight for what she truly wants. She will not have society or her family bring her down like other characters in the novel.
To my 18-year-old self, she set an example I hadn’t seen anywhere else in the world before and gave me the courage to stand up to my own family.
2001: “Pages For You” by Sylvia Brownrigg
I had never heard of Sylvia Brownrigg before when I got sent Pages For You in my monthly book subscription box. I had no idea what it was about, started reading, and promptly fell in love.
This novel reminded me of Carol on many levels: It is another love story between young college student Flannery and the older woman Anne. Anne becomes Flannery’s teacher not only in academics but also in love.
What makes this book unique is that it is written in “pages”, little microchapters of one to three pages. This makes the pacing of the story fast yet considerate.
Again, the narrator Flannery was extremely relatable to me. She might be more insecure than Jeanette but manages to find her true self just as well in the end.
2015: “Under the Udala Trees” by Chinelo Okparanta
Chinelo Okparanta is a Nigerian author living in the US. In Under the Udala Trees, she tells the story of Ijeoma, a young girl living during the Nigerian civil war.
Ijeoma is sent away from her family to a safer place, where she meets another girl and falls in love. At that time in Nigeria, the love between the two girls is unthinkable and unspeakable — Ijeoma has to learn to hide her true identity.
In Nigeria, LGBTQ+ people still face many social and legal challenges to this day. Because of the political and social backdrop of Nigeria at the time of the civil war, this novel is much more than the coming-of-age story of a lesbian woman.
It is the story of a nation during and after a civil war, its restrictions on women’s personal life.
2018: “Leah on the Offbeat” by Becky Albertalli
On a lighter note, I would like to finish this list with a young adult novel, Leah on the Offbeat. Technically, this is a sequel aka companion novel to the famous Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, but it works as a standalone novel, too (just beware of spoilers if you haven’t read Simon).
Leah, Simon’s best friend, is a teenager struggling to come to terms with her bisexuality. She falls in love with a girl who is already taken and doesn’t understand the attraction towards her at first.
As she starts to understand what’s really going on, she slowly finds the courage to open up to the people around her.
Becky Albertalli’s books are always fun and easy to read — and so is Leah on the Offbeat.
This little glimpse into the history and evolution of lesbian and bisexual literature shows one thing: It does get better. These five books are all examples in which the lesbian and bisexual characters are represented in the positive light they deserve.
All of these books have helped me understand my own sexuality and will continue to do so for many other readers.
Too many books, too little time? I’ve got five free tips for you on how to read more. Click here to get my exclusive tips.
Please note: The book links above are Better World Books affiliate links. If you buy anything through those links, I will earn a small commission.