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Five of the best books about queer relationships

Five of the best books about queer relationships

Cinema listings seem to be stacked with films about queer relationships at the moment. From the eerie yet tender romance in All of Us Strangers to the electric sapphic fling in the forthcoming Love Lies Bleeding, these new offerings feel refreshingly nuanced, placing LGBTQ+ characters centre stage without pandering to reductive narratives or heteronormative taste.

If you want to find such stories in your reading, too, why not try some of the following books? Whether you’re looking for accounts of seedy sexual awakenings or reflections on tormented love affairs, here are five of the best.

Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters

While many will be familiar with the title from its 2002 BBC adaptation, the original text by Sarah Waters is even more of a treat. Set in the 1890s, the story follows Nan, a young Whitstable oyster girl, as she comes to terms with her sexuality. After becoming infatuated with a “male impersonator” (what we might now call a drag king) at a local music hall, she dumps her boyfriend and plunges into a sequence of queer affairs, with plenty of drama and racy moments along the way. It’s funny, raunchy and extremely camp, but Tipping the Velvet is also a whistle-stop tour through different corners of British lesbian history, building fiction around real-life subcultures.

Paradise Rot by Jenny Hval

Rotting fruit, flies and urine may not be the typical markers of a sexual awakening tale, but somehow Jenny Hval’s strange, feverish world perfectly captures the dizzying feelings associated with unspoken, and unfamiliar, sexual chemistry. After responding to a newspaper ad from another girl at her college, Jo finds herself sharing a dank warehouse flat with no walls and little privacy; tension between the two roommates swells as boundaries break down. Like in her music, which is both uncanny and intimate, Hval’s debut novel is hypersensual and completely immersive.

100 Boyfriends by Brontez Purnell

Purnell is an expert in writing love stories for the dating app age. Despite the title, there are few actual boyfriends in this book, but plenty of casual hookups, illicit public encounters and rebounds with old flames. Over a collection of short diary entries, his unnamed Black, gay protagonists share the highs and lows of their erotic and emotional endeavours in shameless detail. It’s refreshing to read something as lewd and chaotic as a post-night-out debrief text from your friend.

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Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters

When Reese, a sharp yet self-sabotaging trans woman, receives an offer to co-parent with her ex-partner and his boss-turned-lover, she is initially sceptical, but the opportunity to finally become a mother is too appealing to decline. As the three lay the foundations for their non-nuclear family unit, they navigate the confines of prescribed gender roles, catty fallouts and unlikely bonding. Though there are traces of romance in Peters’ debut novel, it’s the non-romantic queer relationships that stand out most, such as the friendship of the two mothers-to-be, the enduring affection between exes and the gossip-laden camaraderie among trans peers.

Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin

Despite being written in 1956 – more than half a century before most of the books on this list, when homosexuality was still criminalised – Giovanni’s Room is a story of queer desire, identity and loss that still feels pertinent. Gazing out from his bedroom window one night, the protagonist recounts his short yet fiery fling with an Italian bartender in Paris while his fiancee is out of town. It’s burdened with feelings of shame and the outcome is tragic, but tender moments including bashful bar exchanges and chemistry-charged taxi journeys bring warmth, thanks to Baldwin’s vivid storytelling.

Source: theguardian.com