18 Queer Women Characters In Books Who Prove There's No "Right" Way To Express Your Sexuality
Book nerds know there's nothing worse than a stock character done wrong. Stereotypes suck, especially when writers trot them out as representations of people who don't typically get to take a starring role in media, such as immigrants, people of color, disabled individuals, and LGBTQIAP+ folks. Marginalized groups aren't monolithic, but for many writers, that lesson is way overdue.
To showcase the diversity we can find in literature, and to celebrate writers who are doing something right, I've put together a list of 18 badass book heroines who prove there's no right way to be a queer woman. The characters on this list run just about every gamut you can think of. They come from different backgrounds and perform gender in varied ways.
If you're still figuring out this whole sexuality thing, you might be worried that you're not doing it right. Let me assure you, your queerness doesn't have to look like someone else's in order to meet some kind of standard. No matter how you choose to perform gender or with whom you want to spend your life, your queerness is valid because it is yours.
Check out the 18 book heroines I've picked out below, and share your favorite LGBTQIAP+ protagonists with me on Twitter!
Nancy from 'The Necessary Hunger' by Nina Revoyr
In their last year of high school before college, basketball players Nancy Takahiro and Raina Webber are navigating friendship and rivalry when their parents decide to move in together. Now, with her crush living under the same roof, Nancy finds herself more uncertain than ever of what the future holds.
Sahar and Nasrin from 'If You Could Be Mine' by Sara Farizan
Set in Iran, where gay and lesbian sexual activity is outlawed, If You Could Be Mine centers on Sahar and Nasrin, two young lovers who have been best friends since childhood. When Nasrin agrees to marry the man her parents have chosen for her, Sahar contemplates undergoing a gender-reassignment surgery to be with the woman she loves.
Stevie from 'Coffee Will Make You Black' by April Sinclair
Living on Chicago's South Side in the 1960s, Stevie grows up during a period of intense social and political upheaval. Her entry into high school coincides with the beginnings of the Black Is Beautiful movement, and Stevie must reckon, not only with how she moves in the world as a black girl, but with her feelings for the white school nurse, as well.
Alana Quick from 'Ascension' by Jacqueline Koyanagi
When a cargo ship arrives to pick up her sister Nova, engine mechanic Alana hides herself on board, desperate to find an ongoing placement with a permanent crew. Aboard the Tangled Axon, however, Alana may have found more than a job when she meets the ship's beautiful captain.
Amira and Sadie from 'Princess Princess Ever After' by Katie O'Neill
Imprisoned in a tower with her pet dragon, Princess Sadie isn't interested in the princes who try and fail to rescue her. But when Princess Amira shows up with her unicorn steed and a grappling hook, Sadie will finally get the adventure she deserves.
Juliet from 'Juliet Takes a Breath' by Gabby Rivera
After coming out to her family, Juliet Palante moves across country, from the Bronx to Portland, Ore., to take an internship with her favorite feminist writer. But when her relationships begin to fall apart all around her, Juliet will have to find her own foothold in the world.
Phèdre from 'Kushiel's Dart' by Jacqueline Carey
Sold into slavery at a young age, Phèdre is trained as a courtesan and spy to procure vital information for her master, Anafiel Delaunay. Phèdre lives a comfortable, largely autonomous life, but her encounters with Delauney's ambitious ex-lover, Melisande, could spell disaster for all involved.
Ash and Kaisa from 'Ash' by Malinda Lo
This retelling of the classic Cinderella story centers on Ash, an imaginative orphan who hopes that the fairies she reads about will come to save her one day. Not only does she meet a handsome fairy who may be able to grant her wishes, but she also falls for Kaisa, the King's Huntress. The love triangle she creates cannot hold, and Ash must choose between Sidhean and Kaisa.
Sue from 'Fingersmith' by Sarah Waters
Raised in a den of thieves, Sue Trinder gets a chance at a better life when the renowned Gentleman shows up with a plan for her: become a lady's maid to the wealthy and naïve Maud Lilly, convince her to marry Gentleman, and then reap the benefits when he commits her to an asylum. Sue agrees, and does the one thing no thief should ever do. She develops feelings for her mark.
Maria from 'Nevada' by Imogen Binnie
After her girlfriend of four years confesses to infidelity, Maria Griffiths steals said girlfriend's car and heads out on a roadtrip to the Southwest, where she meets James Hanson, whom she suspects may be a trans woman like herself.
Imp, Eva, and Abalyn from 'The Drowning Girl' by Caitlín R. Kiernan
Framed as Imp's memoir, The Drowning Girl follows its schizophrenic narrator as she struggles to sort out the truth about her short-time roommate, a mysterious hitchhiker named Eva, with the help of her girlfriend, Abalyn.
Ijeoma and Amina from 'Under the Udala Trees' by Chinelo Okparanta
Sent away from home to escape the violence of war, Ijeoma and Amina find one another and fall in love. When their relationship is discovered, however, Ijeoma is sent home again, where she is expected to marry a man and forget about the girl she loves.