As Mardi Gras excitement builds in Sydney, we asked three bookish LGBTQIA+ writers to share the books that spoke to them.
Fingersmith by Sarah Waters
Selected by writer Clementine Ford
Growing up as a young queer teen in the ’90s, it was nigh on impossible for me to find books with characters written explicitly as LGBTQIA+. Back then, you had to read between the lines (and given I hadn’t really accepted my own spot on the spectrum of fluid sexuality, I wasn’t very good at picking up on coded signals).
Instead, I fell in confused love with girls like Rusty in Michelle Magorian’s post war YA novel, Back Home, and Kirsty Brewer in The Babysitter’s Club. And for a time, this was enough.
As an adult, I felt like I had been born again when I discovered the writing of Sarah Waters. Tipping The Velvet was a hot and heavy romp through Victorian London’s Vaudeville scene, but it was Fingersmith that really spoke to me. Part Gothic horror, part psychological thriller and part good old fashioned lesbian love story, I wanted to read it again and again. It’s still the book I recommend most to people seeking good lesbian fiction. Which, very thankfully, we have so much more of to choose from now.
Half Wild by Pip Smith
Selected by Cathal Gwatkin-Higson a trans reader and writer posting at @khakipantsofsex
Half Wild is based on the case of Harry Crawford, a transgender man who was convicted of murder in early 1900s Sydney. Smith paints an intimate portrait of a man becoming himself at a time when there wasn’t language for who he was. It follows the mistakes he makes as a human, not as a reflection on his trans-ness, in a way that twists the harmful trope of trans people being criminals without sacrificing the truth. I first read Half Wild when I was still discovering that story for myself, and it was proof to me that we have always existed.
Euphoria Kids by Alison Evans
Selected by Jes Layton, a queer author and artist posting at @ageekwithahat
One of my favourite recent LGBTQIA+ books has to be Euphoria Kids by Alison Evans. It’s an entirely too-tender contemporary fairytale about magic, friendship and gender identity. The story features three trans teenagers finding each other and, together, learning to step into their own power. Quintessentially Australian, Euphoria Kids is quietly enchanting, with queerness and gender being presented as the wonderful, powerful and magical things that they are and can be in real life.