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Dyke-Approved Books You Should Read This Summer

DykeBooksBy Cassandra Avenatti

Summer is on the wind, and soon you’ll be sipping salt-rimmed concoctions on patios and beaches across the city. Sultry, lazy weather isn’t a reason to allow your lovely lady brains to turn to mush. These great queer reads will engage you, transport you to destinations you might not otherwise visit, and will provide excellent fodder for warm-weather dates.

I’ve included selections for all types of readers, from the avid consumers of Sapphic fiction to those who are new to, or who dabble in this genre. My picks range from classic to contemporary, and include vastly different styles and readability levels. If you would like to process these books after you read them (we’re lesbians after all), check out my queer book club, Sapphic Selections.

The Creamsickle by Rhianon Argo
The Creamsickle is a perfect summer read – it’s accessible and quick-moving, and includes all the queer-punk romance and drama that you adore (or at least, I do). The story follows Georgie and her genderqueer crew who occupy the Creamsickle, a lopsided, faded Victorian in the Mission District of San Francisco. This book is sweet, charming and easy to read.

Red Azalea by Anchee Min
I stumbled onto this fascinating memoir unintentionally, and am so pleased that I did! Anchee Min was a child during the collapse of the Maoist regime, and as a girl was sent to work on a communist farm. Min falls in love with her female squad leader, and the two have a passionate affair shadowed by the constant threat of discovery and execution. This is a haunting coming-of-age story with a cultural cataclysm as its backdrop. Red Azalea reads like a novel, and it’s easy to forget that these incredible events are part of a woman’s life history.

The Last Nude by Ellis Avery
The newest novel from the author of the best-seller The Teahouse Fires is based on the life of the celebrated Polish-Russian artist Tamara de Lempicka, who was rumored to have had affairs with women. The novel is told primarily from the point of view of Lempicka’s muse Rafaela, whom she painted many times. Avery weaves Lempicka’s biography into the conversations Rafaela has with the artist during the long sessions when she poses for her. It’s a wicked-sexy story made even more interesting by its basis in reality.

Cha-Ching by Ali Leibegott
This much-anticipated novel was recently released, and I can’t wait to get my hands on it. I adored Liebegott’s last two creations, The IHOP Papers and The Beautifully Worthless, and it seems that this new work will be just as delightful. Cha-Ching is an adventure-romp set in 90s Brooklyn with a dyke and her pit bull. If you happen to know me, you know these are all things I am into, hard. Nineties nostalgia and dog-loving dykes? YES.

Tango: My Childhood, Backwards and in High Heels by Justin Vivian Bond
Mx. Bond is a beloved writer, performance artist and Radical Faerie, and hir memoir is entertaining, moving and insightful. Mx. Bond’s story is deeply personal, but also universal. Bond addresses LBGTQ adolescence, parenting trans/queer children, and bullying, all with humor and compassion.

Days of Awe by Achy Obejas
This lyrical novel is penned by one of Chicago’s own. Achy Obejas introduces us to Alejandra, who was born in Havana on the day that Fidel Castro rose to power. Readers are taken on a family’s journey as they flee Cuba for the United States and attempt to balance simultaneously held Jewish, Cuban and American identities.

The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith
This classic work, released in 1952, is noted as the first lesbian novel published that included a happy ending. Prior to its release, books like The Well of Loneliness painted lesbians as exclusively tragic characters with little chance of a happy or fulfilled life. The story follows New York shop-girl Therese, and her connection with and eventual devotion to an intense older woman named Carol. The passion and near-obsession in this dyad captivated me, as did the relational dynamic. Read this for an engaging piece of queer literary history.

Babyji by Abha Dewasar
This sexy, sweet novel is a great beach read. The story centers on a bright and feisty young woman name growing up in Delhi and her developing queer sexuality. She seduces her family’s servant, and engages in a complicated relationship with a sophisticated, (much older) divorcee. The book captures the teenage mind well – the naiveté, arrogance, uncertainty and hopefulness.

Holding Still for as Long as Possible by Zoe Whitehall
Told from three perspectives, this 2011 Lambda Literary Award-winning novel introduces us to Josh, a trans*guy and EMT, his girlfriend Amy, and former child-star Billy, who struggles with panic disorder. These three voices narrate the life of young Toronto queers grappling with adulthood, and do so with charming realism.

Anything by Sarah Waters
I couldn’t possibly limit this entry to one novel. Any self-respecting lover of dyke fiction should read all of Water’s works. If you only have time for one or two of her books, I would suggest Tipping the Velvet & Fingersmith. Both are historical novels that capture the forbidden (and seriously sexy) nature of woman-loving in Victorian England. They are beautifully written, and do thorough work transporting you through time and space to create an authentic-feeling world.

Boots of Leather, Slippers of Gold by Elizabeth L. Kennedy & Madeline Davis
I initially chose this book for its fabulous title, and continued reading because it presents something that few researchers have – a social history of lesbians prior to the ‘gay liberation’ movement. This book is a study of working-class lesbian community-building and social spaces in Buffalo, NY during the 40s, 50s and 60s. It can be a bit dry at times, but is a piece of our history worth reading.

Zami, A New Spelling of My Name by Audre Lorde
For queer reading with a social justice spin, there are many beautiful options from Lourde, but I particularly love Zami. A must-read for queer lit lovers, this ‘biomythography’ is fast-moving and captivating. Lourde poetically chronicles her memories of growing up in Harlem as a queer African American, and her experience moving through a racist, homophobic culture.

About the Guest Blogger
CassandraCassandra is a radical social worker, grassroots activist, performer and Pro Domme. She works with LGBTQ and court-involved youth as a clinician and advocate, and is an Executive Board member for the Sex Worker’s Outreach Project. Her primary areas of professional interest are LGBTQ health, reproductive justice, anti-oppressive sexuality education, sex worker’s rights and youth development. Cassandra earned her Master of Social Work from Jane Addams College at UIC.  Cassandra has an affinity for adventuring, and has lived in five countries and been lost in many more. She hosts a queer feminist book club in her home, and is a member of a fabulous dyke choir (or quoir). She is interested in creating intergenerational queer spaces, and in facilitating  discussions that challenge popular discourse related to sexuality, gender, class and race.

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2 Responses to “Dyke-Approved Books You Should Read This Summer”

  1. Absolutely love your list!! Can’t wait to submerge myself into quite a few of them 😉 thanks!!!!

    Posted by Leah | May 9, 2013, 6:29 pm

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