In the age of fanfiction and the rampant hyper-fetishization of female queer relationships both on and off-screen, it can definitely be a challenge to find healthy and interesting representation in works of fiction. As a sapphic enthusiast and bookworm, I’ve definitely experienced some hit-and-misses when it came to finding WLW (woman-loving-woman) books that were enjoyable to read while still promoting healthy themes and messages. However, I’ve also read some very solid books, and I’ve decided to spare you all the pain of enduring through weird fetishy hardcovers. Begone, toxic lesbian love triangles and tropey nonsense, I’m here to save the day and give you all some REAL works of literature that provide readers with the types of queer love that are actually mirrored in the real world around us.
1. Last Night at the Telegraph Club – Malinda Lo
If you’re interested in history and intersectionality in regards to WLW relationships, this is definitely the book for you. Taking place in 1950s San Francisco, Last Night at the Telegraph Club tells the story of an interracial couple as they find refuge in a gay bar and perceive themselves and the world around them during a time in which being different automatically gets you labelled as a communist.
If you love reading about Chinese-American history and The Red Scare, this is the novel for you. It’s a story about found family and sexual exploration and the two main characters, Lily and Kath, are relatable to those who’ve experienced feelings of not fitting in or being fetishized by others.
You may have seen it on “booktok” or throughout the internet, but this one is a book you won’t regret picking up.
2. The Henna Wars – Adiba Jaigirdar
This one is for those who are looking for a cute romantic comedy that will also give them a bit to think about. Tackling topics like cultural appropriation vs. appreciation and coming out, The Henna Wars is a cute read that depicts two queer teenage girls as they tackle family dynamics, start-up competitions, and racism amidst their Catholic school environment.
The main character in this one isn’t always the most likable, but I do think that readers will be able to find her relatable. Plus, this book spotlights Black/South Asian queer relationships, which is a hard to come by combination. What I like most about this book is that it’s accessible and written in such a way that readers of all ages can take something positive from it.
3. One Last Stop – Casey McQuiston
For those searching for a sweet story with a healthy example of bisexual main characters, this page-turner is the novel you’re looking for. One Last Stop is by the same author as the popular MLM novel Red, White, & Royal Blue and depicts a subway meet-cute situation between a diner waitress and a time-traveling rocker chick from the 1970s. Naturally, the main character gets roped into helping her new love interest find her way back to her own time period.
Sounds a little out there, but it’s a captivating read that’ll have you gripping your pillow.
5. Delilah Green Doesn’t Care – Ashley Herring Blake
As one of the newer additions to the LBGTQ+ genre, Delilah Green Doesn’t Care is a story about two adult women from the same hometown who get wrapped into planning a mutual friend’s wedding together and realize that although they’ve known each other for years, they don’t really know each other. This book is a great read for those who want to take a break from teen angst and delve into a more mature relationship. Both of the main leads are working women with their own separate lives and aspirations, and that in itself is a novelty that we love to see.
If you’re looking for a quirky yet sensible enemies-to-friends-to-lovers relationship with a little bit of family and ex-girlfriend drama, this is definitely one that will pique your interest.
Overall, sapphic literature, like all genres, has some highs and some lows. The point in spreading novels with realistic themes is that we as consumers are able to contribute towards demystifying WLW and other queer relationships in the real world. The more we share depictions of healthy and inspiring relationships, the more queer-defining readers are able to visualize themselves and their relationships as more than just “being different” or a “fetish” and critique heteronormative projections on queer individuals. While it’s not absolutely necessary to always be on the hunt for “healthy” romance, I understand wanting to take a break from the excessive drama and find a read that’ll bring you back down to earth and keep you grounded for a little while. While we all have our preferences, remember to keep an open mind and know that there are plenty of literary hidden gems out there just waiting to be read.