Book Club Reads, Fiction



All the Pretty Girls by Chandra Mayor (Conundrum, 2008)

Each of the main characters—young, poor, troubled women—in this collection blurred together too much for my taste, but some sparkling moments of vivid, clear writing.


Annie on My Mind by Nancy Garden (originally published in 1982; FSG 2007 edition)

I wish I’d had this book when I was in high school. Every relationship should unfold so naturally (the scene in the Cloisters!) but with enough realism—disapproving parents, teenage insecurities, hypocritical school leaders—to rank it right up there as one of the best lesbian coming of age novels.


Ash by Malinda Lo (Little Brown, 2009)

I liked this more than most, I think, but I’m a sap for fairytales, in this case a retelling of Cinderella. It’s richly atmospheric, filled with masked balls, royal hunts, and a hot Huntress. Yep, you do the math.


Babyji by Abha Dawesar (Anchor, 2005)

Love her or hate her, you just can’t ignore Anamika. A precocious teenager exploring her sexuality with a vengeance, she is a spirited, intense character that I would love to see featured in a sequel. And, finally, a little multiculturalism with the Delhi setting.


Bittersweet by Nevada Barr (HarperCollins, 1984)

Not your usual Nevada Barr. Drawing on women’s diaries from the Old West, she’s created a wrenching, brutal novel of two women and their struggles to find a semblance of security, comfort, and perhaps even love. Pretty unyielding, but worth it.


The Blue Place by Nicola Griffith (Avon, 1998)

Think of Aud Torvigen as the female non-Vampire version of Eric from True Blood: Nordic, cool on the surface but roiling underneath, tortured but true, strong, fit, and striking. What more could you want? I read this one and then ran out and bought the other two books in the trilogy. 


Desert of the Heart by Jane Rule (Naiad Press, 1983)

My advice: skip the book and watch the movie. It’s a lesbian classic and all and I respect that but I just could not get into this and found the characters unrealistic and the writing turgid. Lots of themes to discuss, though, especially if you read and then watch the movie so a good book club pick.

Kissing the Witch by Emma Donoghue (HarperCollins, 1997)

I liked this retelling of familiar fairytales with feminist and sexual twists more than others. The writing drew me into this web of a world where nothing is quite as you expect.


More of This World or Maybe Another by Barb Johnson (Harper, 2009)

A stunning collection of linked short stories set in New Orleans.


The Night Watch by Sarah Waters (Riverhead, 2006)

I love Sarah Waters and how she continues to take risks with her writing while still crafting page-turning reads filled with lesbian characters…but this isn’t one of my favorites. The characters and setting are richly drawn but I couldn’t get beyond the loss and despair on these pages and found the narrative progressing backwards ultimately unsatisfying.


Nightwood by Djuna Barnes

Tough, independent, darkly funny, and ahead-of-her times, Djuna can do no wrong in my book but this is a challenging and very gloomy novel. Without reading ancillary material to put the book in context and criticism, I think it’s hard to fully grasp what Barnes was trying to do here and the oddities of the plot and characters may test your patience. Djuna knew pain and heartbreak and it comes through on every page.


Orlando by Virginia Woolf

This is one of those rare times where the movie might actually be as good as the book. This love letter to Virginia’s paramour at the time, Vita Sackville-West, is a brilliant exploration of gender and desire.


Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith

I love this book for its window into life as a lesbian in mid-twentieth century New York City, the dark Highsmith sensibility without Ripley and the piercing look at anxiety and desperation.


The Revolution of Little Girls by Blanche McCrary Boyd (Vintage, 1991)

Ellen’s adventures begin! From Miss Plaxton High to shaman seeker in Peru, Ellen pursues a spirit of ammonia soaked quest to come to terms with her South Carolina childhood with tongue firmly in cheek.


Slammerkin by Emma Donghue (Houghton, 2001)

Most in the group loved this historical novel based on the real-life story of Mary Saunders who murdered her mistress in 1763 while I was less enthusiastic. The historical detail was impressive but by the end I just couldn’t like Mary or sympathize with her.


Southland by Nina Revoyr (Akashic, 2003)

In this gripping, award-winning novel, Jackie Ishida unravels a murder mystery and uncovers the dark side of Los Angeles. Jackie’s a lesbian and that’s almost beside the point in a good way. I also liked Revoyr’s first novel, The Necessary Hunger, which deals with desire of the sweaty high school variety despite the vampy title.


Stone Butch Blues by Leslie Feinberg (originally published 2003; Alyson, 2004 edition)

An intense book credited with being the first novel about the transgender experience but is really so much more than that—a raw look at trying to find a place in a world that doesn’t acknowledge your existence.


Terminal Velocity by Blanche McCrary Boyd (Vintage, 1998)

Continuing the story of Ellen from The Revolution of Little Girls, a howl of lesbian-feminist absurdity in the 1970s.


The Well of Loneliness by Radclyffe Hall (originally published in 1928; Knopf, 1990 edition)

THE lesbian novel. I dreaded reading this for years because of the grim, despairing cloud hanging over it and allegedly poor writing. What a mistake. Sure, the writing can get purple and the descriptions interminable but Stephen Gordon is a sympathetic character and her insecurities, losses, and steadfastness are poignant. It’s not the first book I’d give someone who is coming out but Gordon’s struggle to find success, love, and community as a lesbian still resonates today.


Written on the Body by Jeanette Winterson (Vintage, 1994)

A beautiful, seductive and ambiguous novel about love, desire, and heartbreak—one of my favorites.


5 Responses to Book Club Reads, Fiction

  1. mstiptress says:

    I’m so happy I stumbled upon this blog. Nice to find some really good reads..

  2. dijeratic says:

    Agreed – excellent blog and one-of-a-kind. I enjoy all the suggestions here, but notice a woeful lack of Ali Smith – if you’re not familiar, I definitely recommend and would love to read your thoughts on her.

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