Note: this began as a spontaneous blog post in 2016 and has metamorphosed into an ongoing rec list over the years. I add relevant books to it as I read them, and am always on the lookout for more. The fact that a book appears on this list doesn’t necessarily imply that I thought that it was particularly good, just that it matches the criteria in the third paragraph below.
I got chatting on Twitter with the user of the Diverse Church account about books with LGBTQ Christian characters, and how few of these there actually are.
Now, at least part of the reason I wrote one (now two) of my own was that I was frustrated with the lack of representation. However, I’ve found a few over the years, and it only seems fair to share the intel. In this post, I’m only listing books I’ve actually read, but in some cases it was a while ago. I’m adding warnings, but there’s always a possibility that I’ll not have remembered something horrible. Proceed at your own risk!
While not all of these end with hugs and puppies, they do start from, or at least eventually arrive at, the assumption that being Christian and being LGBTQ are not incompatible states, and call, in one way or another, for affirmation.
As for things I haven’t read (yet)… I’ve found Jesus in Love to be a very interesting source of recommendations. There’s also the reliqueer tag on LGBTQ Reads. Do add your own – either for individual books or authors, or for rec sites or round-ups – in comments!
On to the books…
Michael Arditti, The Celibate. The AIDS crisis and the narrator’s own personal crisis meet head-on. Warning for some gory Ripperology and [see spoilers in footnotes]*
Michael Arditti, Easter. Set in a London parish over the course of one Holy Week, with multiple storylines playing out across the congregation, seen from multiple perspectives.
Jaye Robin Brown, Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit. US young adult. The narrator is the daughter of a radio minister, is herself a committed Christian, and is an out lesbian. None of which is a problem in Atlanta, but when her father remarries and the reconfigured family moves to a more conservative part of Georgia, she agrees to go back in the closet, just for the time being. Things only get more complicated when she falls for one of the girls at her new church.
Paula Boock: Dare, Truth or Promise. New Zealand teen fiction of the ‘challenges of high school’ type. One of the main characters is Roman Catholic, and there’s a lovely scene with her priest, which meant a lot to me back in the day.
Carol Anne Douglas: Sister Matthew and Sister Rose: Novices in Love. Does what it says on the tin, really, with a side of magical realism. Both novices express a good deal of frustration with the rules of the convent and the Roman Catholic Church, but at least one of them appears to maintain a strong faith in spite of this.
Catherine Fox: Lindchester chronicles (Acts and Omissions, Unseen Things Above, Realms of Glory). Barchester for the modern day, with outright representation of gay and lesbian characters and engagement with the politics.
Elena Graf: This Is My Body. A romance between an Episcopalian priest and former opera singer and a professor of philosophy, set in a seaside town in Maine. It’s very refreshing to read a romance between two women (two older women, at that) which deals seriously and respectfully with questions of faith.
Aster Glenn Gray: Briarley. M/M Beauty and the Beast retelling, in which one of the main characters is a parson in wartime rural England. I loved this. Full review here.
Radclyffe Hall: The Well of Loneliness. Definitely short in the hugs and puppies department, but I couldn’t leave it off the list, for much the same reasons as those that Kittredge Cherry explains over at Jesus in Love.
Heather Rose Jones: Alpennia series. (Daughter of Mystery, The Mystic Marriage, Mother of Souls). Low fantasy, early nineteenth century, Ruritanian. I ate these books up with a spoon, but I append a health warning as the fantasy element crosses over with the religious element in a way that might not work for everybody. Nevertheless, they do include at least one character who speaks positively and explicitly about the intersection between her faith and her sexual identity, and absolutely deserve their place on this list.
Kathleen Jowitt: Stancester series. (Speak Its Name, The Real World). I wrote these, on the basis that if you can’t find what you’re looking for you might as well create it yourself. Faith, identity, and student politics on a West Country university campus.
A. M. Leibowitz, Anthem. A worship leader’s confessional song becomes an accidental Christian hit. Particularly entertaining for anyone who’s ever had to stifle a snigger at the unintentional suggestiveness of some worship music.
A. M. Leibowitz, Passing on Faith. The gay son of one homophobic pastor (and brother of another) falls for his affirming Christian neighbour. This is the first in a series; I haven’t read the rest of it yet.
Rachel Mann, The Gospel of Eve. Many fucked up things happen in this book, and it’s hardly a spoiler to say that there isn’t a happy ending, but the relationship between two women ordinands is by far the least fucked up. Or, at least, only in the way that relationships generally are.
J. B. Marsden, Bobbi and Soul. Romance between an Episcopalian priest and a doctor, with nice background details of rural Colorado and both main characters’ workplaces.
ed. Gabriela Martins, Keep Faith. This anthology of short stories includes two featuring queer Christian girls: “Godzilla” (Kate Brauning), a perceptive examination of what it’s like to be the token same-sex couple in a well-meaning affirming church youth group, and “Whatever She Wants” (Kess Costales), whose time-lapse structure works well to show how its narrator comes to understand who she is and how her faith fits with that. (I reviewed the anthology as a whole here.)
Jessica Pegis: The God Painter. Sci-fi novel in which the entire population of Earth is evacuated to another planet, and finds that all the old divisions still exist despite surprising new evidence. Reviewed here.
Alex Sanchez: The God Box. American teen fiction, also of the ‘challenges of high school’ type; engages the question head on throughout the book.
Caren J. Werlinger: In This Small Spot. A bereaved doctor enters an abbey, only to find herself falling for one of the nuns. I loved most of this and had some reservations about the rest of it. Reviewed here (spoilers, but there’s a warning before you get there).
Sarah L. Young, Plus One. Another American YA book. One of the narrators is bisexual and (presumably) Roman Catholic; there’s quite a lot of discussion about how her faith affects her reaction to an unplanned pregnancy, but she doesn’t seem to experience any conflict between her faith and her sexual orientation. Reviewed here. (Edit: unfortunately the publisher has folded, but you may be able to pick up a second-hand copy.)
* child sexual assault, connected with gay identity in a way that I found quite distasteful. But ultimately affirms the holiness of queer sexuality.