Welcome to the 2023 Read Harder challenge! I am honored to have this first slot, because Read Harder is always a great opportunity to diversify your reading in every sense. For the next 23 days, you’ll be getting emails like this with recommendations for every task, though of course you’re free to use any books you’d like to complete the challenges.
This first prompt is “Read a novel about a trans character written by a trans author,” and let me tell you, I had trouble narrowing down the books I wanted to feature in this newsletter. While trans books are still not as common as they should be, there are far more being published now than in prior years, which is something to celebrate. I tried to include a mix of books that you may already know, to remind you of them, as well as ones that are less well-known that might be your first introduction to them. Each of these are written by a trans (including nonbinary) author.
I started with adult titles and then listed some middle grade and young adult titles. Across all age groups, they include both realistic/contemporary books as well as sci-fi/fantasy ones, so there’s something for everyone. (Also, quick English class reminder: “novel” means fiction, so save the memoirs/history books for later!)
Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters
This award-winning novel follows three women, trans and cis, who — after an unexpected pregnancy — decide to raise a baby together. This was a bestseller that was named one of the best books of the year by a ton of publications last year, including NPR and The New York Times.
Nevada by Imogen Binnie
This has recently come back into print with a new afterword from the author, which I am very happy about, because it’s one of my favorite books. Maria is an unforgettable main character: overanalyzing, ironic, dissatisfied, and so compelling. When she’s fired and her girlfriend breaks up with her, she steals her ex’s car and takes off on a cross-country road trip, eventually meeting James, who she’s sure she can help transition, even though James is not ready to face that yet.
The Bruising of Qilwa by Naseem Jamnia
This is a fantasy novel set in a queernormative, Persian-inspired world with an asexual, aromantic, nonbinary main character. Firuz is a refugee working at a clinic who discovers a deadly blood-borne disease that is spreading. But Firuz is a blood magic practitioner, and this disease might bring even more danger down on them.
Light From Uncommon Stars by Ryka Aoki
How do I explain this book? It has deals with the devil, a donut store run by alien refugees, and a trans teen runaway who is a violin prodigy. These disparate parts combine into a heart-achingly affective story, but do be prepared to read about both the kindness and the cruelty of humanity. (Check trigger warnings for this one.) It’s one of the best books I’ve ever read.
In the Watchful City by S. Qiouyi Lu
If you like experimental SFF, this is the novella for you. It includes multiple nonbinary characters, including one that is fused with the city’s security system. The main character, Anima, uses æ/ær/ær pronouns. The other character, Vessel, uses se/ser/ser pronouns.
Melissa by Alex Gino
This has been one of the most frequently banned and challenged books since its release, but it’s a very sweet, gentle middle grade story about a trans girl, Melissa, who wants to audition to be Charlotte in the school’s production of Charlotte’s Web.
Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender
As a Black, queer, trans teen, Felix worries that he’s “too much” to find the romance he’s looking for. When someone starts anonymously harassing him by publicly posting his deadname and pre-transition photos, he never expects that his revenge plot would also be the start of a new relationship. This is a book about self-discovery and always learning more about your own identity.
Self-Made Boys: A Great Gatsby Remix by Anna-Marie McLemore
This is a recent release that reimagines Nick and Jay from The Great Gatsby as queer trans boys, and Nick and Daisy as Latine. Aiden Thomas, author of Cemetery Boys, said that “With a breath of fresh life, Self-Made Boys shows us how queer love has flourished in quiet corners across history.”
The Sunbearer Trials by Aiden Thomas
Speaking of Aiden Thomas, you may have already heard of Cemetery Boys, a very popular trans paranormal YA title with an M/M romance, but did you know he has a new series that also has a trans main character? The Trials pit the most worthy semidioses against each other: the winner will be the Sunbearer, but the loser will be sacrificed. Teo is shocked to be chosen, and now he has to try to keep him and his friends from becoming the sacrifice — while attempting not to get distracted by the handsome top competitor who was once his best friend.
Hell Followed With Us by Andrew Joseph White
Benji is a trans boy on the run from a cult who have made him a bioweapon to try to end the world. He finds refuge with a group of queer teens, but they have their own secrets, and he’s a ticking time bomb. This is a rage-filled story that tackles transphobia head-on and has lots of body horror, so be prepared for that going in.
Want to read books from this newsletter? You can, for free! Get three free audiobooks with a trial to Audiobooks.com. Claim your 3 free audiobooks now!
But don’t stop there! Also check out 20 Must-Read Adult Books by Trans & Genderqueer Authors, 12 Books By Up-And-Coming Trans & Nonbinary Authors, and 8 Transgender YA Books Written by Trans and Nonbinary Authors.
Bon voyage on your Read Harder journey, and keep us updated on social media with your progress!
Until next time, you can find me at my sapphic book blog, the Lesbrary. You can also read my weekly Our Queerest Shelves LGBTQ books newsletter, hear me on All the Books, or you can read my Book Riot posts.