(Actually Good) Sapphic Representation by El Szalay

It’s that time of year again. You walk in to your local Target to find the aisles stocked with rainbow merchandise. Companies change their profile pictures to rainbow versions of their logo. That’s right, it’s Pride Month.

In my last post, I wrote about queer representation in The Legend of Korra and how Nickelodeon ruined the show’s chance of pioneering LGBTQ+ representation in family-friendly television. I briefly mentioned at the end of that post what I planned to write about for this one. I’ve had this idea since the beginning of this school year, but wanted to save it for my last one, since I could tie it in to Pride Month. I wanted to recommend good examples of sapphic (non-men loving non-men) people and relationships, specifically in books.

First of all, what makes sapphic representation great? Here’s some qualities that I look for:

  1. The sapphic characters are taken seriously. By this, I mean that they aren’t over-fetishized or exclusively based on stereotypes. It shouldn’t feel like their sexuality is their only relevant character trait, or like they were just thrown in there because the creator wanted a sapphic character.
  2. The creator is a queer woman/non-binary person. This isn’t to say that men or straight women can’t write sapphic relationships well, but it’s generally more relatable when it’s written by someone who understands how queer women work. Plus, queer creators are less likely to shy away from letting their characters talk about their queerness.
  3. Diversity. Queerness is often linked to whiteness, so seeing non-white characters who are open about their queerness helps create a more accurate, inclusive narrative of LGBTQ+ people today. Plus, many trans or gender non-conforming people also identify as sapphic, yet it’s hard to find stories about them.
  4. Lastly, for the sake of this blog, the sapphic characters are lead characters. There are some really amazing examples of queer women as side characters out there (such as Tara and Darcy from Heartstopper), but I want to take the chance to highlight media that focuses on the beauty of sapphic love and joy.

All that considered, here’s two books that I recommend you check out this Pride Month!

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Synopsis: Evelyn Hugo is known for her scandalous lifestyle, having been married seven times in her life. Several years after leaving the Hollywood scene, she approaches relatively unknown journalist Monique Grant, asking her to write and publish her biography. As Evelyn goes into great detail about her life and her marriages, she reveals the truth about several of her scandals, including who her true love really was

I’ve seen this book hyped up on TikTok for several months before I actually read it, and I understood the hype as soon I as I started it. The characters were lovable (well, except for the ones that were not supposed to be) and all had interesting stories to tell. Evelyn’s bisexuality is handled very well, especially when she comes out to Monique and explicitly says she is bi. After all, it’s not often that queer characters openly state their identities. I also thought it was interesting that a lot of Evelyn’s story takes place before the Stonewall Riots, showing what life was like for queer people before liberation movements rose. All in all, I absolutely adore The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo forĀ its story and the way it addresses LGBTQ+ issues in history.

CONTENT WARNINGS: This book contains depictions of sexual assault, domestic abuse, cheating, homophobia, biphobia, alcoholism, and some mentions of suicide.

The Girl from the Sea by Molly Knox Ostertag

Synopsis: 15-year-old Morgan lives by the beach on a little island, and she hates it. Her family and friends don’t understand her, and she doesn’t know how any of them would feel about her being a lesbian. That is, until she befriends the mysterious girl who saves her from drowning and realizes island life isn’t as horrible as she thought.

If you, like me, are a huge sucker for graphic novels that you can read in one sitting, this is the book for you. First of all, the art is stunning. The whole book is in full color, and I could spend several minutes admiring the art. The main story itself isn’t super unique (minus the selkies), but I’d argue that makes it even better. Morgan’s story may not be unique, but that makes her very relatable to queer readers and offers a realistic perspective for allies hoping to learn more about the queer experience. The characters, especially Keltie, are so fun and the ending broke my heart. Though I do wish Morgan and/or Keltie clearly confirmed their sexualities, The Girl from the Sea, is a cute, easy-to-read graphic novel that is worth checking out.

CONTENT WARNINGS: This book contains homophobia and mentions of drowning.

Happy reading, and happy Pride Month!

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