Reading is one of my favorite things to do (even if I haven’t read a book recently), and books where LGBTQ+ characters get to play a big role in the story and how it moves are something I look for. I usually read fantasy and science-fiction, and more often than not, the character’s sexuality isn’t a large part of the story because these genres typically aren’t focused on romance.
Representation doesn’t have to come in the form of a coming-of-age story like Heartstopper by Alice Oseman or someone exploring their sexuality in the context of their world as Alex does in Red, White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston, nor does it have to be in your face, or centered around the marginalized identity. However, books like Heartstopper and Red, White and Royal Blue are important for today’s literary world. They speak about the issues society has created and educate the readers in a way that resonates with them. Still, books that simply allow the characters to live their life in a fantastical setting offer representation while allowing readers to take a step back from the books that might hit a little close to home. I call it ‘quiet representation.’
In The Drowned Woods by Emily Lloyd-Jones, the main character, Mer, mentions a same-sex relationship she had with another character. Aside from the past relationship adding tension to the story when they had to work together, the story doesn’t focus on Mer’s sexuality. It is simply part of who she is and does not impact the story.
In the popular fantasy series Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas, one of the supporting characters mentions he’s bisexual. His sexuality is part of who he is, and he figured it out already. The book isn’t about his journey to discover himself, nor his story in general. People have taken issue with the portrayal of the character’s sexuality, and whether that stems from him ending up with a woman or it not being a bigger deal in the story isn’t clear. Could it be better? Of course, there are plenty of ways Throne of Glass could be more diverse or handle the diversity it does have better. Either way, it’s not his story, and just because his endgame relationship happens to be with the opposite gender doesn’t mean he isn’t bisexual.
In the end, representation in books (and in all media) is important. There are many ways the media can do better–there always are–and I would be ecstatic to see more diverse characters that are handled respectfully (as there is always the chance that the characters would fall into harmful stereotypes in the effort to make a form of media appear more diverse). Either way, happy Pride Month, and if you’re looking for something new to read and like found family and heists, check out The Drowned Woods!