It’s Nonbinary Awareness Week, so what better time to celebrate books with nonbinary characters?
Nonbinary people still don’t get to see themselves represented in books, but there are some great books featuring nonbinary protagonists.
What does nonbinary mean?
Nonbinary is an umbrella term for gender identities that fall outside of the gender binary. Nonbinary people—sometimes called Enby (from NB)—don’t identify as male or female (at least not exclusively or all the time).
Under that umbrella fall a wide range of experiences: Some nonbinary people don’t feel they have a gender, while others move back and forth between feeling male and feeling female or have two genders at the same time. Check out the Nonbinary Wiki for more details on different nonbinary identities.
Some (but not all) nonbinary people who are attracted to women and feminine-aligned people identify as sapphic; others use the term trixic, and some identify as nonbinary lesbian. Here’s a wonderful thread by Rachel Gold, one of the nonbinary authors whose book I listed below.
Read up on the rules of the Sapphic Reading Challenge
If you are only discovering the Sapphic Reading Challenge now, the good news is you can still join! It’s a year-long challenge, so it runs until December 31, 2021. Read up on the rules of the Sapphic Reading Challenge and then start reading!
10 books with sapphic nonbinary characters
I put together a list of 10 books featuring nonbinary characters. I hope you enjoy them!
The Holiday Detour by Jane Kolven (nonbinary main character)
Sometimes it takes everything going wrong to make you see how right things are.
Dana Gottfried is a stressed-out Jewish lesbian who’s just quit her job and wants to get home to see her grandmother. When her car breaks down in Indiana on Christmas Eve, Dana is stranded—until she’s rescued by Charlie, a pig farmer who doesn’t identify as male or female. Although they come from different worlds, Dana is intrigued by Charlie’s sense of humor and kindness. Despite her better judgment, Dana says yes when Charlie offers a ride.
But the journey home is paved with detours. From car accidents to scheming ex-girlfriends to a snowy and deserted Chicago Loop, everything that could go wrong on their road trip does, but it leads Dana on a path of self-discovery that just might end in love.
In the Silences by Rachel Gold (YA novel about a nonbinary character)
Fourteen-year-old Kaz Adams just wants to read comic books and spend every day with Aisha Warren. And maybe get up the nerve to ask her out, if Kaz turns out to be a gender that Aisha’s into.
Kaz had always expected to be targeted for gender nonconformity, but loving Aisha opens Kaz’s eyes to the prevalence of racism in their town. Trouble is, none of the other white people are seeing it, even when Kaz points it out. By the time they reach sophomore year, Aisha is fighting on all fronts and their school system is crushing her.
Kaz’s gender expression was something the two of them could tackle together in private. The issues Aisha is up against are different and there’s no place they can hide. Kaz can’t magically undo centuries of systemic racism—but must find a way to change minds at school and among their friends before Kaz loses the sweetest, smartest, comic-book-reading girl in the world.
Christmas Inn Maine by Chelsea Cameron (nonbinary/demigirl character)
All Colden Hayes wanted was to spend Christmas by herself in a cottage by the sea where the cheer of the holiday season couldn’t reach her. Everything was going according to plan until the cottage she rented turned out not to exist and she ends up snowed in at a charming inn that happens to be owned by the family of her most-hated coworker, Laura Sterling. Talk about bad luck.
Colden ends up saying yes to Laura’s mother when she insists on giving her a room. It’s only for a night, but she somehow finds herself agreeing to spend Christmas with the Sterlings as well. She blamed the festive atmosphere that she couldn’t seem to escape. Maybe there’s something in the mistletoe?
Against her will, Colden finds herself being sucked into the comfort and joy of the season, even though she can’t seem to escape Laura, who is literally everywhere Colden is, like she’s doing it on purpose. Things get even worse when they’re forced to share a bed when there’s a fire at a local farm and the inn offers all the available rooms to the family.
Colden finally realizes there’s a thin line between annoyance and attraction, and she and Laura definitely crossed it. She’s also pretty sure that Laura’s mother is shipping them hard and so is the rest of her family, right down to her great-grandmother whose main companion is a two-hundred-pound pig named Minnie.
Will the magic of the holiday season melt Colden’s heart? Or will she go back to Boston alone, with only the memories to keep her warm?
Mask of Shadows by Linsey Miller (genderfluid character)
Sallot Leon is a thief, and a good one at that. But gender fluid Sal wants nothing more than to escape the drudgery of life as a highway robber and get closer to the upper-class—and the nobles who destroyed their home.
When Sal steals a flyer for an audition to become a member of The Left Hand—the Queen’s personal assassins, named after the rings she wears—Sal jumps at the chance to infiltrate the court and get revenge.
But the audition is a fight to the death filled with clever circus acrobats, lethal apothecaries, and vicious ex-soldiers. A childhood as a common criminal hardly prepared Sal for the trials. And as Sal succeeds in the competition, and wins the heart of Elise, an intriguing scribe at court, they start to dream of a new life and a different future, but one that Sal can have only if they survive.
The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea by Maggie Tokuda-Hall (genderfluid main character)
In a world divided by colonialism and threaded with magic, a desperate orphan turned pirate and a rebellious imperial lady find a connection on the high seas.
Aboard the pirate ship Dove, Flora the girl takes on the identity of Florian the man to earn the respect and protection of the crew. For Flora, former starving urchin, the brutal life of a pirate is about survival: don’t trust, don’t stick out, and don’t feel. But on this voyage, Flora is drawn to the Lady Evelyn Hasegawa, who is headed to an arranged marriage she dreads. Flora doesn’t expect to be taken under Evelyn’s wing, and Evelyn doesn’t expect to find such a deep bond with the pirate Florian. Neither expects to fall in love.
Soon the unlikely pair set in motion a wild escape that will free a captured mermaid (coveted for her blood) and involve the mysterious Pirate Supreme, an opportunistic witch, double agents, and the all-encompassing Sea herself.
Dithered Hearts by Chace Verity (nonbinary character)
A gender-confused farmer desperate to reclaim her farm and escape her stepparents’ abuse. A closeted prince more interested in helping his people than finding a bride. A fairy godfather with a ton of secrets and no powers. In this diverse fairy tale, everyone is searching for a happy ending.
The masquerade ball to find Prince Longhollow’s future bride might be Cynthia Lynah’s best chance at getting her family farm back. If she can marry him, she’ll have all the money and power she needs. Her newly discovered fairy godfather is ready to help her, but his magic can’t do anything to stop her heart from falling for two women she shouldn’t be attracted to–her stepsisters. In the midst of her flirtations, she causes her fairy godfather to lose his magic and stirs trouble for the prince desperate to save his nation from a famine.
Everyone gets a chance to be the hero of their story, but happy endings seem impossible when they need more than magic to make them happen.
The Flowers of Time by A.L. Lester (nonbinary character)
Jones is determined to find out what caused the unexpected death of her father whilst they were exploring ancient ruins in the Himalayas. Along with a stack of books and coded journals, he’s left her with the promise she’ll travel back to England for the first time since childhood and try being the lady she’s never been.
Edie and her brother are leaving soon on a journey to the Himalayas to document and collect plants for the new Kew Gardens when she befriends Miss Jones in London. She’s never left England before and is delighted to learn the lady will be returning to the mountains she calls home at the same time they are planning their travels. When they meet again in Srinagar, Edie is surprised to find that, out here, the Miss Jones of the London salons is “just Jones” the explorer, clad in breeches and boots and unconcerned with the proprieties Edie has been brought up to respect.
The non-binary explorer and the determined botanist make the long journey over the high mountain passes to Little Tibet, collecting flowers and exploring ruins on the way. Will Jones discover the root of the mysterious deaths of her parents? Will she confide in Edie and allow her to help in the quest? The trip is fraught with dangers for both of them, not least those of the heart.
Simply Connected by Alex Washoe (nonbinary main character)
Once a celebrated child prodigy, Blaise Noether is now a struggling widowed mom trying to keep her head above water while she pursues her Ph.D. Only two things make her really angry: her kid’s math textbooks and jocks. In her mind, all athletes are like the bullies who terrorized her in high school. So when she crosses paths with rising basketball star Christie Dillard, Blaise’s interest is a null set. Christie is everything Blaise fears, fiercely competitive, brashly confident, and totally devoted to her game. That she is also endearingly awkward and irresistibly gorgeous is irrelevant data.
But when Blaise glimpses a paradigm-shifting epiphany in the geometry of Christie’s jump shot, she begins to suspect this jock might be the missing variable that could balance the equation of her life.
Life Minus Me by Sara Codair (nonbinary character)
Mel is half Angel, but despite her ability to heal and read minds, she feels powerless to help anyone. When a prophecy shows a local pet supply store owner driving their car off a bridge, Mel sets out to stop it.
Baily, owner of Barks and Bits, is barely holding it together. Things keep going wrong, and their depression spirals out of control. Just as they start wondering if they’d be better off dead, a new friend provides a glimmer of hope. But is that enough to keep living?
Mel never thought saving Baily would be easy, but she can’t figure out when, where, or why Baily’s suicide will happen. As her confidence fades away, she wonders how she can help anyone when she needs so much help herself.
Little x by Elna Holst (nonbinary/intersex character)
Sofie Andersson is a dyslectic born under the star sign Aries, who drives the local buses for a living. Her hobbies include knitting terrible hats and intermittent lesbianism.
This December she is on the point of moving into her first flat of her own, figuring out her place in the world, when an instant attraction to a handsome stranger leads her to question everything she’s taken for granted.
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