2022 Is The Year Of The Bisexual Book

·6 min read

Maybe it just feels like 2022 is the year of the bisexual because that’s what it’s been like for me. When my own memoir of coming into my queerness, Open, was published in January, I realized its release was an opportunity to come out to all my family and friends. Jen Winston, bisexual author of the groundbreaking 2021 essay collection Greedy, encouraged me to try owning the label. And indeed, I found that though I’d tried on labels like queer, pansexual, and fluid, something about owning the word bisexual — and its history — has indeed been powerful.

So, perhaps I’m more on the lookout for bisexual books than ever before. But I also think that 2022 has been a landmark year in bisexual fiction and nonfiction. The year isn’t even over, and there are far too many bisexual titles to list all of them here. (I put out this call on Twitter for recommendations and have found lots of future books to add to my list, including A History of Present Illness by Anna DeForest and Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao.) Below are simply my favorite bisexual books of the year, thus far. What’s clear is that I need to deepen my search for more male, trans, and nonbinary bisexual narratives, which are fewer in number, though far from nonexistent. This Bisexual Awareness Week, I hope you celebrate by finding your next read on this list, and educate yourself about the myriad bisexual narratives and possibilities out there.

So, perhaps I’m more on the lookout for bisexual books than ever before. But I also think that 2022 has been a landmark year in bisexual fiction and nonfiction. The year isn’t even over, and there are far too many bisexual titles to list all of them here. (I put out this call on Twitter for recommendations and have found lots of future books to add to my list, including A History of Present Illness by Anna DeForest and Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao.)

Below are simply my favorite bisexual books of the year, thus far. What’s clear is that I need to deepen my search for more male, trans, and nonbinary bisexual narratives, which are fewer in number, though far from nonexistent. This Bisexual Awareness Week, I hope you celebrate by finding your next read on this list, and educate yourself about the myriad bisexual narratives and possibilities out there.

Penguin Random House

1.Little Rabbit by Alyssa Songsiridej

Little Rabbit

This smart and sexy novel is told from the perspective of a queer woman who falls for a dominant cis man. The protagonist, who has mainly only been with women, is thrown off when she falls in love with a man for the first time — and as a submissive, no less. I particularly appreciated the depiction of the judgement she receives from her queer best friend, and the way bisexuality is sometimes thought by homosexual and heterosexual people to negate “true” queerness. Little Rabbit refuses to play into tropes that to be submissive is to be inherently exploited, and is also a nuanced exploration of BDSM and power. It’s hard to put down, sexy, and not predictable.

Quote: She rolled onto her back. “Okay,” she said, looking at the ceiling. “I guess you’re not really gay anymore, anyway.” The choreographer could have smashed me into the ground, he could have broken all my bones, and I wouldn’t have felt so annihilated.

“What the fuck do you mean, I’m not gay anymore?” She sat up and flipped her golden hair onto her back. “I mean, you can identify inwardly as queer,” she said, “but now you’re straight-passing. You have straight privilege.” “And nothing that came before matters?” I said. “Of course, it does,” she said. “But how you’re perceived matters a lot.” I felt myself shrinking from the edges of my body, gutted and ready to collapse.

Get it from Bookshop or from your local indie via Indiebound.

Bloomsbury Publishing

2.Acts of Service by Lillian Fishman

Acts of Service

When I saw this New York Magazine article that opened “when 27-year-old Lillian Fishman set out to write her debut novel, Acts of Service, she thought she would be telling a queer story — by the end, it became a book about heterosexuality” — I was so annoyed. This is what we mean when we talk about bisexual erasure in media. Acts of Service is not a novel about heterosexuality — at all. It is about bisexuality, non-monogamy, BDSM, and so much more. Not totally unlike the premise in Little Rabbit, its protagonist has previously only been in lesbian relationships when she becomes infatuated with a dominant cis man (and also with, in a very different way, his female partner). This is a complex story of non-monogamy, triangulation, queerness, manipulation, BDSM, and the nature of desire. It will make you angry in moments, and provoke and challenge you. This book is sexy, troubling, and entertaining, all while revealing your own biases and judgments.

Quote: I remembered the push and pull I was so accustomed to feeling between myself and other women, somehow deeper than the usual negotiations social events required: Often neither of us offered to lead, and I would become overwhelmed with the responsibility of arranging whatever situation arose between us. There was anxiety as well as pleasure in the negotiation. It was nerve-racking to avoid the seat of power, to work around it or pretend we had transcended it by virtue of our queerness. These machinations had never occurred to Nathan.

Get it from Bookshop or from your local indie via Indiebound.

Hogarth Press

3.Bi: The Hidden Culture, History, and Science of Bisexuality by Julia Shaw

Bi

This excellent work of nonfiction is an important addition to the canon of bisexual history, sociology, and psychology. Its author, Julia Shaw, is bisexual — but she is also a researcher with bottomless knowledge and context. This is an excellent new book for understanding modern and historical bisexuality. I learned so much from it, and it wasn’t even hard to read!

Quote: A way that bisexual researchers often talk about this is that the bi in bisexual means two, but the two are not men and women, they are same and other.

Get it from Bookshop or from your local indie via Indiebound.

Abrams Press

4.This Is Why They Hate Us by Aaron H. Aceves

This Is Why They Hate Us

One thing that’s clear in assembling this list is that I need to actively seek out more bi male narratives (as well as trans and nonbinary bi narratives). This new novel came to me via a recommendation on Twitter, and I’m so glad I found it! This YA story is funny and refreshing as hell. It depicts a young bi Latino man coming into his queerness. He already knows he’s bi and has a crush on his male friend — he just hasn’t yet had the experience of acting on it. His best friend in the story is a bi woman, and the idea of young people in high school owning the label of bi — even before they’ve “acted on it” or fully come out, is heartening. Too often bisexuality is thought of as a verb, not an identity. This helps show why it is much more innate than that.

Quote: She taught me how to kiss and then let me get to second base, so I’m not just being nice when I say her breasts are great. They’re not big like she wants them to be, but they’re these soft, brown drops of heaven. The night we fooled around confirmed that I did indeed like girls that way and Fabiola did indeed like boys that way. We soon discovered, however, that the two of us were way better off as friends than anything else. That dynamic really works for us.

Get it from Bookshop or from your local indie via Indiebound.

Simon & Schuster

5.Acceptance: A Memoir by Emi Nietfield

Acceptance: A Memoir

I loved this new memoir, which is about Nietfeld’s experience growing up in foster care, and often, without a home. She is both high-achieving and self-harming. Like my own true story, her experiences mirror the statistics that bisexual women are the group most likely to suffer from sexual assault, mental illness, drug abuse, and eating disorders. Her story is one of applying herself — literally and figuratively — to reach beyond these odds. But it is no simple story of transcendence, and instead complicates the narrative of pulling one’s self up by the bootstraps. It is page-turning, raw, and darkly funny.

Quote: I didn’t know what I was, if I liked boys or if bisexuality was real. In my family growing up, homosexuality was a sin, but bisexuality was worse, because it seemed like more of a deliberate choice. It also implied having multiple partners in one lifetime, which made someone a slut.

Get it from Bookshop or from your local indie via Indiebound.

Penguin Press

6.Sirens & Muses by Antonia Angress

Sirens & Muses

This entertaining novel is written from the perspective of multiple genders and ages, and digs into a collegiate experience of bisexuality. Sirens & Muses is for lovers of campus novels and visual art. I appreciated that the bisexual protagonist was not “secretly really gay or straight” — we see her attractions to both women and men as genuine and compelling in different ways, and they do not negate one another. Angress also captures the particular sensual sensations, I think, of being a woman sleeping with a woman for the first time.

Quote: Several times in the past few weeks she’d locked eyes with her roommate; whenever this happened Karina would quickly look away, her expression flattening into blankness. Still, Louisa didn’t put too much stock in this: Karina had recently started dating a senior named Preston Utley, a cocky, handsome boy built like a football player[.]

Get it from Bookshop or from your local indie via Indiebound here.

Ballantine Books

7.The Hop by Diana Clarke

The Hop

Diana Clarke, who also wrote the fantastic queer novel Thin Girls, has returned with this new story told from multiple perspectives. It is about sex work, power, queerness, race, class, and so much more. Though the word bisexual isn’t used, it features multiple depictions of female fluidity and queerness, and it overlaps with finding one’s power and autonomy within patriarchal systems.

Quote: Sometimes kids at school called us lesbians. They thought we were together. We were whatever about it. Maybe we were lesbians or maybe gender didn’t make much of a difference to us, or maybe we believed in the power of desire over and above anything as simple as genitalia. We didn’t really think much about it; didn’t really care. We let them call us lesbians because what we really were was soul mates.

Get it from Bookshop or from your local indie via Indiebound here.

Harper