Over the last few years, queer authors and writers have taken over the world of fiction. With so many books out there, it’s hard to pick which one to start you off! That’s where Tricia McGarrah of RoarCat Reads comes in with some great recommendations and tips for getting back into literature
Alexis Zygan (She/Her) // Contributor
Elliot White (They/He) // Features Editor
Alison Johnstone (She/Her) // Illustrator
In 2020, folks searched for ways to occupy their minds while stuck at home due to the ongoing pandemic. Coincidentally, in the same year, #booktok, an online reading community, was formed to provide a sanctuary to bookworms with the sub-community #queerbooktok emerging alongside it. Tricia McGarrah (she/her) noticed how the sudden popularity of reading among queer folks correlated with a resurgence of queer books and authors in bookstores and online spaces. In March of 2021, McGarrah and her fiancée started the blog RoarCatReads —an online community-based in Vancouver that brings people together to celebrate all things queer and nerdy. Their website features a blog and a link to their Dungeons and Dragons-themed podcast.
Unlike a reality tv show, you can’t skip to the end of a hundred-page novel and still understand the plotline. A book cover is what first draws people in, before they can open and flip to the synopsis. The typeface, images and colours have changed to favour bold, graphic styles. There has been a greater interest in queer authors by folks who belong to the community and allies. They seek storylines that represent an authentic queer experience or fictional characters to fall in love with — either way, readership is rising in popularity. One charming story has the power to turn you into a lifelong bookworm.
The content on #queerbooktok is short and snappy, sharing captivating summaries of novels in less than sixty seconds. That way, readers can know right away whether they’ll end up enjoying the book. For many of us, reading has been abandoned in favour of other hobbies. Suppose you’re currently in a slump. McGarrah’s friendly reminder is that reading is meant to be fun. “Don’t try to read a classic or the book that everyone says you should read — pick something that sounds interesting, and don’t be afraid to give up if it turns out to be not for you.
This is especially easy if you get your book from the library, so you’re not out any money as you search for the right book,” says McGarrah. The Vancouver Public Library is also great because they have a section dedicated to Zines — shorter-form magazines that are suitable for those of us with shorter attention spans. Another fantastic option is comic books that juxtapose illustrated scenes with descriptive prose.
Comics have actually started a sort of queer rennaisance in the last few years, with more and more queer artists and writers creating stories that illustrate much more than just the stereotypical gritty superheroes. “I suggest Nimona by Noelle Stevenson,” McGarrah says, now known as ND Stevenson, who was in the writer’s chair for the recent “She-Ra and the Princesses of Power” reboot, another example of queer media. Nimona follows the story of a young shapeshifter aspiring to be the apprentice of a villainous overlord — it’s cutesy style and beautiful colour palette is an exemplary visage of all things fun high fantasy.
Graphic novels aren’t the only thing entering a rebirth led by queer hands, other typical nerdy content has been on the rise as well. “RoarCat Reads is a place for all things queer and nerdy. I often feel like those two worlds are separate,” Those spaces are indeed separate, or at least the depiction of them in movies and TV is. The first thing that comes to mind when picturing a “nerd” is usually a straight, white man over-explaining Star Wars, when in reality the world has shifted (I’m sure those guys still exist, but their population is dwindling). “I wanted to create a space where queer nerds could share our favourite books, play D&D together, and support each others’ various projects. It’s been an absolute delight to find a community of people with similar interests.” Community, now more than ever, is important when we’ve all been so isolated.
“In general, I think people are more curious about queer themes, both in books and in their own lives,” she said, going on to outline the increased awareness of our own queerness, coming more and more into the light in the escape of the cisheteronormative culture we’ve all been experiencing. “I also think queer people write really good books, because being queer often means experiencing life from a bit of an outsider’s perspective, we create things that offer new stories from those diverse perspectives. I think it’s breathed a lot of fresh air into publishing spaces, and I’m excited to see how that evolves and continues!”
If you’re looking to get into more queer literature, check out RoarCat Reads, or take a scroll through #queerbooktok. If you’re interested in an immediate recommendation, McGarrah suggests what she has on her nightstand right now, “I just started reading Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao. I’ve heard excellent things about it!”