Looking for some international lez/bi literature to fill your brainbox with?

BY ERIN MANIATOPOULOU. IMAGE NICOLE BERRO.

Searching high and low for your next LGBTQI-shaped read? Search no further, book-loving friends. These “hidden gems” of international, queer literature are guaranteed to open up new, lez/bi horizons to you.

🇨🇳 Notes Of A Crocodile by Qiu Miaojin, translated by Bonnie Huie 

A coming of age novel about queer teenagers in Taiwan that has achieved cult status in China. Beautifully translated by Bonnie Huie, the novel takes us on a journey through the psychological landscape of Tapei after the repeal of martial law in the late 1980s. The narrator – nicknamed Lazi – is daydreamer who spends most of her time reading and writing. Like others her age, Lazi is trying to find purpose and meaning in a rapidly changing reality. While studying in Taiwan’s most prestigious university, Lazi and her friends care little about getting a degree but instead weave their own narratives as queer misfits. Lazi is brought out of her shell once she meets Shui Ling, an older female student and adventurous artist for whom she falls deeply in love. As she narrates her own story, Lazi simultaneously tells the tale of a crocodile in a human costume. The metaphor of the crocodile holds a lot of meaning for the closeted queer youth. For Lazi too, this metaphor becomes her understanding of the queer body and the ways in which gender demands performance. 

🇫🇷 Sphinx by Anne GarrĂ©ta, translated by Emma Ramadan 

This book will make you question everything. Anne GarrĂ©ta has been the first female member of the French writer’s movement (Oulipo) to publish her work in English. The Oulipo movement is all about constrained writing – as in the famous case of George Perec’s 300-page novel written entirely without using the letter e. But GarrĂ©ta is no ordinary Oulipian writer! What she presents is something ground-breaking – she writes without gender. A nameless narrator explores spaces and observes dancing bodies. Every night is a journey in the nightclubs of Paris – gay and straight – in search for love and identity. Eventually, the main character meets A*** and experiences unpresented attraction. There’s certainly a beautiful queerness to this novel that the reader can’t quite pin down, but rather experiences in the dynamic of the main characters’ relationship – in the descriptions of their bodies when dancing or having sex; even when their genders are absent. Overall, GarrĂ©ta’s writing skilfully makes us consider the living, breathing entities that exist behind the gendered language of a text. 

🇦🇷 Gods Of Tango by Carolina de Robertis 

It all starts when Italian-born Leda (later Dante) arrives in Buenos Aires in 1913 carrying a suitcase and a violin and sets off to meet an unknown bridegroom for their arranged marriage. However, to Leda’s surprise, the bridegroom turns out to be dead… Instead of returning home, Leda decides to chase an old dream: mastering the violin. Leda then begins dressing like a man – initially to avoid discrimination – and is renamed Dante. Dante’s pronouns in the book change from she/her to he/him as he begins to realise his own identity. The latter is a freeing experience for Dante who clearly sees new truths about himself. Questions he always had about his gender, as well as his attraction to women, grow even stronger. In this novel, music becomes an authentic bodily experience while Dante’s gradual transition feels very honest. 

Already read those three? Check out this lovely bunch:

🇬🇷 Fear by Irini Spanidou

🇬🇶 La Bastarda by Trifonia Melibea Obono, translated by Lawrence Schimel 

🇯🇲 Here Comes The Sun by Nicole Dennis-Benn 

Enjoyed one of these? Let us know @DIVAmagazine, #DIVAbookshelf

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