Four Works Featuring Heavy LGBT Themes

There’s nothing quite like curling up in bed with a fine glass of wine, an even better book, and the best lover anyone could ever ask for. Reading a book can be a great way to unwind after a hard day, and sharing that reading experience with your partner really can help bring you closer together.


TWELFTH NIGHT


One of the Bard’s most popular comedies, Shakespeare’s tale of a separated twins, yellow stockings and the fluidity of gender and is still as intriguing and hilarious as it was four hundred years ago. It’s your classic love triangle—Duke Orsino loves Viola, Viola loves Duke Orsino, and so dresses up like a man to deliver a message to Lady Olivia…who promptly falls in love with Viola, mistaking her for a man. The Bard plays fast and loose with the idea of drag while still treating the idea of love between women with great dignity. (Oh, and it brings new meaning to the phrase “I am the man!”)

Of course, plays are meant to be seen or performed—and there’s more than enough heart, humor and “role play” material here As You Like It (or, What You Will.)


ORLANDO


One of the greatest novelists of the 20th century, Virginia Woolf was a woman and bisexual in a time when it wasn’t easy to be either. Her attachment to one Vita Sackville-West was part of the impetus for her immortal Orlando—and given the fact that the titular character lives for centuries, from Elizabethan to Jazz Age England, “immortal” really does fit. Orlando’s sex changes midway through the book, and Woolf’s ability to play with gender, history, and literary tradition make this the perfect book for book lovers to read together—lesbian or otherwise.


NIGHTWOOD


Djuna Barnes’ famed Modernist masterpiece was ahead of its time in many ways, not the least of which being its prominently featuring not just lesbian relationships, but a full-blown lesbian love triangle in a journey across Europe and the boundaries of religion, romance, and being.

Where Shakespeare and Woolf included gender bending in their works, Barnes’ piece stands apart as one of the earliest and most vivid depictions of realistic lesbian relationships—all the more impressive given the fact this was written in 1936. What’s more, this is one of the rare books that treats LGBT characters as, well, characters first and foremost. Nora, Jenny, and Robin are all fully-realized figures, free of stereotypes and imbued with wants and needs and a life defined by more than just their lesbianism, a courageous artistic choice in 1936 and one that’s still progressive today.


ORANGES ARE NOT THE ONLY FRUIT


Jeannette Winterson’s 1985 work is required reading in some parts of the United Kingdom, and with good reason. Telling the story of a young adolescent girl coming to grips with her lesbianism in the context of her religiously-charged family and surroundings, it’s the kind of coming of age tale that is mirrored in the experience of many lesbian women. It’s the kind of book that can get you and your partner talking and sharing—and loving each other all the more.