As a non-binary person and a geek, nothing thrills me more than losing myself in a sci-fi or fantasy novel to then discover the author is also non-binary. Supporting members of my own community is important to me, but it should be important to everyone.
To help get you started, I rounded up some sci-fi and fantasy books I’ve read by non-binary authors in the past few years. Some of these books have a large focus on gender identity, others don’t, but all are beautiful reads that I’m sure you’ll enjoy!
As always, check for content warnings before diving in as a few of these cover sensitive topics.
1. Pet by Akwaeke Emezi
There are no more monsters anymore, or so the children in the city of Lucille are taught. With doting parents and a best friend named Redemption, Jam has grown up with this lesson all her life. But when she meets Pet, a creature made of horns and colours and claws, who emerges from one of her mother’s paintings and a drop of Jam’s blood, she must reconsider what she’s been told. Pet has come to hunt a monster, and the shadow of something grim lurks in Redemption’s house. Jam must fight not only to protect her best friend, but also to uncover the truth…
If you only read one book on this list, make it this one. This young adult novel is riveting. Set in a world that is equal parts beauty and pain, Akwaeke Emezi’s writing is poignant and vivid. It will challenge you to ask difficult questions about society and your role in it. This is one of those books that makes reality feel fuzzy around the edges for a while (and cause a deep longing for magical, horned friends).
2. The Black Tides of Heaven (Tensorate #1) by Neon Yang
Mokoya and Akeha, the twin children of the Protector, were sold to the Grand Monastery as children. While Mokoya developed her strange prophetic gift, Akeha was always the one who could see the strings that moved adults to action. While his sister received visions of what would be, Akeha realized what could be. What’s more, he saw the sickness at the heart of his mother’s Protectorate.
A rebellion is growing. The Machinists discover new levers to move the world every day, while the Tensors fight to put them down and preserve the power of the state…
The world building in this book is slick, intricate, and immensely satisfying. There are some fantasy stories that I find difficult to follow due to the number of new words and systems introduced, but Neon Yang weaves the world seamlessly. This book does touch on gender identity, but it is one part of a large story. The magic system is so absorbing, and I found myself holding my breath more times than I could count.
3. An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon
Odd-mannered, obsessive, withdrawn, Aster has little to offer folks in the way of rebuttal when they call her ogre and freak. She’s used to the names; she only wishes there was more truth to them. If she were truly a monster, as they accuse, she’d be powerful enough to tear down the walls around her until nothing remained of her world, save for stories told around the cookfire.
Aster lives in the low-deck slums of the HSS Matilda, a space vessel organized much like the antebellum South…
This book extensively explores gender, sexuality, race and more. It can be a challenging read in some parts, but a necessary one. The pace is fast as it delves into intersectionality against a backdrop of space. Rivers Solomon has built a brutal, but intricate, world full of nuance and characters that are so easy to rally behind. This is book is a very refreshing take on the typical sci-fi dystopia.
4. Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey
Ivy Gamble has never wanted to be magical. She is perfectly happy with her life. She has an almost-sustainable career as a private investigator, and an empty apartment, and a slight drinking problem. It’s a great life and she doesn’t wish she was like her estranged sister, the magically gifted professor Tabitha. But when Ivy is hired to investigate the gruesome murder of a faculty member at Tabitha’s private academy, the stalwart detective starts to lose herself in the case, the life she could have had, and the answer to the mystery that seems just out of her reach.
If you’re looking for an entertaining read that plays with typical fantasy tropes, this is the one for you. I will also be honest and say I’m a little biased as I’m weak-in-the-knees for any quick quipping private investigator type. Sarah Gailey has created a story and a world that is as complex as it is fun. Set somewhere between mystery and fantasy, this story paints vivid pictures of its characters.