Bis love to read but the unfortunate fact of life is too many books with Bisexual characters engage in bi-erasure (in other words, it is clear a character is Bi but too often have their sexuality defined by their partners) or bi-phobia (we all know that old song and dance, we’re greedy, we’re confused, we have to pick a side). Sigh. We need literature that recognizes we exist and provides a variety of Bi characters and Bi stories.
There are books worthy of our time and energy. I will provide a short list here and provide some resources to find more worthy reads.
Let’s start with some classics:
James Baldwin: Tell Me How Long the Trains Been Gone.
The novel is about a bisexual actor named Leo Proudhammer who is nearly felled by a heart attack at the height of his career. As he hovers between life and death, Baldwin shows the choices that have made him enviably famous and terrifyingly vulnerable.
Virginia Woolf: Orlando
A queer, gender-bending feminist classic by the legendary queer author is all about gender and sexual fluidity. Truly ahead of it’s time and a book that meant the world to me as a Bi teen. The bisexual main character, Orlando, begins the story in the Renaissance, lives for hundreds of years, and wakes up one morning in the middle of the novel miraculously turned into a woman. This book was made into a movie starring Tilda Swinton.
Alice Walker: The Color Purple
This is just a must-read but it’s important to note that it features a bisexual main character, Celie, as she rises above her abusive childhood in rural Georgia in the 1930s and becomes her own person. I have read this one over and over.
Ana Castillo: Give it to Me.
Palma Piedras is a recently divorced 43-year-old bisexual Chicana. A sexy, and funny book, Palma stumbles through life looking for belonging as she tries to find her way in life in what you could call a bisexual romp across the US. Two thumbs up on this one.
Vivek Shraya: She of the Mountains.
This is a passionate, contemporary love story between a bisexual man and his body as well as a re-imagining of Hindu mythology. It is an exploration the complexities of embodiment and the damaging effects that policing gender and sexuality can have on the human heart.
Jacqueline Carey: Kushiel’s Dart.
The trilogy, of which Kushiel’s Dart is the first novel, centers on bisexual Phèdre, who is “trained equally in the courtly arts and the talents of the bedchamber,” a.k.a. a sex worker. Yep. This is set in a noble world of political intrigue, ripe with a scheming villainess, courtly poets, traitors, you name it. There’s also lots of sex, of the lesbian and kinky variety, in as much detail as the world-building. Kind of a 50 shades for a more discerning reader.
Charles Blow: Fire Shut up in my Bones.
Blow uses the setting of his African-American Louisiana hometown—a place where slavery felt remarkably close and his mother could not protect him from abuse. Blow eventually escapes to university, where he joins a black fraternity, and then enters a world of privilege that feels like everything he’s ever needed, until he’s called upon, himself, to become the one perpetuating the shocking abuse. I will admit I have never finished this book. It is the abuse that is hard for me to stomach. The writing is awesome though.
Loraine Hutchins/Lani Kaahumanu: Bi Any Other Name: Bisexual People Speak Out.
This one was infinitely important in my life. More than seventy women and men describe their lives as bisexuals in prose, poetry, art, and essays. I suppose some might find it dated now but it includes some critical information from the Bi archives.
This is just a start. I will write some other posts but these just happened to be a few books which quickly sprang to mind (and that I had read). If you check out the internet there are many sites with Bi books that are important to read. The more you know about bisexuals and bi culture the more you can be a good Bi-ambassador and invite others to know and understand our community better.