In honor of pride month, we want to honor all parts of the LGBTQ+ community. While we’ve been making progress over the past few years in media, polyamorous/non-monogamous literature seems to still be lacking in terms of representation. Too often in fiction, polyamorous characters are tokenized or reduced to harmful stereotypes. We have yet to fill the scope of our potential when it comes to queer polyamorous representation, but we’re slowly making progress. Whether you’re actively polyamorous or just interested in learning more about nonconventional relationships, these novels may steer you in the right direction.
Luster by Raven Leilani
Raven Leilani’s widely acclaimed debut novel is the story of Edie, a 20-something black woman living in Brooklyn. In the midst of her sexual exploits, she meets Eric, a suburban dad with an open marriage. As their relationship grows, Edie becomes progressively more entangled in Eric’s life and, effectively, his open marriage. Leilani masterfully weaves through the intersections of race, sexuality, and socioeconomics within romantic relationships. The novel made it to Barack Obama’s Favorite Books of 2020, won countless awards and best year-end lists, and was even profiled in The New Yorker. It’s a beautiful and funny insight into the complicated politics of modern love.
Building the Family by Amy DeMeritt
Writer and poet Amy DeMeritt’s novel is one of the steamier novels on this list. It’s an unapologetically WLW story where our protagonist Kayla explores polyamory and kickstarts her own journey of self-discovery. Through this, she redefines the confines of monogamy and queer identity. It’s a sexy, exciting account of healing from a broken heart and sexual self-actualization.
Next Year, For Sure by Zoey Leigh Peterson
This contemporary love story chronicles the lives of Kathryn and Chris as they decide to open up their marriage. In the past, open marriages have been used pejoratively to indicate a rocky relationship. This novel, however, approaches non-monogamy with the sensitivity and nuance it deserves. Kathryn and Chris have a strong relationship that is built on mutual trust and respect. As they each venture out into the world of polyamory, they continue to lean on and support each other. It’s a mature depiction of the honest conversations that come with navigating an open marriage for the first time.
Fledgling by Octavia E. Butler
Octavia E. Butler’s last novel before her death in 2006, this sci-fi novel follows a vampire species known as Ina. Shori, a young girl, wakes up in a cave, disoriented, confused, and hungry. She goes on to discover that she is actually a member of the Ina and the only dark-skinned Ina at that. Throughout her journey, she discovers the extent of her vampiric abilities and enters into several romantic relationships across the queer spectrum. Butler, a renowned master of her craft, uses sexuality as a metaphor and a catalyst for supernatural growth. Currently, the novel is in development for a TV adaptation on HBO, set to be produced by J.J. Abrams and Issa Rae.
Don’t Bang the Barista by Leigh Matthews
Leigh Matthews’ pulp fiction-inspired novel follows the lives of a group queer women in the LGBT community of Eastern Vancouver. It starts when two queer women, Cass and Kate, explore the idea of hooking up with Hanna, their local barista. Cass’s own feelings come to the surface as she tries to keep Kate and Hanna apart, while Hanna seems to have her sights set on another seemingly monogamous couple. Complicated feelings ensure as the characters find themselves in a poly love triangle. The sequel, Go Deep, follows the group of women now settled into their lives and trying to maneuver marital domesticity within polyamory.
Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein
Heinlein’s 1961 sci-fi novel is often referred to as the original representation of polyamory in fiction. It even won the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 1962. Although some have argued that this novel has aged poorly, it would be naive to say that this book didn’t open the door for discourse ON polyamory. In 2016, it was announced that a TV adaptation was in development at Syfy, but it never came to fruition.
If you’re interested in more LGBT+ stories, check out some of our top picks here!