Queer Fairy Tales & Fantasy
June 27, 2023
Last week, we gave a talk for the Smithsonian Associates on Queer Fairy Tales for Pride! YAY!
As part of that talk, we put together a list of some of our favorite queer fairy tales and fairy-tale retellings, and we realized that somehow we’ve never done a list of them for Carterhaugh!?
So, for the last week of Pride Month, we wanted to share our list… and, of course, add to it, because we cannot help ourselves. In addition to fairy tales, we added some of our favorite queer fantasy novels and stories, too.
If this list is initially overwhelming, we were asked a really great question at the end of the Smithsonian talk that we’d like to share.
We were asked, what would we recommend reading first to a teenager who was having a hard time right now? What would they find comforting?
While it’s impossible to know for sure, we gave it our best stab. We said: for comfort that’s like being wrapped up in a cozy blanket, we’d recommend Kissing the Witch: Old Tales in New Skins by Emma Donoghue, which is beautiful, lyrical, and easy to pick up and put down. (It’s also considered a foundational queer fairy-tale collection in fairy-tale studies, just like Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber is always mentioned as foundational feminist fairy-tale retellings.) If comfort, for you, comes more from a burn it down vibe, we recommend starting with Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayron, which is action packed and politically revolutionary.
Whatever atmosphere or style you’re searching for, we hope you find something here to love, and please tell us about your favorite queer fairy tales and fantasy in the comments! We know there’s WAY more out there than what we’ve read so far and could add to this list!
- Kissing the Witch: Old Tales in New Skins by Emma Donoghue
- Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayron
- Whispers Between Fairies by Nathan Caro Fréchette and Derek Newman-Stille
- Ash by Melinda Lo
- The Mirror Season by Anna-Marie McLemore
- Blanca and Rosa by Anna-Marie McLemore
- Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust
- Winterglass by Benjamin Sriduangkaew
- Mer Made by S.T. Lynn
- Malice by Heather Walter
- The Magic Fish by Trung Le Nguyen
- A Lake of Feathers and Moonbeams by Dax Murray
- More Than Enough by Elizabeth Wambheim
- Robber Girl by S.T. Gibson
- Lava Red Feather Blue by Molly Ringle
- Silver in the Wood by Emily Tesh
- Summer in the City of Roses by Michelle Ruiz
- The Prince and the Dressmaker written and illustrated by Jen Wang
- Red, White, and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston ← more contemporary romance than fairy-tale retelling, but it involves an actual prince, and it’s the best, so it’s going on the list, we’re not sorry
- Gideon the Ninth and the rest of the Locked Tomb series by Tamsyn Muir
- The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern
- Carry On and the rest of the Carry On series by Rainbow Rowell
- Saint Death’s Daughter by C.S.E. Cooney
- Mortal Follies by Alexis Hall
- Iron and Velvet and the rest of the Kate Kane series by Alexis Hall
- Palimpsest by Catherynne Valente
- Miranda in Milan by Katharine Duckett
- Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado
- In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan
- Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire
- Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire
- A Spindle Splintered by Alix E. Harrow
- The Bone Key by Sarah Monette/ Katherine Addison
- Melusine by Sarah Monette/ Katherine Addison
- Lies We Sing to the Sea by Sarah Underwood
- Transmogrify!: 14 Fantastical Tales of Trans Magic edited by g. haron davis
- Carmilla by Sheridan le Fanu
- The Red Scrolls of Magic by Cassandra Clare and Wesley Chu
- Fingersmith by Sarah Waters ← Gothic rather than actual fantasy, but it’s amazing, and we’re putting it on the list, you will thank us when you read it
Lastly, looking for some great queer scholarship? We love –
- Transgressive Tales: Queering the Grimms edited by Kay Turner and Pauline Greenhill
- Unsettling Assumptions: Tradition, Gender, Drag edited by Pauline Greenhill and Diane Tye
- Queer Others in Victorian Gothic: Transgressing Monstrosity by Ardel Haefele-Thomas
- Narrative Theory Unbound: Queer and Feminist Interventions edited by Robin Warhol and Susan S. Lanser
- Feminist, Queer, Crip by Alison Kafer
- Speculating Canada [website] by Derek Newman-Stille
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