Not just a
Compiled for young people, youth workers, parents and
by the Community of Women and Men in Church and Society
of the Methodist Church of New Zealand -
Te Haahi Weteriana o Aotearoa
© The Community of Women and Men in Church and Society
P.O. Box5076, Dunedin, New Zealand
Young people coming to face their sexual development can find through appropriate fictional characters in credible situations an avenue to assist in their coping with inner conflicts.
In the area of sexual orientation high quality fiction is required which can provide a mirror to young readers' uncertainties and which might go some way towards proffering positive guidance.
Many teachers, youth workers, and parents are unaware of the growing number of high standard novels being written for the teenage / forms 1 to 5 market on or around the topic of homosexuality. What follows is an annotated list of contemporary novels for this group which deal with the topic of female homosexuality or 'lesbianism' as it is also termed.
Together these titles cover the range of issues involved - lesbian friends, parental reaction, self-doubt and self-awareness, plus the AIDS question and the difficulties of establishing satisfactory lesbian relationships at this age in life, and without many public role models. These novels do all this unobtrusively in the context of strong, interesting, and enjoyable story lines with highly relevant characters. As the annotations will show, in some books the 'lesbian theme' (and characters) is secondary.
Also it is emphasised that these are not 'sexy' novels. There is little, if any, sexual description to be found; rather the authors explore more the emotional and mental aspects of homosexuality as it affects the diverse group of people who are 'involved' when a young person begins to wonder about sexual orientation.
This is not an exhaustive list, but comprises books known to be more easily available.
At the conclusion of the annotations there is a bibliography of periodical articles which will provide further information on both the topic and some of the individual authors listed.
The books listed are not all in print, nor available in every public and school library. They are, however, available (in New Zealand) through the interloan service provided through your local public library. The School Library Service of the National Library is the other main source for schools.
High quality bookshops will order titles still in print from overseas, if market regulations permit.
Publishing houses and dates are as on the editions seen by the compiler. Titles can change; publishers, and foreign editions may be more readily available than the original UK, US, or Australian ones. Also paperback editions are often issued by other publishers. (Any good bookshop or library will check this.) Thus no ISBN numbers are given, as these change with new editions.
High quality and specialized bookshops will order titles still in print
from overseas, where market regulations permit. In New Zealand
and Australia such shops include:
Auckland Campus and City Branch
Fax to both: (09) 309 4278
19 High Street
Fax (09) 373 4883
75 Taranaki Street
Free Phone 0800 755 355
Victoria University Book Centre
1 Kelburn Parade
119 - 125 Willis Street
Fax (04) 385 4956
|Palmerston North||Bennetts University Book Centre
Phone (06) 354 6020
Sheppard Book Shop|
145 Manchester Street
Phone (03) 379 0784
Fax (03) 379 1769
University Bookshop Canterbury
Phone (03) 348 8579
79 - 83 Hereford Street
P.O. Box 2376
Phone (03) 379 2882
Fax (03) 379 2886
Bookshop Otago Ltd|
378 Great King Street
Fax (03) 477 6571
207 Oxford Street
New South Wales
Phone (02) 9331 1103
135 Commercial Road
Phone (03) 9824 0110
The Little Bookroom
185 Elizabeth Street
Phone (03) 9670 1612 (03) 9602 1392
Fax (03) 9670 4440
435 Portrush Road
Phone (08) 379 7022
Fax (08) 379 5884
Murphy Sisters Bookshop
240 The Parade
Phone (08) 332 7508
Fax (08) 331 3559
Sisters By The Sea
14 Semaphore Road
Phone (08) 8341 7088
Fax (08) 8242 4100
These 11 punchy and astute stories portray different facets of,
mainly, teenage women. In "Codling Moth" by
New Zealand born Margaret Sutherland, the close friendship between
teenagers Mel and Gabrile is poisoned by the bitter suspicions and hints
about lesbianism from Gabrile's mum.
An American anthology of sixteen short stories devoted to gay and lesbian
themes especially written for young adults. Contributors include M.E.
Kerr, Francesca Lia Block, Jane Yolen, and William
A collection of short stories from Australia, one of which,
"Seddy says you stink", is appropriate for this list. It
is a seemingly slight tale about the inter-relationships between some high
school girls which centre on ablution habits. The final lines,
however, shift the weight of what has gone before, illuminating
the signposts to a potential lesbian relationship.
Within these nine breezingly zany stories jaunty female protagonists with
New Age names recount their fast paced and turbulent experiences.
In "Dragons in Manhattan" Turk discovers her lesbian
mother's female lover is really her post sex-change father - a
somewhat challenging scenario even for Francesca Lia Block to
A fine collection of 18 short stories which reflect many of the
experiences facing young Kiwi women today. In Fiona
Kidman's Nobody else an older teen learns about the
romantic beginnings of her parents' relationship before going to meet her
lesbian girlfriend. The loving mother's ignorance of the daughter's
intentions, with the accompanying belief in a "conventional" future
for her child, gives a poignant touch.
Ten delightfully credible New Zealand short stories about teenage
romantic love. Paula Boock's Night Creatures is a
brief account of a lesbian's midnight journey to a lover's home.
Ordinary aspects of the walk across the street then alongside the house to
the back lawn are invested with a dream-like quality, while the
mixed-up turmoil of expectation is softly presented and everything makes for
a faster-paced vignette than the story's length would indicate.
Twenty-one short stories by mainly U.S. writers about teenagers
coming to terms with gay and lesbian issues. Here are
sensitive, well-written self-awareness experiences,
coming-out stories and accounts of family members coping with the
homosexuality of one of their own.
Fifteen Australian writers present short stories on the pains
of first love. In June Epstein's The substitute
Marcia falls passionately in love with Glennys Doe, a substitute
English teacher. Doe's later rejection and the attentions of school
peer Herman lead Marcia towards heterosexuality. Another story,
the very ethereal Ice Blue by Rosemary Donovan,
hints at being a lesbian love story.
Sixteen outstanding stories about young adults caught in the
complexities of "family" - its joys, realities
and mysteries. The two final offerings qualify this title
for the list. About Zan recounts the effects on various
generations of a family when teenage Zan comes out as a lesbian.
The passing of Aunty Erl is a poignant picture of the death of
one of an elderly lesbian partnership as viewed through the eyes of a gay
Eighteen Aussie authors who have previously shown their ability
to effectively tackle homosexual themes here produce a fine
gallery of short stories which, in a variety of writing
styles, offer us many of the issues and situations facing gay/lesbian
youth. The collection is somewhat more senior teen orientated than
Marion Bauer's Am I Blue?
Only one story in this substandard collection of seven has a
lesbian theme, Susannah Bowyer's On the Verge.
Here 17-year-olds Anna and Carol muse on the possibility they are both
lesbian, and share misinformation and fears. While virgin Anna
experimentally has sex with a male peer, the more sensible (and
likeable) Carol susses out a local supportive women's group within
which she can appreciate being lesbian - if that is where she
finally feels she is "at". An unsatisfactory, Enid Blyton type
tale. The flat and banal style mirrors the immature teenage world it
records with swear words seemingly sprinkled liberally for effect.
Parents, though present, are devoid of any supportive,
Sixteen stories reflecting on how young people's lives can change in
respect to different circumstances. In Gem Gem
devastatingly finds that the loving friendship bond she'd shared with school
peer Ellen is being replaced for Ellen by a new interest in boys. At
the story's comclusion, Gem, finding she can't feel for a boy in
the way she did for Ellen, begins a new friendship with the class's
female activist. Nothing physical is suggested but one assumes Gem
will ultimately define herself as a lesbian. A useful addition to
this list, Gem shows the more common development from
same sex crushes and intense friendships to heterosexual love.
These 12 stories by Jane Westaway give credible glimpses into
teenage New Zealand. One offering You Know Who is
a wistful vignette in which a securely closeted lesbian school girl reaches
out from behind her friends' group homophobia to attempt a mutual contact
with the school's gossip-proclaimed "lesson". A book which became a
1997 NZ Post Children's Book Award finalist.
In this general collection of Australian short stories for teens, two feature gay and lesbian themes. Off the Wall by Jenny Pausacker centres on the lead character's lesbianism, but Joel her 'got-it-all-together' gay school peer provides a positive role model. Bron Nicholl's Only Two Hours by Train has a minor incident when Kevin inwardly debates the state of his friendship with Theo if the latter were gay.
While accidentally falling in love, Molly and Jess (a male
classmate) research a series of hard-hitting articles on AIDS for
their High School magazine. Censorship by school
authorities intervenes, but the final denouement is Molly
contracting AIDS through an earlier, first-ever sexual
encounter with Jess's best friend, who, in the
concluding pages, is uncovered as gay. Told in the form of
typescripts of taped conversations between Molly and Jess, the novel
develops a pace of its own through the twisting plot. One of the best
novels on AIDS available, and included because the victim is a
After insulting the Minister of Education, 17 year old
Mel, who is vivacious, angry, and searching,
hits the road from Dunedin for a jaunt to Cape Reinga. Her
adventures, and the death of her friend while she's away,
help Mel to finally deal with her mother's lesbianism. This
is a short, fast-moving and skilfully crafted novel,
wholly and invigoratingly New Zealand.
In this relatively brief, but gentle, Canadian
novel, Stephanie works through her physical and emotional
attraction to her classmate Anne. Stephanie is aided on her
journey to self awareness by a middle-aged lesbian couple -
one of whom assists her with an art project - and a
school friend whose brother is gay.
At 16, Sib crosses the United States to meet the mother who'd
opted out of motherhood's responsibilities after Sib was born. Her
father accompanies Sib, helping to prepare her for the
encounter, trying to share ideas, concepts, music and
people, from her mother's past. Although only a minor incident
in her travels, Sib's visit with Gwen and her butch highlights the
struggle many lesbians have to parent their children from former
A moving tale of how 14 year-old Cathy is left to cope alone
with the traumatic after-effects of a rape by her mum's de facto.
Until she can work through the issues, pain, guilt and
anger are the norm for Cathy. In a brief, lonely and
unguarded moment when she is in need of security she finds herself
attracted to her best friend, Sophie.
Attending an alternative secondary school for problem pupils,
Dianna pals up with Stacy who we find is a victim of paternal sexual abuse.
The closeness of the friendship causes Stacy's dad to hurl
vicious taunts about lesbianism at the girls. The novel
really centres on Dianna's coping with her own family problems,
while the drug use by the school's pupils is a constant theme.
Virginia is 15 when her life begins to go down the gurgler,
her dog is killed and her father's terminal illness strains the
family togetherness. Finally lesbian Jane, her new
friend, awakens in Virginia a new understanding of love.
Going from being the school's quiet, secretive "dag"
to a popular peer leader is achieved by Rebecca in her final High
School year, a transformation achieved after her kidnapping
by men wanting to hit at her workaholic father. Rebecca
also accepts the reason for her parents' divorce - her
mother's lesbianism. As usual with Australian writers the
topic is positively handled and credibly melded into a tense,
In the last year at her girls' boarding school, Jinx
finds that a crush for a friend, Lexie, is moving close towards
much deeper and more physical expressions. Lexie, a user,
betrays Jinx to the school authorities,
whose subsequent actions challenge Jinx's belief in the ways society
judges. Set in 1964-5.
Certainly one of the best teenage lesbian novels to date.
Garden employs a wonderful use of language to convey the myriad
mood changes engendered by the characters' experiences.
Liza and Annie are two 17 year olds from different backgrounds
both in their final year at two New York schools. Their
discovery of each other and their lesbianism unfolds against
surrounding homophobia and the support of a teaching couple who
are also lesbian.
Jan and Kerry, two American High School seniors develop a lesbian
relationship while involved in a production of The Crucible.
Jan's growth as a mint-new drama producer is an equal element in the
A sensitive member of a New York immigrant family from the West
Indies, Ruby is struggling to cope with her mother's death,
her sister's retreat into books and her bombastic father's limited
intelligence. At school the 18 year old Ruby is both
accused of being an "Uncle Tom" and becomes the butt of
boys' overt sexual humour. A deepening friendship, and
growing lesbian relationship, with a brilliant but
self-justifying classmate Daphne provide Ruby with a release.
Daphne's cruel ending to their bond devastates Ruby's faith in
everlasting love. The lesbian theme sits unobtrusively
within a powerful saga of a girl's search for a strong and stable
Another private girls school story set in New York! Here
Val and Chloe learn to come to terms with friendships turning into
sexual awakening along with the accompanying guilt and fears of
A novel about the strengths of friendship. When Connie,
a former school friend, contracts AIDS, Karen has to
make some crucial decisions. Karen's support of the lonely
and abandoned Connie against the irrational homophobic feelings within the
school community is realistically conveyed.
Evie is a down-to-earth 18 year old farmer and ripper mechanic.
She leaves the closet to family and Missouri Valley
neighbours on establishing a romantic, if controversial,
lesbian affair with the society-orientated daughter of a powerful
local magnate. Events are recounted by Evie's younger
brother, himself falling for his first girl friend. A
delicate exposition of the lesbian theme by this sensitive lesbian
writer who also conveys the changing farming scene and climate
forces which themselves influence the plot.
A fine story of American boarding school life, in which
the apparently lesbian teaching couple, Miss Able and Miss
Mitchell, are sympathetically portrayed.
An hilarious novel of a mutually sustaining friendship between
Brenda Belle and Adam, the "son of someone famous",
who is living quietly away from media attention. Brenda has
some earlier doubts about her heterosexuality due to a latent
development in being boy "aware".
Flick, the product of a wealthy, if dysfunctional,
family, uses charm to manipulate her peers at a private New
York girls school. Bi-sexual, she engages in a
physical relationship with Nana - two years Flick's
junior. We see events from Nana's viewpoint and the author,
if rather over the top, conveys the younger girl's trauma of
longing and rejection. However, Flick's recounting of
her sexual abuse by her stepfather is convincing.
Alison and her brother Morten are in their late teens when
caught up in their divorced father's homophobic rage in his
discovery that his ex-wife is living in a lesbian relationship.
The decision about which parent Alison and Morten should continue
to live with is made by the young people themselves and they
accept and respect their mother's differences.
Sixteen year old Leslie finds the difficulties adjusting to her
parents' divorce complicated when her boyfriend Peter -
with whom she is having a sexual relationship -
becomes her step-brother upon her mother's brief re-marriage.
Petra, her best friend, is openly lesbian and
discussions on homosexuality occur in the girls' feminist classes.
An added theme is the struggle both Leslie and Peter's
mothers have to find themselves as valued individuals after their
This is a novel of relationships. Seventeen year old
Dustin has a rehabilitated alcoholic father, a sexually
experimenting girl friend and another friend, Amelia,
whose close family offers Dustin a greater hope for inner
stability than the psychiatric world his father sends him to.
Dustin's mother, divorced from her husband, lives in a
relaxed, normal lesbian partnership which Dustin views as
the only decent adult relationship he knows.
While coming to an awareness of her own body and sexuality
Augustine falls in love with a physically disabled male school
peer. Her closest friend, Claudia, is a
lesbian, and the two girls, in their final High School
year, share their different appreciations of selfhood and
Possibly Nell's divorced mother is in a lesbian relationship
with Greta, the woman she shares a room with in a large
house and, considering Klein's later published novels, the
partnership is highly likely. However, the reality of the
couple's arangments is never discussed - rather this is a story
about teenage Nell accommodating her love for both parents within the
framework of a split custody situation.
While on holiday in Greece, 16 year old Polly O'Keefe
comes to understand that there are different types of love.
Although heterosexual, Polly both accepts the friendship of an older
woman back in America and forgives that friend's lesbian advances upon her.
This is a typical novel from Madeline L'Engle - the
heroine is way above average in intellect and sophistication -
but fans of this writer will enjoy the book.
A novel for older teens. Fifteen year old Tina learns
her mother and grandmother died from a rare disease which she and
her Aunt Louise have a 50% chance of inheriting. Tina's Dad
kept the disease, and Louise, from her, fearing the
influence upon Tina of Louise and her lesbian partner Deana. The
lesbian issue is a sub-plot in a tightly crafted account of a teenager
coming to a more traumatic self-awareness than most people of her
Considerable emotional ambivalence follows Jenny's discovery
that her summer camp counsellor Peggy is a lesbian. That
she at 14 could still have a "crush" on Peggy leads Jenny to question her
own sexuality. The portrayal of Jenny's ultra sarcastically humorous
father adds another dimension to the novel.
Seventeen year old Stephanie (or 'Stevie' to her peers)
is in the third year od a sexual relationship with a male teacher
at her private American boarding school. It takes an
acceptance of her growing lesbian relationship with a peer,
Andrea, to show Stephanie that the teacher's approach to her
has been abusive. An excellent novel.
A typically British Ruth Rendell type disappearance mystery,
with a myriad of twists. Olivia, a teenage
out-of-work actress, tries to solve the puzzle of a girl's real life
vanishing. Lesbianism is a recurring motif in this challenging
At 17 Josie sets out to discover the family secrets about her
mother's lesbian relationship and to see just what sort of bond
might still exist between mother and daughter. A book for
the older teens, which verges on the adult.
Barb and Leith are in their final year at a Sydney High School.
After developing a steady relationship with Paul,
Barb casts thoughts about lesbianism aside, while her
friend Leith begins to accept her probable orientation. Realistic
When Shelley's alcoholic mother refuses to support her claim of sexual
approach from her stepfather, the 15 year old is sent to one of New
York's Juvenile Centres. Here, Shelley's life is a round of
constant supervision, minor crime, drugs, aggressive big butch
lesbianism, and continual escape bids to the "security" of the only
home the girl has known. It's a sober, but very convincing
documentary novel written from Samuels' experience as a reporter of such
cases. Unfortunately, this particular view of lesbianism is the
sole one conveyed.
While attending a liberal girls boarding school, 15 year old
Margo's tennis playing friendship with Miss Frye, a lesbian
teacher, invokes bitchy gossip among other pupils. The
association also provokes the cruel jealousy of a former lover of Miss
Frye - the crippled teacher, Miss Durrent. An
eventual friendship with Peter at the tennis club gives Margo a happy
ending. This novel has rather single-dimensional characterisation and
an unconvincing denouement.
Jaret and Peggy are in their final year at High School when
their lesbian relationship bursts "out" into their small town American
community. The trauma increases when Jaret is raped by a
male peer who excuses his actions by claiming righteous anger felt
when he spied on the girls making love outdoors. The plot
is tightly constructed and the issues are frankly enunciated but
the characters, along with their feelings, remain somewhat
Yet another novel set in an exclusive American girls school!
"Mike", or Michelle, finds her peace at Turnbull Hall is broken
when her best friend, Marty, is accused of having a sexual
affair with a female art teacher before progressing to an explicit
relationship with a fellow pupil. The plot is rather heavy going and a
tad unrealistic although Mike's self-examination of her own sexuality is
A continuation of the Abe and Marianne trilogy See you
Thursday and After Thursday. Now having
sex, the couple's story is linked with the unfolding revelation of
Marianne's Mum's affair with a married man. Marianne works at a
bookshop the proprietors of which are a lesbian couple. This
relationship is accepted by others, and the shopkeepers' role in the
plot is marginal.
Despairing of ever being what she in fact is - a
contented heterosexual female - 17 year old J.
McAlister feels, acts and is happiest being like a young
male Harlem hood. Our young heroine therefore embarks on a picaresque
voyage of self discovery which includes some initial, but
hilarious, experiments to see if she is a lesbian. A typically
zappy Wersba novel in which the homosexual thread is a minor one, but
how positively and matter-of-factly the writer presents it!
While still coping with her parents' divorce,
grandmother's death, and mother's successful pull-back from alcoholic
self abuse, 12 year old Feline has to adapt to the arrival of Rebecca
into her safe, black, middle-class home. Rebecca's being
15, Harlem-wise, and heavily pregnant makes it a difficult space
for both girls. Slowly a bond grows between Rebecca and Feline
leading to a deep comradeship. The process is greatly aided by two
lesbian friends of Feline's mother. In this novel with its
vigorous, independent females, the lesbian couple are positively
portrayed. Woodson is a highly capable writer.
An invaluable tool for fiction on gay and lesbian themes. The
excellent introduction is followed by 132 pages of detailed
A delightful autobiographical ramble by M.E. Kerr through her early
years, highlighting how certain experiences and people in her life
appeared in her novels.