From the diaries of Anne Lister to the queer-coded vampire Carmilla to the classic novel The Color Purple: sapphic lives, both real and fictional, continue to fascinate, inform, and entertain us.

But what is this word: sapphic? It’s an ancient descriptor that’s making a comeback.

The word originates from the ancient Greek poet Sappho who resided on the island of Lesbos and wrote of her love and desire for women. Sappho is also from whom we derive the word lesbian. While sapphic and lesbian might appear to mean the same thing, they are distinct terms.

Sapphic is an inclusive term for any woman attracted to women or in a relationship with another woman, regardless of orientation. Lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, aromantic, asexual, queer, nonbinary, and genderqueer individuals can fall under the sapphic umbrella.

Thus, the rise of sapphic fiction (and nonfiction)! Any genre can qualify as sapphic if the protagonists or subjects are sapphic individuals written with respect.

But I hear some people asking: why is it important to recognize books as sapphic?

When heterosexual culture is the dominant culture, reading, writing, and publishing sapphic works is crucial to:

  • confronting oppression
  • supporting representation
  • understanding our past and exploring our heritage
  • embracing our identities and what it means to be sapphic

This June, we celebrate sapphic writers and historical figures with this audiobook collection showcasing sapphic love and relationships as beautiful and sometimes messy, but important nonetheless.

 

YOUNG ADULT

 

For Lamb

Written by Lesa Cline-Ransome, narrated by Tyla Collier, Kevin R. Free, Rebecca Lee, Jaime Lincoln Smith, Dion Graham, and Angel Pean

In the Jim Crow South, an interracial friendship between two girls goes tragically wrong in this YA novel that pays homage to the female victims of white supremacy.

Jackson, Mississippi: 1930s. Lamb, a shy black teenager, begins a secret friendship with a white girl who loans her a book she loves. In doing so, she sets off a calamitous series of events that pulls in her lesbian mother, charming hustler uncle, estranged father, and brother—and ends in a lynching.

Cline-Ransome said the story of For Lamb was sparked after a trip to the Legacy Museum and Memorial in Montgomery, Alabama in 2018. Surprised by the number of women who were victims of lynching, she decided she wanted to memorialize them. Her historical research for the novel landed her with the name of her titular character – Lamb.

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Heirs of Bone and Sea

Written by Kay Adams, narrated by Catherine Ho and Hayden Bishop

“A sapphic fantasy romance series-opener brimming with blood and longing.” –Kirkus Reviews

Evhen, the princess of Vodaeard, is on a revenge mission after witnessing her parents’ murder by the king of Marama and the horror of his undead army. She’s vowed to kill his daughter – poetic justice that will also take away his supernatural edge in the war – until Evhen realizes she might be an ignorant pawn.

Princess Kalei of Marama is moon-blessed, allowing her to resurrect her kingdom’s loyal subjects. But when she’s attacked by a pirate, she learns what her power is really being used for. Determined to prove her innocence, she has to trust her would-be killer to deliver her to the Vodaeardean princess. But who can she trust when it seems Captain Evhen is not the only one who wants her dead?

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Never Trust a Gemini

Written by Freja Nicole Woolf, narrated by Marisa Calin

Classic romcom and chaotic coming-of-age combine for a story about an astrology-obsessed lesbian.

It’s Libra Season, and Cat Phillips is ready to run headfirst into love. The only problem is that her crush is on her best friend, Alison Bridgewater, who is more interested in chatting with boys. Maybe Cat should take this as a sign to get over Alison. Then Morgan Delaney swoops in with her green glasses, enigmatic smile, and talent for teasing Cat in ways that make her feel überlicious. But Morgan is a Gemini, and there’s no way that’s in Cat’s horoscope.

Woolf described her protagonist as a diehard hopeless romantic and wanted to incorporate astrology into her book because of its importance in sapphic culture:

“It’s a lesbian love language, so it makes total sense that Cat would love it…”

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ADULT

 

D’Vaughn and Kris Plan a Wedding

Written by Chencia C. Higgins, narrated by Rebecca Lee

How do you turn fake into forever?

Instant I Do could be Kris Zavala’s big break as an influencer, elevating her brand and potentially earning $100,000. For D’Vaughn Miller, a fake wedding is just the excuse she needs to finally come out to her mom.

All they have to do is convince their friends and family they’re getting married in six weeks. Selling their chemistry on camera is surprisingly easy, and it’s still there when no one else is watching. But each week of the competition brings new challenges, and soon the prize money’s not the only thing at stake.

When writing the book, Higgins said she wanted the opportunity to tell a coming-out story for a Black queer woman in her 30s:

There is a huge emphasis on queer people coming out in their teens, and it was important for me to show another perspective because everyone’s experience is different and there is no right or wrong way to be queer.”

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A Good Happy Girl

Written by Marissa Higgins, narrated by Ellie Gossage

At once an empathetic and unsettling exploration of desire, queer domesticity, and the effects of incarceration on the family.

Helen, a jittery attorney with a self-destructive streak, is secretly reeling from a disturbing crime of neglect that her parents recently committed. She’s used to compartmentalizing, distracting herself by doting on her grandmother and pursuing an emotionally intense relationship with a married couple, Catherine and Katrina.

The couple prod at Helen’s life, revealing a childhood tragedy she’s been repressing. When her father begs her for help getting parole, Helen realizes she has a bargaining chip to get answers to her past.

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Here for the Wrong Reasons

Written by Annabel Paulsen and Lydia Wang, narrated by Mara Wilson and Lindsey Dorcus

Here for the Wrong Reasons cover

A steamy lesbian romcom perfect for fans of Ashley Herring Blake and Alexandria Bellefleur.

On the reality TV show Hopelessly Devoted, women compete for the heart of the season’s Hopeless Romantic, Josh Rosen. Krystin, a rodeo champion, is determined to win the perfect life she came here for – if she can just ignore the brunette whose smile gives her goosebumps.

Lauren is not on Hopelessly Devoted to win Josh’s heart. She plans to stay on the show long enough to build her social media following, then leave when it’s her turn to be eliminated. But the longer she stays on the show, the more she finds herself tangled up in a certain blonde’s lasso.

Neither contestant expects a heteronormative dating show to challenge their own deeply-ingrained ideas of who they are—and what they want.

In case you needed another reason to check out this audiobook: the authors started this novel as friends and were dating by the time it was finished. A real-life sapphic love story!

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I Kissed a Girl

Written by Jennet Alexander, narrated by Natalie Naudus

Can an up-and-coming horror actress and the makeup artist for her newest “creature feature” turn on-set chemistry into the romance of a lifetime?

Lilah Silver, a young actress who dreams of climbing out of B-list stardom, has been cast as the “final girl” in what could be her breakout performance. But if she wants to prove herself to everyone who’s ever doubted her, she’ll need some major help.

Noa Birnbaum may be a brilliant makeup artist and special-effects whiz-kid, but cracking into the union is more difficult than she imagined. When the beautiful star she’s been secretly crushing on admits to fears of her own, Noa vows to do everything in her power to help Lilah shine like never before.

But can a connection forged over long hours in the makeup chair ever hope to survive the glare of the spotlight?

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The Well of Loneliness

Written by Radclyffe Hall, narrated by Sophie Ward

This seminal work in LGBTQ+ literature explores queer identity, love, loneliness, and the struggle for self-acceptance in the face of rejection.

Originally published in 1928, The Well of Loneliness follows the life of Stephen Gordon, a girl born to parents who wished for a boy in late Victorian England and whose lesbianism and queer identity is apparent from a young age.

The Well of Loneliness was the subject of several obscenity trials and subjected to bans in multiple countries upon its publication. A watershed moment in LGBTQ+ literary history, its cultural impact endures to this day.

While considered controversial by some for its depiction of gay life as often lonely (among other issues like racism and sexism), its publication helped pave the way for gay rights and lesbian visibility.

Catherine Dent writes for The Collector that

The Well of Loneliness remains a landmark work of lesbian fiction as the first work to depict, openly and earnestly, the lived experience of a lesbian woman in the early twentieth century… and to call for social change.”

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POETRY

 

Crossfire

Written and narrated by Staceyann Chin

In honor of Sappho, the OG lesbian poet, we would be remiss not to include a book of poetry in this audiobook collection.

Crossfire collects spoken-word artist Staceyann Chin’s empowering, feminist-LGBTQ-Caribbean, activist-driven poetry for the first time in a single book.

The Advocate says that her poems “combine hilarious one-liners with a refusal to conform” and note “Chin is out to confront more than just the straight world.”

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NONFICTION

 

Devils, Lusts and Strange Desires

Written by Richard Bradford, narrated by Daniel Henning

Not every contributor to LGBT lit is a figure to aspire to be. Sometimes, their overall being is unpleasant and unlikable.

Patricia Highsmith, made famous by the great success of her psychological thrillers The Talented Mr. Ripley and Strangers on a Train, has been largely overlooked by biographers. Despite living openly as a lesbian and writing the seminal lesbian love story, The Price of Salt aka Carol, Highsmith’s status as an LGBT icon is undermined by her excessive cruelty and exploitative behavior towards her friends and lovers.

In this new biography, Richard Bradford examines Highsmith’s bestsellers in the context of her troubled personal life: her alcoholism, racism, anti-Semitism, misogyny, and self-loathing.

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The Opium Queen

Written by Gabrielle Paluch, narrated by Hayden Bishop

The true story of the opium-pioneer known as “Miss Hairy Legs”.

Olive Yang was a widely mythologized genderqueer lesbian opium-pioneer in the 1950s heyday of the Golden Triangle. After escaping an arranged marriage with a noble cousin, Olive felt that she had no choice but to lead a life of banditry with an anti-communist rebel army supported by the CIA. But even as her smuggling empire grew, her true identity remained a mystery.

Opium Queen is a journey to uncover the true story behind the propaganda and legends. Declassified intelligence documents portray Olive as a critical operator in the clandestine Cold War against China. Extensive interviews with the Yang family reveal her to be a complex anti-hero searching for a way to live openly as a queer person. The great military alliances that facilitate narcotics traffic in Myanmar today are Olive’s lasting legacy in the Golden Triangle.

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Looking for even more LGBTQ+ audiobook recommendations?

Check out our LGBTQ+ Romance blog >