When I first started in publishing around ten years ago, there wasn’t a lot of queer representation.
There were hardly any F/F books in stores, especially not any about bisexual or pansexual teens that I had access to. And certainly none whatsoever about queer characters of color, let alone disabled queer POC.
I found myself wanting to fix that, to help the authors who I know are writing these stories. I liked the thought of doing something that contributes in a positive way to the state of the world. It was only a bonus that it turns out I like ripping stories apart and putting them back together with their creators to make them even better than before.
But then, bringing about change was much easier said than done.
From international conferences to chats with many former bosses, I always received the same message: I wish it weren’t so, but queer novels will only sell if there’s a teachable message. Coming out stories, conversion therapy survival accounts, et cetera. That’s how you win awards, people said, and otherwise, no one will want this.
While stories with a message absolutely have their place and I admire the authors writing about complex, hard topics—difficulty is certainly not the defining characteristic of queerness for everyone. It wasn’t for me, not then, not now. For me, queerness is defined by the joy of finally knowing who you are. Accepting who you are. It has always irked me that one specific narrative was the only that seemed acceptable, regardless of what that narrative was.
Ten years later, of course things are now completely different.
There has been a boom in F/F YA in the recent years. They certainly don’t dominate the market, but now you’ve got everything under the sun, from joy to sadness. Pansexual books, aromantic books, bisexual books; some about hard issues, some not at all.
I definitely feel there need to be more books about trans girls and there’s a lack of intersectionality for sure, even if it’s all a lot better than ten years ago.
I still remember the first f/f book about a queer biracial Black girl, with a queer biracial Black girl on the cover, that I ever saw on a shelf. Rebecca Barrow’s This is What it Feels Like. That was in 2019 and it was the first time I had ever seen anyone like me on a cover.
And even though I’ve only just had my second anniversary as an acquiring editor, I like to think I got to help a little, too.
My first acquisition was The Gravity of Missing Things by Marisa Urgo (Entangled TEEN: June 2022), a YA Contemporary Thriller about an out and proud bi daughter of a pilot whose plane goes missing.
I also worked on Of Trust and Heart (Embrace, October 2021) and The Breath Between Waves (Embrace, August 2021) by Charlotte Anne Hamilton, lesbian Historical Romances set in the 1920s and on the Titanic respectively that were my first covers ever with two queer women. That alone was a monumental milestone of my career for sure.
Even though these two are still far away from publication, I of course need to mention Hearts Forged in Dragon Fire by Erica Hollis, a YA High Fantasy I always refer to as the dragon lesbians book and that will give you the wholesome messy queer rep of your dreams.
And To Kill a Shadow by Katherine Quinn, a YA High Fantasy about a bi warrior, a hot commander, and a bunch of monsters in a mysterious mist – that book will wreck you with incredible tension and masterful enemies-to-lovers slow burn.
It’s a start.
But the work is certainly not done.
I still find myself chasing that joy I never got as a teen, still trying to put out as much happy queer rep as I can when there are just as many people doing the same thing now too. Especially the intersections of disability, people of color, and queerness are areas that I am particularly passionate about. And that passion has no expiration date.
If you have a book starring a queer and/or disabled POC in particular—I want to see it. And if you’re not ready to share your manuscript about queer characters, whether it’s joyful or bittersweet, I hope you keep writing.
Lots of people are looking forward to it. 🙂
Jen Bouvier, Acquisitions Manager and Editor
Jen Bouvier got their start in publishing on the agenting side and worked as a social media strategist and freelance editor for NYT-bestselling and USA-Today-bestselling authors before joining Entangled. As a biracial Black queer person, they are particularly interested in working with marginalized authors and passionate about diverse books. They are considering submissions across all genres, with a soft spot for speculative YA, funny women’s fiction, and queer historical romance.