We have reached the B of LGBTQIA+ this month and thus I have deemed it, just now, bisexuality month.
Worth noting is that the difference between bi and pansexuality can be fraught and a little wriggly, and I’m not going to delve into it much further than to say that some of these books this month feature a little of both. As editors Ellen Desmond and Lauren Nickodemus say in the introduction to my first book this month, “we believe it is important not to exclude the voice of anyone who feels they relate to the marginalisation of bisexuality”. And as that’s a much better introduction than I ever would have managed, let’s get right into it.
Kickstarted initially by 200 backers, The Bi-ble was published by Edinburgh-based indie press ‘Monstrous Regiment’ (and isn’t that a hell of a name), and is now causing hilarity at counters all over the country.
“I’m looking for the bible.”
In fact, The Bi-Ble is the kind of book that you open and immediately go “ah, yes.” The very first quote, before you even get to the title page, is; “I didn’t pick a side. I picked a person.” – Lisa Marie Ferla. It’s an anthology of sorts, a collection of memoir pieces from a wide group of people who identify with the bisexual identity. Some of them are even in comic form.
The variety of contributions is half of the joy. It would be very easy (and it’s tempting) to write an entire review that’s just choice quotes, and let the book speak for itself. As with all anthologies, I’m not going to pretend that I enjoyed every piece, but then that’s not quite the point. This is a snapshot of bisexual life today, and it does a fantastic job of that. It’s thoughtful, self-aware, sometimes funny, sometimes tragic, and unfalteringly honest. It’s even spawned a sequel of sorts, which is next on my reading list. It’s well on its way to becoming a cult classic, and you cannot go wrong with it, either as a starting point of bisexual non-fiction or a welcome edition to an established queer bookshelf.
Bisexuality in fiction is often a little harder to spot. Unless a character or narrator specifically states otherwise, they’ll probably be assumed to be either straight or gay. ‘The Girls I’ve Been’ is one where the main character explicitly states that she’s bi.
‘The Girls I’ve Been’ is a tense, trigger-warning heavy thrill ride of a YA book that deserves all its praise, and the comparisons to Karen M. McManus and co. Raised by a con woman, Nora has finally escaped, and is running her own con – living a normal life. But when she, her ex-boyfriend and her new girlfriend get caught up in a bank robbery, the only way they’re going to get out is if she plays the criminal she was raised to be.
While the main character is bi, that is refreshingly not the conflict of the story. To be perfectly honest, I don’t think there’d be space for it alongside the mystery of who Nora really is, and how on earth they’re all going to survive. It flicks back and forth in time, building up a fuller picture of Nora’s past, explaining the decisions she’s making in the present, making it just as much of a character drama as anything else.
The writing is so pacy it left me breathless. It’s just so clever. I’ve read a fair few books in my time, and I’m getting to be a dab hand at seeing an ending coming, but holy hell I did not see this one.
And finally, this month I wanted to feature a book about a bisexual man, because when we were chatting about new releases to feature, there were so few in comparison to bi women. ‘The Magnificent Sons’ is that book. When Jake’s younger brother Trick comes out as gay, to rapturous response, Jake realises he has his own questions about his repressed bisexuality. Questions that his stable job, his long-term girlfriend, and his friends can’t help him answer – and which he can no longer ignore.
I’d probably class this book somewhere between a slice of life and a family saga. It’s a very easy read, and the characters at first aren’t particularly likeable. The joy is in discovering that they are redeemable (well – some of them), and watching them discover that despite their differences, despite the family drama, even despite social media fame or social awkwardness, they have more in common than they ever realised. It does have a fairly hefty trigger warning for biphobia – Trick’s coming out is treated so differently from Jake’s, and that’s exactly the point. This is a frank and telling examination of the way bisexual people, and bisexual men in particular, are treated by society.
As always, you can find all of this months’ books here, and a wider selection of bisexual books and upcoming releases here.