Valentine’s Day has come again. And with it comes all the predictable, but no less hurtful, erasure of experiences outside the cultural ‘norm’. So I wanted to do a short series of posts recommending stories that feature identities which don’t usually register on the cultural landscape.
Really, this series could be endless. But I wanted to focus particularly on some of the less ‘mainstream’ identities of the LGBTQIA+ community. I’m aware that all of the identities included under the umbrella acronym suffer marginalisation, but I know that lists such as in this series do already exist for the, if you like, ‘headline’ identities. I want to do something for those people who receive even less acknowledgement and validity, who can’t just google ‘______’ characters in fiction’ and get an easy-to-reference result.
So in the week of Valentine’s Day, I’ll be posting rec lists for aromanticism, asexuality, demisexuality/demiromanticism, pansexuality/panromanticism and polyamory. I could do plenty more – and I have ideas for several more – but I want to keep this series short in order to make sure that all these lists are researched and resourced to the best of my ability. If you feel there’s an identity that I’ve overlooked, please do let me know! I’d love to expand this series if that’s something people would be interested in.
Once the whole series is posted, I’ll do a summary post linking them all together, which you will be able to click through to here.
First up, a list of eleven books containing aromantic characters! Too often when I’ve seen links to aro/ace recs, they’re almost entirely ace-focused, or there’s no clarification between the two. Asexuality and aromanticism are so often lumped together, and though aromantic representation is generally acknowledged to be tragically rare, I want to at least attempt to build two different lists. However, a disclaimer that I’ve only read one of these, so if I’ve included any with problematic rep by accident, I’d love to know so I can remove them.
Sere from the Green (Shape Shifter Chronicles book 1) by Lauren Jankowski
Isis is a photojournalist in a small city where practically nothing happens. One night, she photographs the scene of a gruesome murder. A woman is found dead in an abandoned factory. On the wall there is a strange symbol painted in blood. The next day, all evidence of the crime has vanished from her pictures and no one seems to have heard of any murder taking place. Isis proceeds to investigate and is soon drawn into the world of shape shifters and guardians. Secrets and mysteries are common place in this strange world. As Isis finds answers about her own mysterious past, she also finds more questions. What is happening to the people that vanish without a trace? Who is watching her from the shadows? And what exactly is the key that everyone seems willing to kill for?
Author is aro, eight main characters in the series are ace and/or aro, two are definitely aromantic.
Make Much of Me by Kayla Bashe
A novel of twilight affection and courageous love… a fascinating reimagining of Christina Rosetti’s Goblin Market… A lesbian pulp novel with a happy ending! Jazz! Poodles! An asexual woman in a queerplatonic relationship! Girls being friends! All in the book you never knew your heart needed…
“Aromantic” used on the page, one MC is explicitly aroace and there is a minor aromantic character, f/f relationship. Here’s a link to RoAnna Sylver’s review.
The Mangoverse series by Shira Glassman
The Mangoverse is a fantasy series starring a nerdy young lesbian queen and focusing on feminist themes, family of choice, and all the different types of female (and sometimes male) strength, not just physical prowess. The setting is a world with dragons, wizards, magic spells, and shapeshifting witches, and most of the characters are Jewish.
Tales from Outer Lands has a short story called ‘Rivka in Port Saltspray’ with an aroace character; Climbing the Date Palm features a poly aromantic cat-shifter who owns a restaurant; A Harvest of Ripe Figs features a minor aroace character.
This collection enlisted talent around the world. From students to seasoned professionals, these writers came together to raise awareness and reinvent classic stories. While they showcase a wide variety of origins, styles, and endings, all the tales in this anthology have one classic element in common: a happily ever after.
No on-the-page rep, but several short stories are entirely and intentionally without romance. You can read my review here.
The Bone People by Keri Hulme
In a tower on the New Zealand sea lives Kerewin Holmes, part Maori, part European, an artist estranged from her art, a woman in exile from her family. One night her solitude is disrupted by a visitor—a speechless, mercurial boy named Simon, who tries to steal from her and then repays her with his most precious possession. As Kerewin succumbs to Simon’s feral charm, she also falls under the spell of his Maori foster father Joe, who rescued the boy from a shipwreck and now treats him with an unsettling mixture of tenderness and brutality. Out of this unorthodox trinity Keri Hulme has created what is at once a mystery, a love story, and an ambitious exploration of the zone where Maori and European New Zealand meet, clash, and sometimes merge.
The author is aroace, and the book doesn’t use the words but the protagonist is very clearly aroace.
The Sky Slayer (book 2) by Joel Cornah
All who kill a pterosaur are cursed. But Rob Sardan went a step further – he killed their King. To break the curse he must escape a prison of ice and crystal, south of south, beyond all hope. With a ragtag team of former pirates, a failed thief and a strategist who cannot be trusted, they seek a ship that can sail on a sea of fire. They must cross the grinding ice, challenge an empire, and face the dread pirate Skagra before she unleashes the Crown of Black Glass. But above all, Rob must face the ghosts of what he has become… King Killer. Sword-breaker. Sky Slayer.
I couldn’t confirm any of this, but apparently the author is ace, and one major character is aroace and wears a headscarf.
The Faerie Godmother’s Apprentice Wore Green by Nicky Kyle
The village of Styesville has a dragon problem, and is in sore need of a knight in shining armor to solve it for them. Instead, they get a strange traveler in a ragged cloak they barely even notice at first. Worse still, it soon becomes clear the problem setting fire to their village isn’t as simple as a dragon…
The author is aroace, there is an aroace protagonist and a lesbian protagonist.
Interface by Lucy Mihajlich
The future always seemed bright, but it turns out that was just global warming. Meals don’t come in pills, shoes don’t lace themselves, and there are flying cars, but the gas mileage sucks. There is one difference. People have always searched the internet for answers. Now they actually worship it. Pen Nowen’s father was the founder of Interface, a computer company so big and powerful that people began praying to it. Especially when his death almost tanked the economy.
Seven years later, Pen’s just finished her junior year of high school. For their summer vacations, all of her friends are going to Disneyland, Tijuana, or Disneyland Tijuana, but Pen’s going on a pilgrimage to pray for what’s left of her family. She’s on her way to the Interface flagship store when she gets kidnapped. It’s the second time this year. She’s about to begin the ransom negotiations when the kidnapper says that he doesn’t want money. He wants something else from her. Before Pen can text 911, he says something even creepier. He knows the truth about her dad’s death.
The author is ace, protagonist is aroace.
Between bisexuality and albinism, Seraphin always felt like an outsider in his own town. He finally finds companionship in Alex, an agender and aromantic teenager who interns over the summer. With him he learns to trust himself and his instincts. It leads Seraphin to leave his town and join the army invading his country, but when his squad is ordered to raid his hometown, Seraphin finds his new life may come at the price of his old.
The author is ace, there’s an aromantic agender protagonist.
A Word and a Bullet by Rachel Sharp
Colt, Janie, and Damien were planning a weekend at Zed Games when the real apocalypse cancelled their trip. Now the planet is trying to kill them. Colt never saw himself as a leader. Now his friends are turning to him to make decisions, and he can’t be sure of the answers. He’s used to having one foot in many worlds – a Cherokee living in Asheville, three-quarters nerd and one-sixteenth responsible adult – but never in charge. Now he feels the pressure to keep his friends alive while the planet is dying.
Scraping from one disaster to the next, Colt and his friends encounter Mab, a punky survivor on her way back to a safe haven in the Canadian wilderness. She invites them to tag along. Recruiting some horses from an abandoned farm, Colt, Janie, and Damien charge into the post-civilized unknown.
The author is ace, and there’s an explicitly aroace secondary character.
An Accident of Stars (Manifold Worlds book 1) by Foz Meadows
When Saffron Coulter stumbles through a hole in reality, she finds herself trapped in Kena, a magical realm on the brink of civil war. There, her fate becomes intertwined with that of three very different women: Zech, the fast-thinking acolyte of a cunning, powerful exile; Viya, the spoiled, runaway consort of the empire-building ruler, Vex Leoden; and Gwen, an Earth-born worldwalker whose greatest regret is putting Leoden on the throne. But Leoden has allies, too, chief among them the Vex’Mara Kadeja, a dangerous ex-priestess who shares his dreams of conquest.
Pursued by Leoden and aided by the Shavaktiin, a secretive order of storytellers and mystics, the rebels flee to Veksh, a neighboring matriarchy ruled by the fearsome Council of Queens. Saffron is out of her world and out of her depth, but the further she travels, the more she finds herself bound to her friends with ties of blood and magic. Can one girl – an accidental worldwalker – really be the key to saving Kena? Or will she just die trying?
An explicitly aromantic protagonist in a poly relationship.
Huge credit and thanks go to Shira Glassman, for posting lists in at least three different places detailing exact representation in her books. Also this incredible resource post by Laya at aroaessidhe – without her work, this list would be a lot shorter. I’d also like to recommend Claudie Arseneault’s fantastic Asexual and Aromantic SF Fiction Database to look for further aro-representing titles in speculative fiction.