The Prince and the Dressmaker is about two young individuals: Frances, a seamstress with dreams of becoming a designer, and Sebastian, a prince who feels more comfortable as a girl. The two meet and give each other the opportunity to make more of themselves, and perhaps find themselves in the process.
This is an amazing graphic novel, and such a cute story! I loved Wang’s art style – very fluid and colorful, but also putting so much expression into the characters. I thought that Frances and Sebastian were particularly adorable. And, of course, the dresses were stunning. I am so jealous of the prince’s wardrobe!
I think I can relate to Frances a lot, especially now in my life where I am trying to find out what I want to be doing and who I want there with me.
The story went in a bit of a different direction than I was expecting, though I’m not sure what I was expecting to begin with. It’s just such a lovely story about two young people trying to find their place in the world, but also trying to find their real selves. I think everyone needs a story like this: something that gives hope, that reminds one of all the love there is to give. I was very pleased with the ending as well – we need more happy endings.
And last, but not least, is the queer representation. I’m not sure if Sebastian is meant to be trans or not, but either way, portraying men wearing dresses in such a positive way is so important.
I can’t wait to pick up some more of Jen Wang’s work!
I recommend this book to everyone who wants a bit of hope and love in their life.
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I have reviewed all the books in this list, so feel free to go read those before you read this post. All of these books are written with queer characters, and many are written by queer authors. For this list, I will be talking about why I love the lgbtq+ aspects of each book, and why you simply must read them. Most of these are fantasy, but that’s only because I really love to read fantasy. There are definitely queer books in other genres that I need to check out (my list is huge, but I will get to them!). Many of these books are also by and about people of color.
Mooncakes by Suzanne Walker and Wendy Xu
This graphic novel is a sweet fantasy story about a witch named Nova who helps her friend and romantic interest, Tam, a werewolf, overcome evil magics that threaten them. Tam is Chinese-American and non-binary, and Nova is also Chinese American and queer. What I love about this book is it lets younger audiences and characters explore love and friendship and identity in all ways, and has all identities and love appear normal, as it should be.
The Merry Spinster: Tales of Everyday Horror by Daniel M. Lavery
This book of short stories is not only great for its unique and oftentimes strange fairytale retellings, but also for the representation of queer characters. Lavery doesn’t write queer characters in terms of sexuality necessarily, but what he does do is fiddle with “traditional” gender roles, for example, writing young boys in the role of daughter when the child of a king, for it seems that a daughter has more significance and power.
The Deep by Rivers Solomon
One of my favorite books I read this year, it is about a mermaid (here called wajinru) named Yetu, who holds the entire history of her people inside of her. The wajinru are descendants of African slaves who were thrown overboard from ships, and Yetu keeps those memories for her people. The story is about Yetu dealing with this responsibility, but also finding her own identity, including finding someone to love, who happens to be a queer woman of color.
The Black Tides of Heaven by J.Y. Yang
This novella takes place in a world where one is born and lives until a certain age without an identifying gender. Once they reach that certain age, characters choose to be a man, woman, or neither, which can sometimes involve surgery, as it does often now. Akeha is a transgender queer man who must battle against his mother, the leader of the Protectorate, and reconcile with his sister Mokoya, who has the gift of foresight. This novella has echoes of Chinese, Japanese, and other Asian cultures, and is filled with hints of Asian philosophies such as Buddhism, Confucianism, and others.
The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
Making Theo a lesbian in the Netflix series was no mistake, for her character in the original novel was indeed a lesbian too. Jackson doesn’t say so outright, given that this book was written in the late 1950s, but there is every indication. The gender of Theo’s partner, whom she left behind in the city, is not specified, and her (sometimes) interest in Eleanor is indicative of her queerness. Also read this book for the spooks!
The Song of Achilles by Madeleine Miller
We have all wanted the love story of Achilles and Patroclus, and Miller has given it to us. Told from the perspective of Patroclus, we get to see what their love and friendship was like, from first meeting to their death. Miller takes a love story only mentioned so briefly in the ancient world, and expands it into a great tale.
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz
Like Mooncakes, this is a story about the friendship and love between two young people, this time two teenage boys of Mexican descent. They each discover who they are and what they want out of life, learning from each other along the way. This was one of my favorite books of 2017, and I recommend it to everyone.
A few LGBTQ+ books I want to read next (in no particular order):
King and the Dragonflies by Kacen Callender
The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson
The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea by Maggie Tokuda-Hall
I will also take any and all recommendations!!