10 Trans Historical Fiction Books

10 Trans Historical Fiction Books

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Rachel is a writer from Arkansas, most at home surrounded by forests and animals much like a Disney Princess. She spends most of her time writing stories and playing around in imaginary worlds. You can follow her writing at rachelbrittain.com. Twitter and Instagram: @rachelsbrittain

Now more than ever it’s important for people to be able to see themselves in stories. Stories make us feel less alone. They show us that our experiences aren’t happening in isolation. For queer and trans readers especially, who don’t always grow up in community together, books can be an incredibly affirming space. Trans historical fiction makes it clear that the trans experience isn’t a modern phenomenon; trans people have always existed. Trans historical fiction books only open a window into the experiences of trans people throughout history, even when people have tried to erase them from it.

For trans people, reading trans books can be affirming. For cis people, it can be eye-opening. There are so many good reasons to read books, whether in your experience or outside of it. Reading broadly expands our understanding of the world. It engenders empathy. Reading helps us understand things from the perspective of others. This is one of the many reasons that reading widely is so important. It’s also why concepts like decolonizing your reading and events like the Trans Rights Readathon are vital. With legislation in the US—and abroad—continuing to target at-risk trans populations, it’s especially important to read, support, and recommend trans books by trans authors. Trans historical fiction books are just one way that you can start to do that.

These 10 trans historical fiction books, most of which are written by trans and nonbinary authors, are just one way you can add more trans fiction into your life. They’re also an important reminder that trans people have always—and will always—exist. Whether providing happily ever afters or revealing the very real struggles trans and gender-nonconforming people experience, these trans historical fiction books are exactly the kind of LGBTQ reading we should all be celebrating.

10 Trans Historical Fiction Books

The Thirty Names of Night by Zeyn Joukhadar book coverThe Thirty Names of Night by Zeyn Joukhadar book cover

The Thirty Names of Night by Zeyn Joukhadar

A closeted trans Syrian American begins seeing his mother’s ghost after her suspicious death in a fire five years ago. Now, his grandmother’s sole caretaker, his only source of solace comes from painting murals in his Manhattan neighborhood at night. But when he discovers the journals of a Syrian American artist whose pages reveal not only surprising connections with his mother and grandmother but also the hidden reality of queer and transgender people in his community throughout history, he finally finds the courage to claim a new name for himself: Nadir.

Book cover of When the Angels Left the Old CountryBook cover of When the Angels Left the Old Country

When the Angels Left the Old Country by Sacha Lamb

A genderqueer angel and a mischievous demon leave their little shtetl when a girl goes missing and the trail to find her leads them to America and a scam targeting unwitting immigrants. Uriel and Ash don’t always see eye to eye, but their deep and heartfelt friendship sustains them. When the chips are down, they have each other—and maybe even some new friends to help them along the way.

cover of The Story of Silence by Alex Myers; illustration of a knight on a horse standing in front of a castlecover of The Story of Silence by Alex Myers; illustration of a knight on a horse standing in front of a castle

The Story of Silence by Alex Myers

This knightly tale inspired by a medieval French poem called Silence follows a girl raised as a boy after the king declares that girls cannot inherit. In a world where gender is sharply defined and everyone and everything has its place, Silence must figure out how they fit into the world. As they follow their dreams of knighthood and chase chivalric ideals, Silence learns how to navigate the medieval world as a person wholly and uniquely theirself.

the cover of The Spirit Bares Its Teeththe cover of The Spirit Bares Its Teeth

The Spirit Bares Its Teeth by Andrew Joseph White

In late 19th century London, the veil has thinned, but Silas’s mother is concerned only with finding him a husband and refusing to see him as anything other than the girl he was declared at birth. So when Silas makes a desperate attempt to escape an arranged marriage, he’s declared mad and sent away to Braxton’s Sanitorium and Finishing School instead of anyone actually listening to him or what he wants. Here, Silas’s gift for speaking with the dead could help him expose the school’s rotten guts—if the instructors don’t break him first.

How Much of these Hills is Gold book coverHow Much of these Hills is Gold book cover

How Much of These Hills is Gold by C Pam Zhang

Two young siblings set out on their own after their father’s death in a small mining town in this gorgeously lyrical novel all about family, identity, and survival. Lucy isn’t sorry to see their father go, but Sam is determined to find the perfect burial spot for him. As they wander in the desert, the spirit of their Ba and the memories of how he and their Ma met years ago and made their way West show just how complicated it is to find a place where—and people with whom—you belong.

A Lady for a Duke by Alexis Hall Book CoverA Lady for a Duke by Alexis Hall Book Cover

A Lady for a Duke by Alexis Hall

Viola Carroll doesn’t have many regrets after leaning into her presumed death at Waterloo in order to become the person she’s always wanted to be. But the misery it must have left her closest friend, the Duke of Gracewood, to suffer alone is one of them. Now, they’ve crossed paths once again, and Viola is determined to help her old friend find a way out of his grief. But Gracewood doesn’t recognize her, and Viola can’t bear to tell him the truth. As they grow closer, will their feelings be able to overcome the burdens and secrets they carry? Well, it’s a historical romance novel, so yes of course they will 😉

Most Ardently book coverMost Ardently book cover

Most Ardently by Gabe Cole Novoa

This isn’t the truest Pride and Prejudice retelling ever, but that’s to be expected when the second eldest Bennet is a closeted trans boy. While Darcy scorns him at balls when presented in dresses, the same can not be said when the two meet as Darcy and Oliver. As their friendship grows, Oliver realizes the reason for Darcy’s scorn may have more to do with his feelings than his lack thereof. While this element made the story much more fully its own—and I very much enjoyed it—it did remove the element of enemies to lovers so intrinsic to Pride and Prejudice. If you can set aside your expectations of it as a Pride and Prejudice retelling, though, and enjoy it on its own merits, Most Ardently is a wonderful trans historical fiction novel.

Confessions of the Fox book coverConfessions of the Fox book cover

Confessions of the Fox by Jordy Rosenberg

A notorious thief by the name of Jack Sheppard and a modern-day professor’s obsessive search to discover his last confessions drive this propulsive story about identity, love, and liberation. When Dr. Voth uncovers a manuscript about an orphan sold into servitude in the eighteenth century, an orphan who desires to be called “Jack,” he’s certain he’s found the writings of Jack Sheppard. But even as he learns Jack’s tale and feverishly works to authenticate it, other powers are hard at work to steal it away.

She Who Became the Sun book coverShe Who Became the Sun book cover

She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan

After her younger brother’s death, the second daughter, fated for nothingness, takes on her brother’s identity and the prophecy of his greatness. Now, presenting as Zhu, she joins a monastery, rising through the ranks from novice to monk. But when the monastery that has shielded her is destroyed for opposing Mongol rule, Zhu decides she must push even harder to avoid her fate and assume the role she was always meant to play.

cover of Self-Made Boys by Anna-Marie McLemorecover of Self-Made Boys by Anna-Marie McLemore

Self-Made Boys by Anna-Marie McLemore

It’s telling that this is the second trans historical fiction Remixed Classics book on this list after Most Ardently. The series is beautifully committed to showcasing incredible, diverse storytelling. In Anna-Marie McLemore’s take on The Great Gatsby, Nick and Gatsby are both transgender, and Nick’s interest in Gatsby goes beyond friendship. It’s a story about transness, Latine identity, and the failings of the American Dream.



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