Do you have any recommendations for media (books, podcasts) with characters that use pronouns other than he/him or she/her? I want to feel more used to using those but don’t get much practice?
First, thank you for recognizing that this is an important skill and looking for ways to practice that doesn’t harm individuals who use they/them pronouns.
Secondly, I want to push back on the idea that you don’t get much practice. All of us have used singular ‘they’ throughout our whole lives! I’m not a grammarian so I’ll let the fab folx over at Dictionary.com explain this one:
“Lexicographers have determined that as far back as the 1300s, they has been used as a gender-neutral pronoun, a word that was substituted in place of either he (a masculine singular pronoun) or she (a feminine singular pronoun), e.g., Each student should get their supplies ready for class. Each student is singular, but we don’t know (or need to know) the gender/sex identity of each student in this situation, so their is perfectly handy.”
Thirdly, if this list looks short, that’s because it is. Characters who use they/them pronouns are extremely underrepresented in literature. Furthermore, my googling turned up tons of fabulous lists of books featuring non-binary characters and/or written by non-binary authors. It’s important to name that folx all along the gender spectrum use they/them pronouns, and not all nonbinary (enby) folx do. In order to honor your request, we kept our list to recommendations that specifically featured characters who use they/them pronouns, regardless of gender identity.
Fourth, if it isn’t clear, I am always game for a book round-up, so thank you for giving me a reason to write another one! I’ve organized below by genre for ease of use
Xan West’s Nine of Swords, Reversed is a contemporary romance featuring two genderqueer mages navigating disablity, bad omens, and the oh-so-common but nevertheless devastating relationship struggle: a lack of physical intimacy.
Suki Williams’ Beauty of Corruption is a Why Choose?/Reverse Harem romance (yes!) whose main characters are in the mafia. Intrigue, crime, and romance all in one.
Lilah Suzanne’s Jilted is a second chance romcom whose main characters bond over mutual heartbreak—by embarking on a fake relationship.
Mina Waheed’s Graham’s Delicacies is a collection of contemporary romantic short stories that feature three couples and place them in the best place on earth—a bakery.
Chelsea M. Cameron’s Christmas Inn Maine is a forced proximity, enemies-to-lovers Christmas romance (aka all of our favorite things wrapped up in one book!) with a meddling family, a pig named Minnie, and hella holiday magic.
Leslie Richardson’s Maxim Colonies series is a space opera featuring aliens who aren’t gender bound and the heroes who fall in love with them.
While the above books include main characters who use they/them pronouns, there’s also an increasing number of romances featuring such supporting characters. These include:
Prince on Paper by Alyssa Cole
Chaos Reigning by Jessie Mihalik
Teach Me by Olivia Dade
Conventionally Yours by Annabeth Alberts
Criminal Intentions series by Cole McDade
Mason Deaver’s I Wish You All the Best is a YA contemporary romance that follows an nonbinary teen through the tradegies and celebrations of life.
Cori McCarthy and Amy Rose Capetta’s Once & Future is a YA fantasy novel that reimagines King Arthur as a teenage girl who must work with a reverse aging Merlin to save their world from an oppressive government.
Victoria Schwab’s Our Dark Duet is the conclusion to her dark urban fantasy duology where the heroes have to face monsters intent on destroying them—including their own.
Sarah Gailey’s River of Teeth is a fun alternate history of the U.S. (what if we had used hippos for meat…and then they got revenge?!) featuring a nonbinary supporting character.
Suzanne Walker and Wendy Xu’s Mooncakes is a coming of age graphic novel featuring magic, romance, and a main character using they/them pronouns.
I want to end by highlighting two #ownvoices resources to find more books! Own voices refers to writers—or, in this case, list creators—who are part of the same marginalized group as the character they’re writing or books they’re recommending. Supporting #ownvoices writers, artists, and bloggers is important because, historically, marginalized people have had their stories taken, misused, and appropriated (see: American Dirt) by white folx who then profit off of them.
The first is Corey’s Book Corner, a blog featuring book recommendation lists and reviews with a focus on queer, fat, trans, and disability representation. The second is Jeanne G’Fellers’ Enby Book List.
As I’ve mentioned in previous book round-ups, our power as consumers lies in our spending. Supporting authors—especially #ownvoices ones—who feature characters using they/them pronouns helps let the publishing industry know that you want more.