5 Spooky Queer Women’s Halloween Reads

Happy almost October! Doesn’t it just feel like the right time of year to be reading scary books? Is it dark and blustery where you are? Are the pumpkins out yet? Have you been drinking delicious hot beverages while wearing sweaters? Even if you haven’t done any of those autumnal things, you should read one of these seasonally appropriate queer books to get in the Halloween mood. If you want more scary queer books, check out this list I made a few years ago featuring The Haunting on Hill House by Shirley Jackson, Fist of the Spider Woman: Tales of Fear and Queer Desire edited by Amber Dawn and more!

The Drowning Girl by Caitlín R. Kiernan
What is it?
India Morgan Phelps—Imp to her friends—is schizophrenic. She can no longer trust her own mind, because she convinced that her memories have somehow betrayed her, forcing her to question her very identity. Struggling with her perception of reality, Imp must uncover the truth about an encounter with a vicious siren, or a helpless wolf that came to her as a feral girl, or neither of these things but something far, far stranger…

Why should you read it?
Well Morgan M Page says this is the best piece of writing Kiernan has ever done. Plus, it features a queer relationship between a cis woman and a trans woman in addition to being smart and creepy!

How Scary?
More haunting than actually scary, and haunting in a kind of intellectual, post-modern kind of way. But maybe scarier if the idea of not knowing what is real or not is especially frightening to you.

The Gilda Stories by Jewelle Gomez
What is it?
The winner of two Lambda Literary Awards (fiction and science fiction) The Gilda Stories is a very American odyssey. Escaping from slavery in the 1850s Gilda’s longing for kinship and community grows over two hundred years. Her induction into a family of benevolent vampires takes her on an adventurous and dangerous journey full of loud laughter and subtle terror.

Why should you read it?
I mean, Black lesbian vampire superhero and a Lakota lesbian vampire mentor. ‘Nuff said. Okay, also, this is a vampire book that will appeal to people who don’t usually like vampire books.

How Scary?
There are scary things in this book, not so much to do with vampirism and other paranormal stuff as with how fucking terrifying it can be to be a Black woman in the US at pretty much any stage of the 19th, 20th, or 21st century.

Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
What is it?
A collection of scary graphic stories that have a distinct fairy tale feel, albeit a very creepy fairy tale: ‘It came from the woods. Most strange things do.’ Five mysterious, spine-tingling stories follow journeys into (and out of?) the eerie abyss. These chilling tales spring from the macabre imagination of acclaimed and award-winning comic creator Emily Carroll. Come take a walk in the woods and see what awaits you there…

Why should you read it?
In addition to the deliciously creepy tales that seem like they’ve been handed down for generations, the illustrations are fucking amazing; they’re the kind of thing I’d frame and put on my wall.

How Scary?
I admit I was scared to turn the light off and go to sleep when I read this before bed, so pretty damn scary? There were also a few times I was afraid to turn the page. Souls braver than me will probably be fine to read this at any time of day they want, but if you’re a bit wimpy like me you might want to read this in the daylight. This will likely creep you out and make you a little jumpy.

My Favorite Thing is Monsters by Emil Ferris
What is it?
Set against the tumultuous political backdrop of late ’60s Chicago, My Favorite Thing Is Monsters is the fictional graphic diary of 10-year-old Karen Reyes, filled with B-movie horror and pulp monster magazines iconography. Karen Reyes tries to solve the murder of her enigmatic upstairs neighbor, Anka Silverberg, a holocaust survivor, while the interconnected stories of those around her unfold. When Karen’s investigation takes us back to Anka’s life in Nazi Germany, the reader discovers how the personal, the political, the past, and the present converge.

Why should you read it?
First of all, for the messy but gorgeous art that is presented as if it really were a girl’s diary. Also, if the idea of literal monsters but also the figurative monsters within intrigues you.

How Scary?
Scary as in real people can be monsters but not scary as in you’re going to be jumpy after reading it. There are lots of monstrous things in here, especially Karen’s drawings, that aren’t necessarily scary even though they feel very Halloweeny.

White Is For Witching by Helen Oyeyemi
What is it?
In a vast, mysterious house on the cliffs near Dover, the Silver family is reeling from the hole punched into its heart. Lily is gone and her twins, Miranda and Eliot, and her husband, the gentle Luc, mourn her absence with unspoken intensity. All is not well with the house, either, which creaks and grumbles and malignly confuses visitors in its mazy rooms. Generations of women inhabit its walls. And Miranda, with her new appetite for chalk and her keen sense for spirits, is more attuned to them than she is to her brother and father. She is leaving them slowly, slipping away from them. And when one dark night she vanishes entirely, the survivors are left to tell her story.

Why should you read it?
Oyeyemi has a beautiful flare for writing stories that feel at once like timeless fairy tales but utterly modern. In this case, she is channeling the lengthy tradition of the Gothic haunted house story but also investigating racism, sexuality, and the particular bonds that twins have.

How scary?
Pretty fucking scary and dark, in the way that books where you know things are not going to end well from the beginning manage to keep you rapt to find out just how badly things will go. It’s about the same level of scariness as The Haunting on Hill House, with its obvious parallel of the question: are there really spirits in the house or are they a result of someone’s imagination?

About CaseytheCanadianLesbrarian

Known in some internet circles as Casey the Canadian Lesbrarian, Casey Stepaniuk is a writer and future librarian who holds an MA in English literature and is currently studying for an MLIS in the unceded territory of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations (Vancouver, BC). Topics and activities dear to her heart include cats, bisexuality, libraries, queer (Canadian) literature, running, and drinking tea. She runs the website Casey the Canadian Lesbrarian, where you can find reviews of LGBTQ2IA+ Canadian books, archives of the book advice column Ask Your Friendly Neighbourhood Lesbrarian, and some other queer, bookish stuff. She also writes for Autostraddle, Book Riot and Inside Vancouver. Find her on Twitter: @canlesbrarian. Some of her old reviews, especially the non-Canadian variety, can be found at the Lesbrary.
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