Two Terrific Reads for Coming Out Day with Strong LGBTQ Representation by TJ Klune: The House in the Cerulean Sea and Under the Whispering Door

11 Oct

October 11 is Coming Out Day; a day that celebrates the ability for LGBTQ people to be open about their identities.  I wanted to pick an author who was not only proudly part of the community, but also one whose work had strong LGBTQ representation, and Lambda Literary Award Winner, TJ Klune, seemed the perfect choice.

The House in the Cerulean Sea
I picked up The House in the Cerulean Sea after it was recommended during a webinar about gentle reads, stories that lack graphic sex and violence and often have a theme of finding ones place in life.  Like a lot of us after 2020, I was in need of a book that was the equivalent of a friendly hug for my heart and the whimsical plot of the novel also sounded very much in my wheel house.  The book, however, was even better than I expected; probably one of my favorites of last year. 

The House in the Cerulean Sea tells the story of a very by the book middle aged case worker at the Department in Charge of Magical Youth who is sent to an orphanage on an island in the middle of the sea where magical youths like a gnome and a wyvern live and flourish under the care of Arthur Parnassus, but Arthur is hiding secrets and as they unravel Linus questions his own views and choices. 

In a Nerd Daily Interview, Klune stated, “The found family trope is important to me, not just as a writer, but as a queer person. Queer people sometimes have to make families of their own because their real families don’t appreciate them as they should.” Love blossoms between Arthur and Linus, but the resonating messages about friendship, compassion, open-mindedness, belonging, and acceptance give it further resonance; though for those looking for a sweet m/m romance story, it is also a resounding success.

There is a satisfying ending, but I hope that Klune revisits some of the world he created in the future.

Under the Whispering Door
Under the Whispering Door came out this past month.  I was eagerly looking forward to it after my enjoyment of Klune’s previous work.  Under the Whispering Door bears several similarities to The House in the Cerulean Sea, the main character, a work obsessed lawyer, Wallace is similar to Linus in that he seems an unlikely protagonist for a novel, more likely in another work to be a small side character for comic relief or to be pushed aside for someone more dashing or heroic.   For me that is part of the charm of both stories, that Linus and Wallace journey shows their inner strengths and compassion, and it gives hope for all of us out there who feel on most days that we are decidedly average. 

The cast of the supporting characters in this one as well as quirky setting of a charming tea house, and the tender romance are also equally delightful.  As a tea fanatic myself, I’d love to be able to visit a tea shop like the one described in the novel with such a knowledgeable staff and tender scones. 

It is also always wonderful to see strong representation of not only gay, but also bisexual characters handled in such a nuanced manner with Wallace and Hugo.  In an interview with Syfi Wire when asked about having Wallace be confident in his bisexual identity, Klune stated “”I try to be as inclusive as possible.  So if I’m going to have a character be bisexual, it’s going to be damn well on-page that they’re bisexual.  It is going to be said out loud because that kind of representation it’s still not where it needs to be.  And it just feels like a lot of times when you read queer romance novels that instead of being on-page bisexual, [it’s that] they’re straight and now they’re gay. Bisexual people exist.”

Wallace’s tale is a bit darker in that it involves death and discussions of murder and suicide, however, these are handled in a thoughtful and reflective way rather than pure shock value.  This is another novel that will leave you wanting to check out more of Klune’s work.  

Written by:
Aimee Harris
Head of Information and Digital Resources

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