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A Different Light: Finding Great LGBT Lit

A couple of weeks ago, I was drawing up a list of YA novels featuring LGBTQ characters for the library where I work. As I worked on the list, I realized that figuring out which books had LGBTQ themes was a little trickier than I’d first imagined: a quick catalog search for something like “gay and teen” only turned up a few titles, even though I knew there were more on the shelves, and eventually I got sick of coming up with alternative search terms (“queer and ya,” “lesbian and teen,” “transgender” … you get the picture). It turns out that searching the catalog isn’t the best way to find LGBTQ books. Luckily, there are some great resources available that are much quicker and more user-friendly. You can always just Google, of course, but these blogs, lists, and awards are a quick, easy way to find queer-friendly  books to add to your bookshelf.

Awards & Selected Lists:

Although YALSA doesn’t have a queer-specific award, YALSA’s parent organization, the American Library Association, does! In fact, they have a whole family of LGBT awards called the Stonewall Awards. The award for YA books is officially called the Stonewall Book Award-Mike Morgan & Larry Romans Children’s & Young Adult Literature Award, but it’s usually just referred to as the Stonewall. This year the award went to Putting Makeup on the Fat Boy, and four honor titles were named: a+e 4ever, Money Boy, Pink, and with or without you. You can also check out the list of previous winners to find wonderful reads from previous years.

Another ALA-sponsored resource is the Rainbow List. It’s a joint project between the GLBTRT (that’s the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Round Table!) and the Social Responsibilities Roundtable. Every year, the Rainbow Project Committee compiles a list of great LGBT fiction for children and teens. You can check out the 2012 list to see the committee’s most recent picks, or browse older lists to find books you might have missed when they were published.

The Lamda Literary Foundation, which “nurtures, celebrates, and preserves LGBT literature” also gives an annual award for Children’s/YA literature. The list of previous winners and finalists also contains the winners and finalists for many, many other categories, so be warned! It’s a long page, but the YA stuff is on there and it’s worth searching for.

Blogs

If there’s a topic, there’s a blog, and LGBT YA is no exception, thankfully!

QueerYA is a book review blog written by Daisy Porter, a public librarian in San Jose. She focuses on “fiction of interest to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, queer, and questioning teenagers.” It goes all the way back to 2009 and it has a great search feature that allows you to filter by character: looking for a book featuring a transgender character? How about a biracial one? Daisy’s blog lets you search that way, as well as by genre, author, and other traits. Very useful!

I’m Here, I’m Queer, What the Hell Do I Read? covers general LGBT news of interest to teens: there are books, but also videos, news items, and information about scholarship contests, for example. Down the left side of the page is a loooooong list of books, separated into categories like “Books featuring Gay Teen Characters/Themes” and “Books on Family and Friends of GLBTQ” characters. The format of the book review posts is a little different from many other blogs: the post itself is summary-orientetd, and readers are encouraged to post their own reviews in the comments. If you want to have a conversation about a book, this blog is a good place to start.

Author pages

YA authors are great at using social media to connect with their readers, and authors of LGBTQ YA are no exception. Authors Alex Sanchez and Malinda Lo both have great lists of LGBT reads on their respective websites. Many other authors who write about LGBT issues have sections on their websites devoted to resources for gay teens or their own experiences being gay (check out Brent Hartinger’s page for an example). QueerYA, mentioned above, has an almost exhaustive list of writers who write or have written LGBT YA; it’s a good starting place if you’re interested in one particularly author.

No need to turn to the wild world of Google results–these resources should lead to some great books!

— Emily Calkins, currently reading The Way We Fall by Megan Crewe

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