This post is a reader’s response to a book read for the 2013 Hub Reading Challenge. I was a teen of the 90s. Memories of…
Tag: emily m. danforth
The LGBT community is a vibrant one: full of quirks, humor, the best parades around, and a passionate fight for civil rights. But YA literature published today doesn’t always represent the full spectrum of that community or the full amount. The author Malinda Lo, who does a yearly survey of the number of YA books published with LGBTQ main characters, points out that there’s really not that many LGBTQ YA books published every year. This year? 55 out of the 3,325 new releases had LGBTQ main characters. That comes out to comes to 1.6%.
It’s not a huge number and, in my experience, it’s not always the most joyful. Two of my new favorite LGBTQ books, The Miseducation of Cameron Post and The Sin-Eater’s Confession, were amazing, but they weren’t necessarily beach reads. Of course coming out can be a huge undertaking, and just like coming of age for any teen, it can be difficult. So in some ways this angst that comes naturally to the genre works well, but the teens I have worked with and talk to want more. They want LGTBQ characters who are true, rich, and unique. Yes, they want to read coming out stories because that is something that they are struggling with, but they also want to read stories where gay is okay, where gay is great and loved. Some teens may feel that while there are issues to be solved, they are loved and happy. They want books to reflect their loved and happy status.
Happy Pride Month! What parades are you all attending? I’m going to be at Denver Pride on June 15 and NYC Pride on June 30th, and I’m debating if I can get away with wearing the same outfit to both.
While October is important because it is LGBT history month, June is the month where literally thousands of LGBT folks and their allies take over your neighborhood’s downtown area to celebrate ourselves, which is awesome. In honor of that, here are my favorite LGBT YA novels for you to take to the beach, or wave around like a flag as you march in a parade. It’s up to you!
Of the novels that have come out (see what I did there?) this year, my favorites are David Levithan’s Two Boys Kissing and Bill Konigsberg’s Openly Straight. Levithan’s novel is about two boys who decide to break a new world record for kissing, and the story is “narrated” by a chorus of gay men who have lost their lives to AIDS. Openly Straight is lighter but no less complex fare: a boy who is sick of being tokenized as The Gay Kid decides to stay in the closet when he moves to a new school. I especially appreciate Openly Straight because while bullying and homophobia are addressed frequently in literature, tokenization is more complex and not discussed nearly as often.
One of the best lesbian novels I’ve read recently is The Miseducation of Cameron Post by emily m. danforth (a 2013 Morris Award finalist). I’m a sucker for lesbians in rural settings (Far from Xanadu by Julie Anne Peters is a book I love of the same variety), and what’s nice about danforth’s story is that while it deals with homosexual conversion camps and other bleak issues, the narrator is witty and the novel is fun to read, something that can’t be said for a lot of other lesbian novels (why can’t we have nice things?).
A year and a half ago, I relocated from Southern California to Moscow, Russia. Since I do not speak or read Russian, I accepted that my book needs would not be satisfied through local bookstores for the most part. This certainly has not stopped me from exploring the shelves here when given the chance, though, and I have been surprised by some of what I have found there.
I had my first American YA sighting shortly after I arrived. While checking out the book section of a hypermarket, I was surprised to see Cassandra Clare’s City of Ashes face-out on one of the shelves. Despite the Russian text, it was easy to spot since the cover art was the same, with a fierce-looking Clary beyond the cityscape. I found City of Bones and City of Glass next to it and, over the next few months, I visited her books there more than once, just to see something familiar and recognizable.
Identity — who we are, how we become those people — is a central theme in lots of YA novels. Given what Claire Gross calls the “still-in-progress audience” of YA literature, the prevalence of questions surrounding identity is not surprising. Two recent articles examining queer* YA were published recently: “What Makes a Good YA Coming-out Novel?” by Claire Gross in The Horn Book and “A New Way for Gay Characters in Y.A.” in The Atlantic Wire‘s YA for Grownups series. Although they’re written from different perspectives and with different questions in mind, both delve into the importance of identity in queer YA. Maybe this is unsurprising too; after all, “sexual identity” is often used as synonym for “sexual orientation.” What struck me in the articles, however, was the authors’ focus on the importance other parts of identity, parts of identity not related to who and how a character loves. Gross and Doll agree that good queer YA often focuses as much, if not more, on other questions of identity than it does on questions of sexual and gender identity. Sexual orientation may be a synonym for sexual identity, but a person’s identity is not defined solely by her sexual orientation. Gross and Doll recognize this and see the importance of it in queer YA different but complementary ways.
Katniss. Katsa. Tris. These seem to be names most commonly offered as examples of strong heroines in young adult fiction. Katniss, the protagonist of The Hunger Games, volunteers to take her sister’s place in the deadly Hunger Games, where she uses her intelligence and hunting skills to survive. Katsa, the hero of Graceling, is graced with the power to survive against all odds, making her the very definition of strength. Tris, the main character from Divergent, conquers her own fears and joins the Dauntless faction, where physical strength and courage are the paramount values.
These characters are all strong, in their own way, and their stories are all compelling and exciting. When so many forms of media are dominated by men and masculinity, I love that in the world of young adult fiction, there are so many examples of strong female characters. It’s awesome there are so many action-packed novels where it’s the girls who are saving the day.
Katniss, Katsa, and Tris are undeniably excellent examples of strong heroines in young adult fiction. But they aren’t the only ones. In honor of Women’s History Month, I’d like to offer some suggestions of contemporary, realistic, and historical young adult fiction with strong female protagonists.
I think it’s official now: 2012 was a pretty great year for LGBTQ themes in the young adult literature world. In December, I looked at the LGBTQ titles included on this year’s “Best Of” lists. LGBTQ titles still represent a pretty small percentage of YA literature, but it’s a growing percentage, and readers looking for books featuring LGBTQ characters have more to choose from than ever before. More encouragingly, readers looking for LGBTQ books will find them on the awards and selected lists released in January after many months of hard work by committee members.
The natural first place to look for wonderful LGBTQ books is the Stonewall Awards. After all, the award (not administered by YALSA, but administered by ALA and included in the 2013 Hub Challenge reading list, so included here) recognizes “exceptional merit relating to the gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender experience.” This year’s committee named a winner and four honor titles, and I’ll come back to those books in a moment.
What’s really exciting about this year is that there are plenty of LGBTQ books found on other awards and selected lists as well.
This morning, the winners and honor books for ALA’s Youth Media Awards were announced to an enthusiastic crowd in Seattle during ALA’s Midwinter Meeting. Here are the YA titles that were recognized (children’s books recognized by these awards have been omitted from the list; find the full list of winners on ALA’s website):
Not signed up for YALSA’s 2013 Morris/Nonfiction Reading Challenge? Read the official rules and sign up on the original post. If you’re finished, fill out the form at the bottom of this post to let us know!
It’s only been three weeks since my last check-in, and well, not much has changed. My work life has become very chaotic with a couple of retirements, running a winter reading program, my teens having three weeks off at winter break (and spending most of it in the library), and summer reading program planning.
This flurry of activity means that by the time I get home I just want to sit and stare at the bright shiny things and images on my television. Lame? Probably, but it’s how I am coping with all the changes that my library is and will be going through. And have I mentioned summer reading program planning? Even my Goodreads account is mocking me by telling me how behind I am on my goal.