An Updated Graphic Guide to LGBTQ YA Literature for Pride Month

Nearly two years ago, I made this graphic guide to LGBTQ titles in order to give an overview of the variety of YA literature that features queer characters, from coming out stories to sci-fi adventures. Campaigns like We Need Diverse Books have brought even more attention to the need for diversity in children’s publishing, as well as called for more books that feature characters with intersecting identities.

I’m happy to say all of this means that the graphic was in need of an update. There have been lots of new titles published, and I wanted to make it more comprehensive (though by all means, still not exhaustive).

These books aren’t necessarily right for every reader, and don’t constitute the best, or the only, LGBTQIA+ fiction for young adults available. But it is a good starting off point for those interested in exploring the way these identities are portrayed in YA fiction. In some, the LGBTQ characters are the narrators, and in others, they are more supporting characters.  Continue reading An Updated Graphic Guide to LGBTQ YA Literature for Pride Month

46th Annual Arbuthnot Honor Lecture: Brian Selznick Explores Queerness & The Family in Children’s Books

IMG_2422On Friday evening Brian Selznick delivered the 46th Annual Arbuthnot Honor lecture at Martin Luther King Jr. Library in downtown Washington, D.C.  to a packed house of hundreds of librarians, educators, and youth literature aficionados.  This lecture series was established in 1969 to honor May Hill Arbuthnot, educator, children’s literature critic, professor, and author of both the famous Dick & Jane books and the seminal textbook, Children and Books.  In her introduction, Sue McCleaf Nespeca, chair of the 2015 Arbuthnot Honor Lecture Committee, described their reasons for selecting Mr. Selznick as this year’s lecturer, citing both his groundbreaking The Invention of Hugo Cabret and his powerful speeches in the wake of that book’s awards.  His lecture, titled “Love Is A Dangerous Angel: Thoughts on Queerness and Family in Children’s Books,” promised to be a thrilling additional contribution to children’s literature–and indeed, it was.

Brian Selznick, dressed in a snappy navy blue paisley suit and black bowtie, stepped on stage and thanked his family (including his mother & husband, both in attendance), friends, co-workers, editors, and, finally, the ASL interpreters for the evening, to whom he spoke and signed his gratitude and advance apologies for speaking quickly.  His humor and personalized acknowledgements set the tone for the evening.

hugo_intro_cover2He opened his lecture with a quote from the late Maurice Sendak, who gave the Arbuthnot lecture in 2003.  Mr. Selznick noted that Sendak is his “great hero” and when Hugo was awarded the Caldecott Medal, he was especially thrilled that the award would forever link his name to Sendak’s–an honor that the Arbuthnot lecture enriches further.  To begin, he read out the six sections of the first chapter in May Hill Arbuthnot’s Children & Books.  He used these section titles to structure his lecture, artfully intertwining his evolving understanding of his own identity and his career with his thoughts on the shifting visions of queerness and families in children’s books. Continue reading 46th Annual Arbuthnot Honor Lecture: Brian Selznick Explores Queerness & The Family in Children’s Books

Summer Lovin’ : Recent YA Books To Satisfy Your Inner Romantic

Image: "Untitled" by talitafreak, used under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
Image: “Untitled” by talitafreak, used under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

For many, summer will always be associated with vacation–and vacation reading habits.  And just as we each have an ideal vacation, so too do we have personal definitions of vacation reading. As a generally omnivorous reader, I’ll fill my suitcase and e-reader with anything from favorite mystery series to thrilling high fantasy novels.

However, even I must admit that there is something about love stories that makes them particularly well suited for vacation reading.  It might be inherent optimism in love stories–even those lacking a tidy, happy ending.  They revolve around the belief that human connection is meaningful, fragile, and precious; what could be a more encouraging? Happily, the last few months have produced several rich and varied titles perfect for readers seeking a good love story to dive into this summer.

everything leads to youEverything Leads To You – Nina LaCour

When her older brother offers her his apartment for the summer, ambitious young set designer Emi can hardly believe her luck; it’s the perfect place for Emi & her best friend Charlotte to spend their final pre-college summer together.  But Toby hands over the keys with one condition: they must do something epic in their temporary home.  Then Emi discovers a mysterious letter at an estate sale and the resulting scavenger hunt leads her to Ava.  Ava is different from anyone Emi has ever met and their immediate connection is undeniable and electric.  But life-long romantic Emi hasn’t had the best luck in love and Ava has a painful history of her own. Can Emi & Ava find the way to their own Hollywood happy ending? Will Emi’s fulfill her brother’s challenge by falling in love–or tumbling into heartbreak? (LaCour was named a 2010 Morris Award Finalist for her debut novel, Hold Still.)

Tgeography of you and mehe Geography of Us – Jennifer E. Smith 

In this next story of unusual meetings and communication mishaps, solitary bookworm & native New Yorker Lucy and grief-stricken, recent city transplant Owen find their lives unexpectedly colliding when a city-wide blackout strands them in the elevator of their apartment building.  Following their rescue, Lucy & Owen explore the powerless city’s strange wonderland together.  But when the power returns, their very separate realities come rushing back, tugging them apart.  Lucy’s globe-trotting parents move her to Edinburgh just as Owen and his father decide to hit the road, searching for a new life in the wake of his mother’s death.  But Lucy & Owen can’t shake their connection and through postcards, emails, text messages, & attempted reunions, the two teens navigate life, love, and the true meaning of home. Continue reading Summer Lovin’ : Recent YA Books To Satisfy Your Inner Romantic

Is This Just Fantasy?: LGBTQ+ Speculative Fiction

Just Fantasy LGBTQ+ spec ficAs this recurring feature on The Hub clearly indicates, I love fantasy fiction.  But even a fan like myself must acknowledge that the genre has limitations, especially in terms of diversity.  Speculative fiction has remained a fairly white, cis-gendered, & straight world for a long time.  The fact that there seem to be more dragons and robots than LGBTQ+ characters in fantasy & sci-fi novels is shameful and disheartening, especially to the genres’ LGBTQ+ fans.  So in celebration of LGBT Pride Month, I set out to overview the current status of LGBTQ+ representation in young adult fantasy and science fiction.

High Fantasy

ash_malindalo_500For readers interested in issues of diversity & representation in speculative fiction, Malinda Lo is one of the most exciting authors and insightful bloggers out there.  Her work is also the perfect introduction to high fantasy featuring LGBTQ+ characters.  For readers favoring fairy tale retellings, Malinda Lo’s Ash (2010 Morris Award Finalist, 2014 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults) is an ideal romantic read. In this delicate Cinderella story, an orphaned young woman seeks escape from pain in the promises of a dark fairy but begins to question her choice when she falls in love with the king’s huntress.  Meanwhile, readers looking for quest narratives featuring complex heroines should pick up Lo’s Huntress (2012 Best Fiction for Young Adults, 2012 Rainbow List, 2012 Amelia Bloomer List), which follows the journey of two very different young women as they attempt to restore balance to the world–and understand their intense connection.  Continue reading Is This Just Fantasy?: LGBTQ+ Speculative Fiction

Season of Pride: A Roundup of LGBTQ YA Lit

"I love in rainbow." Courtesy of Flickr user D. Sharon Pruitt (Purple Sherbet Photography)
“I love in rainbow.” Courtesy of Flickr user D. Sharon Pruitt (Purple Sherbet Photography)

Almost a year ago, I was sitting in a ballroom in Chicago, watching Benjamin Alire Sáenz deliver a moving, and deeply personal speech during the Printz Award reception. Like most of the people there, I was listening intently and reaching up, at times, to brush away tears. Though his fellow awardees also presented beautifully eloquent remarks, it was Sáenz’s words that left a lasting impression on me. He referred to himself as a “cartographer” who, in Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe (2013 Stonewall Book Award, 2013 Printz Honor, 2013 Best Fiction for Young Adults Top Ten, and Pura Belpre Author Award), created a “roadmap…for boys who were born to play by different rules.”

During Sáenz’s speech, I thought about my friend, Julian, and his struggles during our teens.  Jules was just starting to come to terms with his sexuality – the summer before our senior year, he told me that he was pretty certain that he was gay.  Growing up during the 1980s-90s in a middle class suburb of Los Angeles, with a predominantly Latino population, we didn’t really have access to the wealth of queer resources that are freely available today. Also, people simply didn’t talk about those things (unless it was to make some tasteless, hurtful joke). So it was hardly a surprise that he bided his time, waiting until college to come out and be himself completely. After reading  Aristotle and Dante, I sent Julian a text, begging him to pick it up. I said, “This is the book you needed to read at 16.” It took him a while, but he finally read it and wrote me this message: “Thank you for recommending this book so many months ago. It made me laugh from the first few pages. I’ve been savoring every page as it pulls me in and reminds me of the awkwardness and possibilities of adolescence.”

June is Pride Month, which celebrates the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community and affirms their right to live visibly in dignity and equality. In honor of Pride, I want to share some amazing LGBTQ novels (some of which aren’t out yet, but you’ll want to add them to your to-read pile) that had me laughing and crying all over the place. Continue reading Season of Pride: A Roundup of LGBTQ YA Lit

Celebrating Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month: The Indian-American Experience in YA Lit

Nataraja
Shiva as Lord of Dance (Nataraja), Chicago Institute of Art. Photograph taken by L. Nataraj

A few weeks ago, I was lamenting the closing down of one of my favorite restaurants in San Diego. I’m almost embarrassed to admit how choked up it made me feel, but hear me out: This particularly eatery was so important to me because 1) It was the only place nearby that served the authentic South Indian cuisine I grew up eating and, 2) It’s where my husband and I grabbed lunch after our courthouse wedding nine years ago.

For years, my husband and I made the 30-minute drive to Madras Cafe – it would usually be packed with Indian families (many of whom were South Indian like mine). While perusing the menu, I would take comfort in being surrounded by the familiar strains of Tamil or Telugu – the languages spoken by my father and mother, respectively. The walls were also plastered with faded photographs of temples in the southern part of India, and food was served on traditional stainless steel dinnerware.

Because my parents live in Northern California, this place was the closest I could come to my mother’s home cooked meals. More than all of this, this restaurant represented a space where I belonged, and where I was not an outsider. This sense of belonging also applies to my feelings about diversity in literature – I continue to search for books in which I find my personal cultural experiences accurately mirrored. Discovering a story where the characters eat the same food as I do, pepper their English-dialogue with Indian language, and express the frustration of straddling two cultures elicits an internal sigh, like, “Finally! Someone else gets it!”

The month of May marks Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month, and I’m excited to share a few YA literature titles that focus on the Indian-American experience and/or Indian culture.  Continue reading Celebrating Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month: The Indian-American Experience in YA Lit

The Time I Cried All Over David Levithan (Or: Representation Matters)

We talk a lot about the importance of representation here at The Hub. Your friendly neighborhood bloggers are incredibly passionate about the ways in which YA literature is not only capable of expanding horizons, but of affirming the existence of teens who might otherwise not see themselves reflected in media-whether it’s because they’re a person of color, or gay, or trans, or all of the above, or whether they are simply just going through a difficult time.

Now I want to tell you a story.

Picture, if you will, the year 2003. It was a different time. Cropped tops were worn to display pierced belly buttons, not over structured high-waisted pants. Teens on the Internet mostly frequented blogging sites like Xanga or Livejournal. Most of us still didn’t have cell phones. We had not yet begun to make “fetch” happen (by the way, Happy 10th anniversary, Mean Girls!). And the LGBT young adult literature scene was a delicate, fledgling baby bird.

boy meets boy2003 was also the year David Levithan’s Boy Meets Boy came out. I was almost a freshman in high school. I wore studded belts, wanted to dye my hair purple, wrote really sad poetry, and had just recently [spoiler alert] watched Tara Maclay die on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, although I believe this episode had aired about two years prior. Tara was the first lesbian character I had ever seen who wasn’t straight off the pages of a Virginia Wolf novel (I was a precocious kid), who talked and looked like most other girls on television but just so happened to be gay.

And she died.  Continue reading The Time I Cried All Over David Levithan (Or: Representation Matters)

LGBTQ Parents in YA Novels

A much-needed discussion about the representation of the LGBTQ community is growing in the YA world. Author Malindo Lo does an amazing job of putting a spotlight on the issue by creating a yearly list of published LGBT YA titles and The Hub’s own Molly Wetta put together an impressive guide last year of YA novels with LGBTQ characters. This building conversation and one Stephanie Perkins book later left me wondering where the LGBTQ parents were hiding in the YA world.

Courtesy of Flickr user lewishamdreamer
Courtesy of Flickr user lewishamdreamer

Family relationships are a huge part of young adult literature because of what an important part they are to teens’ lives. Your parents (or lack their of) and the struggle to come to terms with their flaws is a major part of growing up. Parents are pretty much the anchors of your universe, so seeing these relationships and familial conflicts play out in a YA novel is necessary, needed, and in no way restricted to families with heterosexual parents.

So where are the LGBTQ parents in our YA books? With over 7 million LGBTQ parents that have school-aged children in the United States , it’s a question I hope more people will be asking our YA literature community soon, because right now there are too few titles out there representing these families.

This list is by no means comprehensive and did take the full force of my fellow Hub bloggers to help me put together. I tried to stick to books where the parents seemed like more fully-formed characters in the story, as opposed to purely background players. Read on for our guide to main characters in YA novels with LGBTQ parents: Continue reading LGBTQ Parents in YA Novels