Tuesday, April 11, 2017

LGBTQA+ YA

Students are to post one response (min 350 words) to the readings linked belowStudents are encouraged (but not required) to additionally respond to other student reactions.

A New Way for Gay Characters in YA by Jenn Doll: Scholastic Publisher and Editorial Director David Leviathan (the same Levithan behind Two Boys Kissing, Invisibility, and 2003's Boy Meets Boy) told me that the environment for gay characters in Y.A. literature has indeed changed remarkably in the past 10 years. "For so many years, so many characters have been defined by their sexuality—they're 'gay'; we don't have to give them any other characteristics," he says. "But gay characters and gay kids have lots of other things going on. No one is just this one thing." In these new books, being gay or bi or lesbian or transgendered is wrapped up in conversations of identity that often transcend sexuality, and ask what happens beyond acknowledgment, coming out, and even generalized acceptance of one's choices."

A Graphic Guide to LGBTQ YA Literature (from coming out stories to sci-fi adventures). 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. Click HERE to visit the page.

Malinda Lo is the author of the young adult novels Ash, Huntress, Adaptation, and Inheritance. Ash was a finalist for the William C. Morris YA Debut Award, the Andre Norton Award for YA Science Fiction and Fantasy, the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award, and was a Kirkus Best Book for Children and Teens. She has been a three-time finalist for the Lambda Literary Award. Malinda’s nonfiction has been published by The New York Times Book Review, NPR, The Huffington Post, The Toast, The Horn Book, and AfterEllen. Malinda is co-founder with Cindy Pon of Diversity in YA, a project that celebrates diversity in young adult books. Over the past several years she's written a lot about YA with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender characters or issues. Click here for the index of her LGBT posts. Read two.
Pick one author/book highlighted in any of the above posts/articles/etc. and read an excerpt (excerpts can be had by Googling the book title and the word "excerpt," or finding the book on Amazon and clicking "Look Inside.")

25 comments:

Becky Clark said...

LGBTQ books are extremely important in YA literature because this is the time that teens are exploring their sexuality and coming out. In 2014, according to Lo, mainstream publishers published 47 LGTB YA books. More and more books are continuing to come out about different love interests. Books can be something teens relate to and use to help understand their own feelings. For kids who are straight, “it makes them question the boxes they put each other in.” I really like this quote from the Atlantic article because a lot of people make the assumption that books with LGTBQ characters are only for people in that community. It is important that everyone enjoys these books because it teaches teens about people who are different than them and how to accept them for who they are.

I am happy to see that there are more genres of YA featuring LGBTQ characters. I was most surprised to see there are historical YA with LGBTQ characters. Generally, I hate romance YA books where the main plot revolves around love interests and find them boring whether the relationship is hetero or homosexual. I find I tend to stay away from books solely labeled as a “gay novel” or a “lesbian novel” because I assume there is going to be teen romance in them and that will be the main focus. Malinda Lo’s post on labels for books made me change my view with her saying “it’s important to remember that the book is more than the label applied to it.” This is something that is important looking at anything with a label to remember that there is more than just what the label states. I want to read The You I’ve Never Known by Ellen Hopkins. It is on the Barnes and Noble list for most anticipated LGBTQA books and seems like it is more than just teen romance. Something I would like to see in the future is more mainstream books not about finding one’s identity or a love story featuring gay characters. Ideally, I want books where LBGTQ characters are just there and accepted like the straight ones.

Ryan Allen said...

The main thing that jumped out at me was the fact that 47 mainstream publishers released LGBT YA books a few years ago. It got me thinking about how unthinkable such a prospect would've been just ten years prior. I think that's a very encouraging indicator of how acceptance and open mindedness are progressing throughout society as a whole. And it only gets better, because the more these books and these conversations come into the mainstream, the more uninformed people have a desire to be informed. LGBT or not, any vehicle for the questioning and reconsidering of past prejudices is a victory.

Becky's comment about hopefully having LGBT characters treated normally was interesting to me. The transition from where we are now to that is going to be just as fast as the one involving the number of mainstream LGBT releases, if not faster. Of course, that's a bigger transition, and a more encompassing level of acceptance and normalization, but still. I think people's perspectives about this general area are going to progress at a continually accelerated pace, and not too long from now, the LGBT distinction itself will become unnecessary. I think some of that progression has to (and will) come from high school and college english courses that use these books to get young people thinking about the way they've been thinking.

Marina Martinez said...

“A New Way for Gay Characters in Y.A.” by Jen Doll was spot on. I agree that many books will try to characterize gay characters solely by the fact that they are gay. I like how newer books are adding more to the characters identities than that. I also really liked Callin talking about how prejudiced people make being gay about sex and not about falling in love. It really shows that love is love and pure, no matter who is attracted to who. Additionally, Levithan is completely right that a gay couple kissing on the cover of a novel should be accepted just as a straight couple would be. Also, there definitely does need to be more diversity with the gay couples that are represented.

“An Updated Graphic Guide to LGBTQ YA Literature for Pride Month” was really cool. I think it would help people to find characters and stories they identify with easily or want to learn about. I think it’s a good starting point for anyone who wants to look at different LGBTQ characters and identities.

“My Guide to LGBT YA” by Malinda Lo was very cool. I like how she had everything well organized and easy to find. I especially like the writing advice column because it opens the discussion on stereotypes, which is needed. I also liked that there is advice like “Writing about lesbians when you’re not a lesbian” or “Taking the homophobia out of fantasy” because those are things an author may not necessarily be aware of or consider that are very important. I also really like the Guest Post section because it felt very original and though provoking.

“23 of Our Most Anticipated LGBTQA YA Books of 2017” had some good points about how although there is progress in adding diversity and representation to stories there is still a long way to go. LGBTQ has definitely became more frequent in books this year, which is promising. The books listed all looked very interesting and affordable. I liked that the synopsis and cover photo for each story was also featured in the article. I read an excerpt from “10 Things I Can See From Here” by Carrie Mac and liked the way that Maeve’s anxiety is written about and is part of her identity.

Leah Usefara said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Leah Usefara said...

I've actually read so many of these books. I didn't know some of them were actually LGBT books too. Some of them (I forgot which specifically) were just fantasy books in that section, away from the LGBT section in Borders years ago. The main point of the story was the fantasy and not the MC's sexuality.
I'm happy that LGBT characters are becoming more common in TV too. I know that Kora in the Legend of Korra romances another girl (they both dated the same boy in the first season) and were originally planning on having them kiss in the end, but Nickelodeon wouldn't let them so they just left the two ambiguously holding hands and staring into each other's eyes. I kind of like the subtle presence of sexuality though because the story was concentrated on adventure and war. However, a great part of the series with Kora and the previous series with Aang, the previous Avatar, are the characters and their relationships. We go along with them, we experience their lives, we care about these characters as they evolve and not just their participation in a war. I feel like we should know if our MC has romantic feelings for someone else so we can further understand them and their actions
Oh I forgot the authors. Alright, I read Openly Straight a few years ago and felt sad and frustrated by the end. Then again, it was because I felt sad for the character and frustrated at the romantic interest. **SPOILER** The MC keeps his sexuality under wraps and pretended to be straight in order to avoid being labeled. However, he falls for another boy who likes him back, but says he's straight. When the MC said he's gay the other boy gets mad that the MC betrayed him and told him he thought they were working out their sexuality together and thought the MC felt as much confusion and desperation as him. I understand the interest felt betrayed, but he shouldn't have cut the MC off like that and work out his emotions. I guess the point of the story was that you shouldn't lie and keep your identity in secret or you'll make people feel betrayed, but should also be more understanding and not label others. Maybe. I don't know. It's been years.

jaclyn liccone said...


I think LGBTQ books serve as a source of guidance for young adults in their time of need. In the YA years, kids are figuring out who they are and where life will take them. Kids usually are able to come out around this age. If they have a community in LGBTQ books, it could help them by giving them support in one of the hardest times in their lives. Just as Lo mentioned, by 2014, there were already 47 LGTB YA books that publishers got out there and ever since this point, there has only been an increase in these books. I like how the Atlantic article pointed out that no matter if you are part of the LGTB community or not, you can read the related books. It’s important for people of all kinds to understand sexuality and the discussions it could bring about in the world.

It’s crazy how much the world has changed in the past 10-15 years or so. If we were back 15 years, this LGBT community would not even be remotely the same or maybe not even exist in the same way, because it was not easily accepted as okay in society back then. I think it is great that LGBT characters in books are holding strong reputations in a positive way because I think that’s what kids who are reading the books are looking for in the first place. However, I do like how the article “23 of Our Most Anticipated LGBTQA YA Books of 2017” mentioned that even with the improvement of making diversity integrated more and more into books and the LGBT community, there is still a lot of room for improvement. But I feel like this is the same with everything in life. This idea of a movement has to start somewhere and I think YA books in the LGBT community and characters that are represented in them will only continue to grow stronger and making a bigger impact on society and LGBTQ.

Katie Steely-Brown said...

I believe it is very important for the LGBTQ community to be represented in young adult literature. The period of a young person’s life in middle school and high school are very influential years. Teens are discovering new interests and their personalities, and literally discovering who they are, and they need as much freedom as possible to be able to explore parts of their personalities like their sexuality. A teen who is going through the discovery process of realizing they are LGBTQ may not have support from the people in their lives, may not have many sources of information on the LGBTQ community, and may not even be able to safely find a supportive community (it might not be possible to attend supportive school groups if they do not want to come out, internet groups may be discovered and tracked by parents who use or check their kid’s computers, ect.) YA lit books with LGBTQ characters provide an easy and safe way for a teen to feel understood, and to feel represented and not alone in the world.
Because of this, however, it is essential that the LGBTQ characters in the books are not defined by their sexualities. LGBTQ teens in real life are not defined by their sexualities, but may feel like it because of an unsupportive school or town community — if they are out, they may feel the frustration of just being known as “the gay kid in school,” and knowing that people other than their close friends do not pay attention to much else about them. Because of this, YA books with LGBTQ characters who are flat characters other than their sexualities are terrible for teens to read. An good example of a book that defies this is John Green’s book “Will Grayson, Will Grayson,” a book in which one of the main characters and secondary characters are gay, but both have different, unique, and interesting personalities. In contrast, the second main character, who is straight, is actually very boring, average, and predictable.
In the future, I hope the trend of authors including diverse characters in their books such as characters on the LGBTQ spectrum continues, and I hope they continue writing them as real people, and not ostracizing LGBTQ readers looking for representation by making the characters unrelatable.

Melissa Cecchini said...

As much as I think including LGBTQ characters in YA literature is important for teens who are in those years of finding themselves, I think it's even more important for teens who have already found themselves. We are surrounded by people who want to be sensitive towards people in that community because they don't know how to properly act around people that are different from them. Right now we live in a society where the LGBTQ community is not just another accepted part of culture, they still are considered outsiders. It's made perfectly clear that it's okay for them to be who they are, but they are still labelled as different. So YA literature is important because it's a space where LGBTQ people can feel absolutely normal. My favorite kind of book is one where the main focus isn't on POC characters or queer characters, rather these characters are simply part of the larger plot. For example, I chose to read an excerpt from "The Darkest part of the Forest" by Holly Black, because she's an author I'm familiar with and who I enjoy. The excerpt followed a party that the main character was at, and it mentioned her missing her brother, who was on a date with a man he met online. It wasn't a big deal to anyone in the story, it was simply mentioned in passing between her and the Fae she was talking too. This fantasy book about fairies and magic just happened to include a gay character, something that probably means so so much to the little boy reading this who can now see himself having these fantastic adventures which were once closed off to him because none of the characters were like him.
And now, don't get me wrong. I think books that also focus directly on LGTBQ characters and their lives and struggles are also very important. Because as much as people in that community want to feel normal, they also want to feel like they aren't alone in their struggles. And finding a character in a book who's going through the same things they are is so magical because the reader reaches this happy ending and it gives them hope that their own struggles can be resolved and they can get on with their life as well.

Aishik Mukherjee said...

In Jen Doll’s article “A New Way for Gay Characters in Y.A.” she speaks of the rise of homosexual characters in Young Adult fiction. She outlines this progression quoting David Levithan when he says ‘ “ If 2003 was the sea change year for gay Y.A., in which the world did not end because there were lots of gay”’. This would have been a change that my, at the time, eight-year old self could not identify, being ignorant not only to the year in which this change happened but also to the fact there was a change. Levithan then speaks of the significance that 2013 brought; "For so many years, so many characters have been defined by their sexuality—they're 'gay'; we don't have to give them any other characteristics," he says. "But gay characters and gay kids have lots of other things going on. No one is just this one thing”. This forced a question; did Y. A. literature adapt to the mindset of American society or was it the other way around? The question might seem a tad chicken and egg, but it raises the point of the pragmatic side of the writing process. Parent and teachers are the gatekeepers of YA, without their nod these books would ferment in some cardboard box in a basement or an attic somewhere. Therefore the publishers couldn't possibly want to approve a book with themes of homosexuality knowing that the book would be sentenced to banishment, at a time when many Americans were against homosexuality. Were publishers, in the past, wary of this? Did they care? On the other hand, if homosexuality is not viewed favorably in much of the country, chances are the homosexual adolescents are afraid of ‘come out of the closet’, share their true self with the world. This leads to towns with a lower falsified numbers of homosexuals than the actual proportion of homosexuality would indicate. In such a town, could a child who picked up the book even relate to a homosexual character? Joy Peskin emphasizes “the effort to present a more realistic picture of the way kids live now” in such books. With this logic would presenting a gay muslim girl in a Y. A. book written during the 1960’s lead to any empathy from the audience. Does this sea-change in YA reflect the authors trying to connect with a changing world or a deeper understanding of sexuality within the gatekeepers?

Susan Lee said...

I’ve read a lot of YA but I’ve rarely come across characters who are part of the LGBTQ community. It was interesting to read this post because it focused solely on the characters that were part of this community. I’ve heard of Boy Meets Boy by David Leviathan and I heard it was an amazing book. I think the problem with this particular topic, especially in the YA genre is that people that typically read YA look for something that they can relate to. For me, I read YA to live through the characters but I was still looking for something that I could relate to. I think that is why I decided against reading that book.

However, I think that he is also right in saying that because it is not as common, it is easy for ‘gay’ to become a personality trait instead of just a factor. However, I definitely think that there needs to be more books within this community because representation is essential. Also some well-written books are interesting to read even if I can’t directly relate. Perhaps if there were more in this category it will gain much more traction.

I decided to read an excerpt about Boy Meets Boy because that was the book I had heard about before. I was really impressed with David Levithan’s writing style because it was unique and concise. There were also great lines such as ‘Boys who love boys flirt with girls who love girls’. I think it is kind of a trend these days to create lines that aren’t typical but are written in a matter-in-fact tone. I liked the way scenes were set up so that it was very realistic. It helps the reader really understand the relationships that they might not otherwise have experienced. There were a lot of memorable scenes in relation to that such as how it said 'He shakes my hand. I am touching his hand.' It's a very subtle scene but you can see that a crush is beginning to develop and it really engages the reader. After reading this excerpt I really want to finish the novel.

Michael Mintz said...

Writing about gay or lesbian characters in my opinion doesn’t really matter. If it is a romantic novel involving characters that are gay or lesbian, then writing about those type characters would be important plot points. Of course I myself can not really relate, though truthfully having a novel that isn’t a romantic one but action seems to be a bit over the top. Not to say the character can’t be gay or lesbian in the novels but it forces the writer to completely incorporate in the story adding another complicated point inside the story. Not to say that is impossible but it might confuse the readers as to say what is truly important in the story the character and his relationships or the actual plot. Though if your story is just about some misadventures then your character can be whatever you want them to be. In the end it is just a way to give personality to a character. Though being gay or lesbian, or trans-gender shouldn’t be the only personality of that character if you do that would make the character be boring and annoying. Like any other one-note characters. As for anything else it would seem to make a character gay or lesbian just to make them striking or different seems a bit wasteful. Instead it would better to make a character like that either to prove a point or to show hidden problems suffering from the community so others could relate. Such would allow a story to go far just by having an extremely relatable character even if it is gay or an alien from Felumar 98. As if you can make that character likeable and make people feel like they would do the same as that character in there position is a true mark of an amazing character. To make the reader fall into the character’s line of thinking and make them start agree with the character even if he is a serial killer like Dexter, or being confused with the character like Fight Club. Those types of characters make us think in ways we would usually never do before.

Rachel Westerbeke said...

Books featuring LGBTQ characters are very important, especially in Young Adult novels. As is described in “A New Way for Gay Characters in Y.A.” by Jen Doll, YA is often responsible for reflecting societal changes and perceptions in the eras that the respective novels describe. Walking through the YA section today, there are a lot more novels that feature protagonists who are part of the LGBTQ community, and as the issue of LGBTQ rights has been at the forefront of political discussion in recent history, it shows that YA does reflect the state of society at the time.
LGBTQ literature is important as it deals with a demographic that has historically been underrepresented. Publishing such literature not only gives those who identify with the characters someone to relate to, but opens up the minds of people who are different towards more accepting views of the LGBTQ community. Even though the conflicts that the protagonists encounter may not be events experienced by straight readers, they can present feelings and internal conflicts that allow any reader to relate to the problems faced.
Though it is important to have books that discuss the more mainstream conflicts of LGBTQ characters, emphasizing the sexuality of the characters may be detrimental to the image of the protagonist and the quality of the work. When we think of action novels that contain straight characters, we remember heroism and accomplishments as separate from their sexuality. Emphasizing too much on the sexuality of LGBTQ characters could harm their image by suppressing the important things that they accomplish. Their accomplishments and struggles should be emphasized the most and their sexuality indicated casually only to describe relationships with others. If authors can include their LGBTQ characters’ sexuality subtly as with straight characters, then the equal heroism and character of LGBTQ characters will be obvious and their defining feature will not be their sexuality. For example, in The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Patrick faces a significant conflict due to the inability of people to be accepting of his sexuality. However, the way Patrick is presented to the readers, his sexuality is not his defining features. His friendships with other characters and how he treats people are what define him.

Maggie Lu said...

LGBTQ is such an important topic to talk about in young adult books. It is usually not very common in books, so it is important to have books that address this topic. Most of the books I have read do not have any LGBTQ characters and I feel like this community should be represented more. Maybe it’s because these books are not “advertised” as much as other books that are more popular. Since teenage years are the time young readers are still trying to figure out who they are and what they identify as, LGBTQ books can allow people to relate to the people in the books, or just read and understand the life and perspective of someone else’s. Sometimes, the LGBTQ is not always accepted, so having books where this is perfectly fine can be very special. To know that someone is not alone and someone out there is going through the same thing can provide a sense of safety. These books may show that it is ok to be gay. We find ourselves in YA fiction because these are books that are relatable resonate with us -- we feel for and understand the main character’s struggles and we are able to put ourselves in their shoes as they go through life. The most important thing in reading the fictitious world is expanding our knowledge about different perspectives.
Author Malinda Lo states that there aren’t a lot of LGBT YA books being published and there is definitely room for growth and change. She recognizes that it if there is a lesbian character, then it is important for her to be the main character, not even a best friend to the main character. If not, then the character can easily be marginalized in the narrative. I strongly agree that these characters should be the center of their own stories.
From Barnes and Noble’s list of most anticipated LGBTQ YA books, one that I found very interesting “A Good Idea” by Cristina Moracho. The main character Finley put into a situation that can happen in any other book -- she and her best friend planned on going to college together until her friend drowns. She is bisexual and has relationships with both a boy and a girl. In this book, she was free to date who she wanted without people questioning her, and she is able to find out more about herself. How the author makes the book different is that there isn’t any uneasiness over the fact that the main character is attracted to both men and women, and doesn’t make this a big deal.

Louise McSorley said...

I really loved the Jen Doll article where Leviathan discussed writing novels where the characters are gay but that isn’t the only think they are. A lot of diverse books I’ve been seeing coming out that feature an LGBTQA+ element also have characters dealing with important issues like mental health or “typical” teen problems like bullying, family dysfunctions, and drug use. A novel where the main character is gay doesn’t have to be the overriding story, and I think that writing a novel that way does the community and your characters and injustice.

Branching out into other genres is also something I’ve seen that I really like. So often are novels that have sexually diverse characters contemporaries. There should be more inclusion in sc-fi, fantasy, and even historical novels. That’s why I was really happy to see the graphic list of YA novels that cross genres. The inclusion of graphic novels and memoirs was also a nice touch. I, admittedly, often forget about those.

Syeda Khaula Saad said...

I think that novels are one of the best ways to create a sense of representation, especially in the M.G. or Y.A. genre, because letting young adults or younger children see people like them as characters in a book, especially when they represent a marginalized ground (such as LGBTQ+), is beneficial to their understanding of themselves. I do agree with some of the points made in “A New Way for Gay Characters in Y.A.” about how representation of the LGBTQ+ community is improving in novels, but there is still work to do. I found it interesting that the article called for a shift in perspectives. Although most people would look to a LGBTQ+ based novel and expect it to be about someone’s journey to figuring themselves out or coming out, it is true that there is so much more to someone’s story than this. I was surprised to see that more LGBTQ+ authors wanted to make a character’s queerness seem like a secondary trait. I had never thought of it before like this, but it makes sense. Although coming-out stories and self-discovery stories are still necessary, as these are still true narratives to people today, it is important to recognize the other spectrum of this story. I liked hearing of a story where everyone was accepting of someone’s gayness, but the main character wanting to move somewhere where no one knows that he is gay because he does not want that to be his identifier. Just as no one gives heterosexuality a second glance, people want homosexuality to become a norm too.
But I feel a sort of downside to this. Because I do not identify with the LGBTQ+ community I cannot guarantee that this is correct, but I feel as though not recognizing this aspect of someone’s individuality is almost similar to the narrative of someone saying “I don’t see color.” It is our differences that make the best stories, and I don’t know if this “new way” would take away from that. Perhaps I would have to read one of these books that the article speaks about in order to fully grasp the consequences of books with these type of plots and perspectives.

Jenny Huang said...

Reading the Atlantic article “A New Way for Gay Characters in YA” reminded me of the struggle of any minority that appears in YA literature. A lot of the problems that come with portraying LGBTQ+ characters is seen with characters of different races – authors often have trouble making the character be more than their sexuality or race. The difficulty is having those characters step out of their zone as minor or side characters and move their way to the forefront, without having the focus be only on that one characteristic. Authors need to create characters that reflect individual personalities rather than a generalized culture. I like the ideas the article brings up, like how having more LGBTQ+ representation can help teens “question the boxes they put each other in” and queer kids accept who they are. I thought it was interesting that they brought up the issue of teens often being unable to distinguish love and lust, and how that issue plays into being queer, as people often think being ‘gay’ is about sex. I personally love David Levithan’s books and read Boy Meets Boy in middle school and thoroughly enjoyed it. I reread an excerpt of his and remembered how much I loved his writing style. I like the way he is so specific with his characters and really makes each one extremely distinct. He has a simple and straightforward way of writing that I admire as well. I like his perspective that having more exposure to same-sex couples kissing can also do a lot for the queer community. Of Malinda Lo’s blogposts, I read “Avoiding LGBTQ Stereotypes in YA Fiction, Part 1” and found that these stereotypes are so often used today that people dismiss them. People often say things like “he’s acting gay” when a man is slightly more feminine than the “norm,” or if a girl says she is bisexual, people often doubt that it is true. It is important for YA Fiction to depict characters that extend beyond those stereotypes. I also read Lo’s “Writing about lesbians when you’re not a lesbian” because I oftentimes find myself having this struggle. I don’t want to ever minimize the issues that LGBTQ+ individuals go through, but I do want to explore those ideas and relationships. I like that she gave sources to read and told the person sent in the question to do her research, because I think that’s always important in making things accurate. From The Hub Guide and the list from Barnes & Noble, it is wonderful to see the growth of the LGBTQ+ community in books. Teens need to be more exposed to these kinds of books so eventually it will be normalized and younger audiences won’t develop stigmas against the LGBTQ+ community. I think that goes along for any kind of media, to be honest, since teens are so exposed to books, but also the Internet and television. That’s why there is always such a large cry for more representation in media, because people often underestimate how much of an influence it can have on teens’ minds.

Samantha G said...

The Atlantic article titled, “A New Way for Gay Characters in Y.A.” brings to light the new novels that have LGBTQA characters and are doing a really great job at making them complex characters. In the past, the only characteristic of a gay character was that they are gay, but now, some novelists are complicating their characters. Though there is always still works to be done: Marisa Calin, author of Between You and Me, says, "The shift I'd like to see more of is the distinction between sexuality defined as who we want to sleep with versus who we love. Prejudiced people make an easy target of 'gay' being about sex, but I noticed the butterflies, the beating heart and the compulsive need to smile long before I had any idea what I wanted to do about it. Sex can be a secondary part of feeling the need to be close to someone you love." I would love to see this as well. Being gay isn’t always about sex, the same way that in a book about a heterosexual couple, they do many things before having sex. Another thing I would like to see more of is LGBTQA books where the characters are not middle class white gay boys!!! There are so many interesting intersectionalities of people and I would love to see those represented more.
Also, I completely disagree with Michael M.’s blog post. He writes, “As for anything else it would seem to make a character gay or lesbian just to make them striking or different seems a bit wasteful”. It may seem wasteful to a heterosexual male, because that is the dominant group. It’s what society considers “normal” so no one bats an eye to “someone” (read: heterosexual male) going on adventures to a far off land. The herteosexual male identity is lost because it’s so “normal”. We need to challenge those ideas. Can transgender people not go on adventures and write about them? Can gay women not fight crime and swing from ropes? Why do heterosexual males get the privilege of doing all of these fun things in novels, without anyone saying, “Hmmm his sexuality and gender really take away from this novel”.??

Other notes:
In 23 Anticipated LGBTQA YA books, all the book covers have a single person on it, unlike other YA novels where the characters hold hands or kiss. Major discrimination.

I thought it was interesting that Malinda Lo writes in her blog that 1.6% of YA books published in 2012 will include LGBT main characters.

I plan to use “An Updated Graphic Guide to LGBTQ YA Literature for Pride Month” in my future classroom and have ALL students read books by any identity they want.

Crystal Lam said...

After looking through these book lists, I realized that I have never read any of these books (possibly because I have not been to the library for a very long time). I noticed however that several authors were familiar and so I looked up Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld. I used to read many of his books in middle school and then reread them again in high school. In this novel, the writing is relatable to many young adults. For me, the Indian main character brings back memories of my very Asian town and my many Indian friends from school. The language was familiar and comfortable, something I did not expect from Westerfeld who is a white male. I have always liked his books because they show a variety of characters in fantastic situations. When Afterworlds showed up on the list of LGBTQ YA Literature, I was curious about what he would write about.
From the excerpt, readers will find that the first several pages (and chapters) do not throw the same-sex couples in your face. It is a slow build up with a realistic plot, something believable without being forced. For the LGBTQ community, it is really important that young people have literature that talks about gay couples openly. For every diversity group. teenagers need to feel part of something, not ostracized and alone. These books not only fill the quota of having a gay character in the story, they weave a great plot that everyone will enjoy reading. Young people are immersed in a culture where they learn about diverse situations in their own lives. As The Atlantic article says, novels need to show all types of diversity so that readers will be able to see these different stages through the characters. In Afterworlds, Westerfeld plays upon the Darcy and Elizabeth from Pride and Prejudice, taking their names and turning them both into female characters. Both the author and the character have their own journey, intertwining reality and the supernatural. This is a book meant for a large audience, young adults would pick up this novel without specifically thinking of who is was aimed towards.

Colleenie vonVorys-Norton said...

One of the most important things for young people is representation. This is especially true for minorities since all the see in main media is the dominant group being represented. This is especially true for LGBTQA+ community because they tend to be in families and communities where they are the only one. Having books like "Two Boys Kissing" or "Freakboy" in bookstores and libraries is revolutionary because it is creating a space in the heteronormative culture. Having these books make the young readers believe that they are not alone in what they think and feel. This is extremely powerful because it lets them feel normal and not damaged or broken. This is especially important when their sexuality or gender is a side plot to the story and not the main factor in the individual's life. Treating things like various sexual preferences as a side plot to a larger story shows that people should not be consumed in their sexual preferences and they are more than who they love or who they are attracted to.

Having these book in the larger media also normalizes for people not struggling with their sexual or gender identity. When kids are only exposed to heterosexual relationships they begin to believe that relationships are contained within the gender binary and that anything outside of it is wrong. By having them read stories about m/m or f/f it normalizes those relationships in their brains. Even more powerful then that is when they read about people who break the gender binary. Since gender is a social construct, it is ingrained in children from a very early age. Letting young people know that it is ok to break that binary is accepted in society is empowering to people who were always taught the opposite. Not only is this representation amazing for individuals that don't identity within the binary, but also to cisgendered people. The gender binary is damaging for people who identify within it as well, creating things like hyper masculinity and the objectification of women. Having characters in media who do not fit into these boxes is not only helping LQBTQA+ individuals but the rising generation as a whole.

Siming Hsu said...

Having LGBTQ+ YA books is so incredibly for what is normally such an underrepresented group in the world of fiction. Having stories for young readers who include people who are like them can make such a difference in that person's life, but it is not limited to just them. The effect it can have on all young reader's outlooks and mindsets is something as important to consider: that it is okay to have LGBTQ+ protagonists and it is okay to know and love those characters, and that the beloved stories of our childhood and our youth are not limited to hetrosexuality in order to be a successful or good story. I really resonated with Marisa Calin when she said she wanted to see a shift from who you want to sleep with to who you love - because that what it is ultimately about. Representation for these people through the type of books they consume is so important and potentially life-changing.

This is one of the ways we can move away from the harmful trend of heteronormativity and towards an attitude of acceptance and understanding, especially as readership grows and comes into an understanding of the world through the types of content they consume. However, I think it is also important to have gay characters where their entire plots aren't central around their sexuality. By having characters that can be interpreted as non-straight, or explicitly written that way, without having their sexuality be a crutch with which to form their character, it becomes a true reflection of the way life actually works.

Sara Hankins said...

In the blogpost about diversity in MG/YA, I talked about Malinda Lo's work as it's the only novel I had read that was considered diverse in the sense of LGBTQ characters and themes. I loved her as a writer and I totally expected the protagonist if her book Ash to fall for the handsome and mysterious fairy guy that I'm used to. It was a surprise for me to find out that the character instead falls for a female Huntress, and I loved feeling that surprise. As a straight female, it was almost refreshing to read a love story about someone who's interests are different than mine, and yet it did not distract from the rest of the story. I have recently started Will Grayson, Will Grayson not because of the gay characters, but because it was simply recommended to me as a good read. Once again I was surprised, and in a delightfully pleasant way.

To sum up the article "A New Way for Gay Characters in Y.A.", all the authors agreed that the LGBTQ community has come a long way in the past decade and beyond in terms of popularity and acceptance of this more diverse literature. One thing they wished for was for the critics and readers to take their focus away from the fact that the characters are gay or transgender and focus more on the situations they are a part of. This reminds me of my reading experience with Ash and Will Grayson, Will Grayson, that emphasis was placed on the story itself and not the sexuality of its characters. Just because a character has an atypical sexuality or identity does not mean that all the other elements of the story are in the background or unimportant in comparison. The next step, now that the acceptance is out there, is for readers to look at these stories as simply adventure sagas or romance novels or mystery thrillers and not given the quantifier LGBTQ first and foremost.

Sierra Commons said...

I really liked the graphic guide since it showed a whole slew of different sexuality and examples of books that deal with them. I see most of the LGBQ+ to focus on homo- and bi- so it was great to see other representations. Not to mention a few on gender identity, and there were some various genre examples too. I hope we can get to a point where it's just normal to have various sexuality and gender representation in literature, but for now it's great to see it's growing. It'd be nice to see different romantic orientations being represented too, but I can see why they wouldn't be focused on. The representation of sexuality and gender is especially important in YA and MG since young people unsure of themselves can see it and be able to understand themselves better, especially if they haven't been exposed before. And, as mentioned in "A New Way for Gay Characters in YA", people who aren't dealing with their own orientations can gain an understanding of others and try to not put them in a box or judge without knowing.

I decided to give "How to Say Goodbye in Robot" a read and found an excerpt of the first chapter. It details a girl and her mom finding a gerbil outside, going to get stuff to keep it, and coming home to find it dead. When the girl doesn't cry over the gerbil, her mom calls her a robot. I'm a little wary of this book from the first chapter- it's supposed to represent asexuality somehow but this first chapter makes me wonder if the book is going to equate asexuality to not feeling anything or something. I'd have to read the whole book to see, but I do hope that that's not how it's represented, since all asexuality is is some sort of lack of sexual attraction (which is separate from romantic attraction). But that could just be part of the main character's personality so that's why I'd need to read more of the book. The writing was good though, interesting and quick to give little tidbits of information without being boring.

aliyah m said...

I am happy that LGBTQA stories are becoming more common. It is another form of diversity that needs representation in literature. After going to the young adult panel in Princeton’s Barnes and Nobles, I was really interested in learning more about Adam Silvera’s History is All You Left Me. The story is about Griffin, a boy whose ex-boyfriend, Theo, dies in an accident after Theo goes to school in California. The story is all about how Griffin deals with the loss. Even though they broke up, he always thought they would be together one day again.

Just reading an excerpt from the story made me really want to pick up the book to finish it. All of the reviews I even read indicate that it is a book worth reading. You can tell that Griffin is really struggling with the fact that his ex is gone. If i didn’t know any better, I wouldn’t think that this was a man writing about another man. Not saying that him writing about another man is bad. It’s amazing that he just captures the story of loss. The gender of the person who loses a loved one doesn’t matter. He’s a person who had his heart broken and that one of the most relatable themes in the world. I love that stories are making character that identify as LGBTQA have a more complex purpose than just not being straight. It was a great article that The Atlantic posted on the topic of gay characters and how far they have come in young adult fiction in the last 10 plus years.

Sidenote: I loved what Samantha said about the 23 Anticipated LGBTQA YA books, all the book covers have a single person on it, unlike other YA novels where the characters hold hands or kiss and how it was major discrimination. It is so true. She stands for what she believes in and that’s great. She’ll make a great teacher one day. She plans to use “An Updated Graphic Guide to LGBTQ YA Literature for Pride Month” in her class so that her students can read books that they identify with, which is amazing.

ALEX LYU said...

“A New Way for Gay Characters in Y.A.” by Jen Doll a fascinating read. It's true that many stories rely too heavily on the gay factor as a standalone trait. Yes, we get it, you're celebrating gayness (at best), perhaps ridiculing it, who knows, but above morality, the bottom line for storytelling is that it's lazy. Sexual identity is novel, but not an entire novel. Adding depth to these character will help normalize them and ultimately promote acceptance.
“23 of Our Most Anticipated LGBTQA YA Books of 2017” provided some good insight into the lengthy process of diversification. LGBTQ is an increasingly accepted subject matter, and has evidently increased in popularity this year.
“My Guide to LGBT YA” by Malinda Lo was totally rad. The fact that she had everything well organized and easily locatable was definitely sick, and I definitely appreciated the writing advice column because it allows for the flow of conversation about stereotypical portrayals, which is a valuable editions to any community. Her recommendation on writing from different perspectives and being aware of differences is definitely enlightening and is a much needed explicit rendering of that concept.
“An Updated Graphic Guide to LGBTQ YA Literature for Pride Month” was, like, definitely off the rails! Engrossing stories are the best way to capture somebody's attention and provide intimate insight into a subject matter, so I think that LGBTQ stories are a great way to introduce someone to the LGBTQ community, as well as great for any LGBTQ that wants to hear other accounts by people sharing their experience in some way.

Benji Sills said...

I've long been a big reader of YA, but it's rather infrequently I've come across a LGBTQ character. Even when they do crop up in literature, I think the article is right that they do have a tendency to use this sexuality as a personality trait rather than a fully fleshed out part of the character's identity. I think when LGBTQ characters appear, it's often just to fit the stereotype (e.g. the high school gay kid etc.) Part of why this might be could relate back to a post we read a few weeks ago about what gets published. Perhaps because publishers are scared to publish books that stray from the tried and true formula, books with characters that don't reflect the traditional, widespread heterosexuality of most literature never make it to the printing press.

I read the excerpt from David Leviathan's Boy Meets Boy. I love the subtlety and precision of his language. I feel like the way he uses simple clues in specific situations to draw our attention to the flirtation helps make the scenes feel very genuine and also easy to relate to. If part of publishers' fear with LGBTQ characters is that the literature won't reach as wide a market, then I think this is a showcase that this fear is unfounded. If characters can be written with such specificity, then readers will connect with them and their emotional lives regardless of the surface-level sexuality these characters possess. The underlying experience of love is the same.