Bitch Media spent this last weekend at Wordstock, Portland's very own literary festival, and the largest of its kind in the Northwest. In addition to meeting a bunch of people with a fierce love of all things literary (thanks to those who stopped by the Bitch table!), a few of us sat in on author readings and panel discussions throughout the weekend. One panel, called "Out on the Page", asked the question, "Is straight American ready for queer characters?" David Levithan, Carter Sickles, and Christopher Frizzelle answered questions posed by Aaron Scott.
Did you hear that Bitch hosted a YA book club in Portland last week? We discussed Down to the Bone, a YA novel by Mayra Lazara Dole about Shai, a Cuban American teen in Miami who is kicked out of her school and home after her secret relationship with a girl is exposed. Down to the Bone was originally released in 2008, but Dole published an updated version with Bella Books earlier this year. Our book club loved the book, in large part because of the vibrant queer community that Shai falls into after being kicked out of her school and home. Bitch recently caught up with Dole, who told us why she wrote Down to the Bone, why she loves The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and what we can expect from her next.
There are many great YA books that feature queer teens who also struggle with loneliness and unhappiness, and most of us will probably agree that these books shouldn't disappear, as many queer teens do struggle with these things. But when queer teens go to novels looking to find people like themselves, they should also be able to find characters they can relate to who have friends they can relate to! And there are books that feature characters who are already part of or are able to find or create vibrant communities of queer teens and allies.
What YA books have you found with vibrant communities of queer characters? Let us know in the comments!
Perhaps you caught sight of Polkadot, Talcott Broadhead's forthcoming gender non-binary children's book series, when the project reached its Kickstarter goal in April. In this Q&A, author Broadhead talks about how Polkadot will differ from other children's books in which gender identity is central to the story, why celebrating trans* and non-binary identities in children's lit is so important, and dishes on their favorite children's and YA books.
Author Malinda Lo did some sleuthing last year and concluded that less than 1% of YA books published from 2000-1011 have LGBT characters. This year, Lo estimates that 1.6% of YA books published will include LGBT main characters. An improvement, but we've still got a long way to go.
Have you been keeping on top of 2012's YA lit with LGBT characters? Which books have you liked? Which ones are you excited to read when they're out later this year? Click through for a sampling of some of 2012's YA books with LGBT characters!
Our very own Andi Zeisler reviewed Katie Roiphe's new essay collection In Praise of Messy Lives for the Los Angeles Review of Books. As Andi puts it, "Spoiler alert: It annoyed me." Andi's review, however, is the opposite of annoying. You should read it!
Earlier this week, we hosted the first YA book club of our Beyond Judy Blume program here in Portland. We had a great discussion about how sexuality, gender, and race are portrayed in The House You Pass on the Way by Jacqueline Woodson. Since we know lots of our readers aren't able to make it to our book club meetings, we're discussing the book here on the blog as well. Let us know your thoughts in the comments!
We've spent the first couple weeks of this series talking about the need for YA lit that explores teen identity and sexuality, and remembering books that changed the way we thought about ourselves, our identity, and our worlds. Teens and adults continue to embrace YA lit, and characters with diverse identities continue to make their way onto the pages of YA books. This is great, of course, but it's important that we look at the stories that feature these characters as well. Because it's not enough to simply publish a few coming out stories and call it good.
I'll admit, I kind of fudged when I said this would be a three-part series about zine artists I love. Honestly, I could probably do a fifty part series on zine artists I love, then publish it as a memoir called Can I Be You? But I'm not doing that, and instead, I'm going to take a few minutes to tell you about something really important. A couple of weeks ago, you might have stopped by the Portland Zine Symposium (or any zine fest anywhere) and thought to yourself "Wow, there are a lot of white people here, where are all the zinesters of color?" Or at least, that's what I was thinking. I scoured the entire space looking for people of color only to find one table all alone, in the back of the warehouse. One amazing table, to be sure,, but I still left wishing for something more. I'd imagine Daniela Capistrano had some similar thoughts when she founded the People of Color Zine Project in 2010 in order to make zines by folks of color accessible, available, and distributable for all, because really, these things can be incredibly hard to find in such white dominated DIY, activist, and artist communities.