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.
Librarians and educators who are given the opportunity to work with youth are indeed gatekeepers. As we all know, being in charge of what goes through any gate (or classroom, or library door) is a big responsibility that comes with a lot of power, and when it comes to young adult lit, gatekeeping is a very contentious issue. I'm sure you've heard that Judy Blume's books regularly make appearances on challenged book lists and that queer young adult books have also been pulled from library shelves. While it's important that we continue to challenge and have thoughtful conversations about censorship in libraries, it's also essential that we celebrate the people who work really hard to bring characters with diverse identities to the spaces where young adults go to find books.
Thanks to a generous grant from the fine people at Oregon Humanities, we'll be spending the next few months exploring identity and sexuality in young adult literature here on the Bitch blogs.
Judy Blume is known for writing about topics like teen sex, masturbation, and menstruation before it was cool to do so, and she's often credited with redefining young adult literature as we (or our parents) knew it. Fast forward to 2012, and we're in the middle of a young adult lit heyday. YA lit sales are way up and publishers and book stores are catching on. As the book business continues to invest more money into bringing YA lit to the masses, we're seeing more and more books that are pushing the boundaries of YA lit in really exciting ways, exploring issues of teen identity and sexuality while remaining honest and challenging. During this series, we'll talk with authors, teachers, librarians, and teens who are dedicated to making sure that every teen is able to find books whose characters they can relate to and be inspired by.
I'd like to talk a bit about a feminist utopia written in 1905 called Sultana's Dream by Rokheya Sakhawat Hossain. This short story is set in a place called "Ladyland," where men are behind the purdah and women run the country much better than men ever did.
In this role-reversal fantasy, men are kept confined to the inner courtyards and kitchens, crime is eliminated (since dudes were the one who were creating all the trouble, obviously) and women are doing fantastically well, thank you for asking. Working in laboratories and flying planes, the women in Sultana's Dream are charming, reaching far higher than women in 1905 were deemed capable of—and then the dream ends. The story is jarring in many ways, especially when you realize the women feel so little about confining men, thinking of them as lesser beings. Hossain has the last laugh when learn this unease does what it is supposed to: make us question power inequalities in gender relations, and how little things have changed in the last century or so.