Last Thursday, we hosted a community forum on identity and sexuality in YA lit at Portland State University. The forum was led by a group of panelists including Sara Ryan, a YA author who also works as the Teen Services Coordinator for the Multnomah County Library; Carter Sickels, author of The Evening Hour, who recently had a letter published in The Letter Q: Queer Writers' Notes to Their Younger Selves; Michelle R. McCann, a children's book editor and author who teaches "Publishing for Young Adults" at PSU; and Vanessa La Torre, who is the Bilingual Youth HIV Education Coordinator at the Cascade AIDS Project. Our panel was moderated by Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, a senior at Cleveland High School, who writes about music for her blog, The September Gurl, and is the Reviews Editor for the Cleveland Clarion.
Our panel sat down to talk about identity and sexuality in YA lit, discussing books that changed their perception of youth identity and expression, how important it is for youth to be allowed to read and discuss books with diverse portrayals of sexuality and identity, and how we can change the fact that many identities and experiences are still underrepresented in YA lit.
Listen up, Beyond Judy Blume fans! Are you going to be in Portland next Thursday, November 8th? Do you have friends in Portland who love YA lit? We hope you'll join us for a conversation about identity and sexuality in YA lit.
We're big fans of Sara Ryan, and super excited that she's going to be participating in our Beyond Judy Blume forum in Portland on November 8th. Sara Ryan is the author of YA faves Empress of the World and The Rules for Hearts, and is responsible for various comics and short stories. In addition to being an award-winning author, she's also the Teen Services Specialist at the Multnomah County Library. She has admited that it's challenging to be both a librarian and a writer: "I worry about conflict of interest, probably excessively, and I often don't get a lot of sleep." But she wears her many hats well, and even found time to talk to us about her work this week.
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!
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!