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.
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.