A decade ago teens, their families teachers and confidantes, had scant opportunity to find answers in the printed word, particularly in the stories of kids who were grappling with gender identification issues. During the past decade writers for young adult readers, publishers, booksellers and librarians have created a network to address the challenge while holding at bay the vocal opponents to young people’s right to read
Today, fiction titles for teen readers are far more accessible. The abounds with lists and reading suggestions, reviews, articles about the emerging genre and promotion of good reads that address teens whether or not they are concerned about their own gender identification or, just as likely, eager to understand an issue that inevitably touches the lives of every teen.
One blogger has declared that she is devoting June 2012, Gay Pride Month, to open discussion of YA reads for teens. Her notes and those of her readers offer a mix of views on the topic. She has also done some number crunching to track the LGBT novels that have been published over the years, with information about publishers’ and the relative number of books in each of the LGBT categories – short answer 50% of the titles are for and about boys, 25% about girls, and the remaining 25% covering the other categories, transgender (4%), multiple characters and adults.
Leanne Italie, writing for the Associated Press, notes that “before gay characters began popping up in the mainstream on TV and at the movies, librarians embraced I’ll Get There and Annie on My Mind, books that portray gay characters in a positive way as opposed to the more standard that “gay characters had to be punished somehow.”
To underscore that observation the Hennepin County Library and other libraries in this area, provide access to a wealth of the newest and best titles available. HCL has produced a good list of GLBTQ titles for teens; these are titles that the library has purchased and made available to patron at their neighborhood library or on loan from a neighboring library. Following are the authors and titles of fiction in the HCL system; all of these books were written for teens who want to understand coming of age issues, specifically those that face GLBTQ teens and their friends.
- How Beautiful the Ordinary; a collection of twelve stories of identity
- Speaking Out: LGBTQ Youth Stand Up
- Adams, S.J. Sparks: the Epic Completely True Blue (almost Holy) Quest of Debbie
- Barnes, David Matthew, Swimming to Chicag0.
- Bearn, Cris. I am.
- Burd, Nick. The Vast Fields of Ordinary.
- Danforth Emily M. The Miseducation of Cameron Post.
- Dole, Mayra Lazara. Down to the Bone.
- Eagland, Jane. Wildthorn.
- Farrey, Brian. With or Without You.
- Garden, Nancy, Annie On My Mind.
- George, Madeleine. The Difference Between You and Me.
- Gonzalez, Rigoberto. The Mariposa Club.
- Goode, Laura. Sister Mischief.
- Green, John and Levithan, David. Will Grayson, Will Grayson.
- Griffo, Michael. Unnatural.
- Hartinger, Brent. Shadow Walkers.
- Harwin, Davida. Freaks and Revelations: A Novel.
- Katcher, Brian. Almost Perfect.
- Klise, James. Love Drugged.
- Konigsberg, Bill. Out of the Pocket.
- Levithan, David. Boy Meets Boy.
- Lieberman, Leanne. Gravity
- Lo, Malinda. Ash.
- Peters, Julie Anne. Luna: a Novel.
- Peters, Julie Anne. She Loves You, She Loves You Not.
- Ryan, Patrick. Gemini Bites.
- Sanchez, Alex. Boyfriends with Girlfriends.
- Sanchez, Alex. The God Box.
- Shaw, Tucker. The Hookup Artist.
- Stevenson, Robin H. Big Guy.
- Tracey, Scott. Witch Eyes.
- Wilkinson, Lili. Pink.
- Wittlinger, Ellen. Parrotfish
- Wright, Bil. Putting Makeup on the Fat Boy
HCL also has some non-fiction titles on their shelves:
- It Gets Better: Coming Out, Overcoming Bullying, and Creating a Life Worth Living
- The Letter Q. Queer Writers’ Notes to Their Younger Selves
- Belge, Kathy. Queer: The Ultimate LGBT Guide for Teens
- Keen, Lisa. Out Law: What LGBT Youth Should Know About Their Legal Rights
Though one is inclined to be wary of “best books” lists, Lindsay Bryde’s reviews of “Best GLBT Young Adult Novels of the New Century” from Flashlight Press offers informative annotations and a reader’s response option. The annotations stand alone as a reminder of the nuances of the genre. Bryde’s list is one of dozens on the web, each with its own target audience and character.
Reading for understanding takes forethought and purpose as well as an occasional ride or a nudge to hop on the bus or the bike for a cool and relatively quiet stint at the library – a safe haven where no one asks questions and staff are willing to lend a hand if it’s needed. A book list of library holdings is a good start to a successful solo exploration of stories that live between those innocuous covers. Gay Pride Month gives focus and vacation allows time to give thought to an issue that generates greats heat while it too often shies away from the light that good fiction can shed.