Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

GLBTQ YA resources for building a collection and supporting teens

by Amanda MacGregor

Check out these articles and websites for great suggestions on books to add to your collections and how to support GLBTQ youth.

“LGTBQ and You: How to Support Your Students” by Lauren Barack at School Library Journal. From the article:

“With 82 percent of LGBTQ students reporting verbal harassment, among other forms of bullying, according to the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network’s (GLSEN) 2011 School Climate Report, finding a space to feel safe may be particularly crucial for these students. So is finding materials in which LGBTQ students can see themselves—resources that reflect the stories of their lives and the themes that mirror their own questions and concerns. School librarians provide support through their very presence as well as through the services they can provide.”

I’m Here. I’m Queer. What the Hell do I read? From the blog, “I think [the blog] is for teens (queer or not), for librarians, for teachers, for booksellers, for people with teens in their lives and for anyone interested in YA books with GLBTQ characters and themes. What books are already out there? What’s new? Your answers are here.”

The Lesbrary.

Bisexual Books tumblr.

Queer Book Club tumblr.

Trans titles for young adults. Book list with brief annotations. (From Young Adult Library Services. By Talya Sokoll.)

Serving Trans Teens. Suggestions for ways libraries can reach out and serve trans teens beyond just stocking books. (From Young Adult Library Services. By Talya Sokoll.)

Rainbow Reads: GLBTQIA Books for Teens: A reader’s guide to books across the spectrum. This is an amazing resource. This extremely thorough website lists books by many categories, including: lesbian contemporary fiction; lesbian secondary characters; anthologies; cross-dressing; asexual teen fiction; trans fantasy, scifi, and historical fiction; and so much. It looks like the site is in the process of being redone and updated. The site breaks the books down by age group, too. There’s a glossary of terms, important dates to know, and tips for how to build a good GLBTQIA collection.

Queer YA: Fiction for LGBTQ Teens is another great site. Excellent, thorough book reviews. Can search by genre, pub date, author, and a super duper character search that features terms like genderqueer, surprise queer character, unreliable narrator, and more. The site is on an indefinite hiatus, but there’s a lot of great stuff already on here.

Stonewall Book Awards. List of winners and honors from 1971 to 2014.

Gay YA: LGBTQIA characters in YA fiction & LGBTQIA YA Authors. Book reviews, forums, guest blog posts, reading lists broken down by various themes, online resources, teen voices, and more.

More Than Just Magic. Go to “recommended reading” and click on YA lit, which will bring you to a spreadsheet with tons of information.

Malinda Lo’s blog index to LGBT YA posts

41 Transgender-friendly Books for Young Kids at Bitch magazine. This list includes main or secondary characters who identify as transgender, genderqueer characters, characters who express gender ambiguity, or deal with gender in a nontraditional way.

It’s a few years old, but I absolutely love this great It Gets Better video done by children’s authors and illustrators.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kYRYpYyHMos?rel=0]

Rainbow Books. GLBTQ Books for Children and Teens.

LGBT YA Reviews

F Yeah, Queer Teen Lit tumblr. “Finding queer teen books can be difficult; this blog aims to make it less so.”

DiversifYA. “In your YA, diversifying your stories.” Click on DiversiThemes and then QUILTBAG

Diversity in YA


On these sites, you will find resources for teens, parents, people who work with/care about teens, and more.

The Trevor Project—A 24-hour toll free confidential hotline for gay and questioning youth. 844-4-U-TREVOR

The It Gets Better Project—Suicide prevention video project and website to give hope to LGBTQ teens that high school and its bullies will not last forever, that it DOES get better.

GLSEN—Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network

HRC—Human Rights Campaign


GSA Network

GLBT Near Me. The GLBT National Help Center has this awesome site where you just plug in your zip code and can find a variety of resources near you. Their national youth talkline is toll-free 1-800-246-PRIDE (1-800-246-7743)

The Nine Line For Homeless/Runaway Teens

Advocates for Youth. Extensive links for resources for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender youth. Organizations, websites, videos.

The American Civil Liberties Union has a section on LGBT Youth & Schools Resources and Links.

Know of a great resource I missed? Leave it in the comments or come tell me on Twitter @CiteSomething.

Book Review: Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley

by Amanda MacGregor

Jefferson High School, Davisburg, Virginia. 1959.

In Robin Talley’s Lies We Tell Ourselves, it’s been two years since the Supreme Court said all schools must integrate. The people in Davisburg have done everything they can to resist this order, including entirely shutting down their schools for months.

High school senior Sarah Dunbar is about to make history. She is one of ten black students who will begin attending an all-white school. Sarah and the other students arrive to find a large crowd of angry white people screaming at them, bellowing hateful words, and spitting at them. Sarah knew integration was going to be hard, but she had no idea it was going to be terrible. Day after day, Sarah and her friends are bullied, harassed, threatened, and attacked. The teachers don’t make it any better, choosing to ignore the way the white teenagers are acting, and usually being overtly racist and hateful themselves. Sarah, an excellent student who was on the college prep track at her old school and will attend Howard in the fall, is placed in remedial classes. In fact, all of the black students are in remedial classes, because of the assumption by the administration that the black students are intellectually inferior and have no place in more challenging classes. Through it all, Sarah is determined to hold her head high. She knows the movement is counting on her, that she can’t let it show that people are hurting her. She’s been told to look straight ahead, not talk back, not be caught alone, and just keep walking.

One of the most outspoken white students is Linda Hairston, who writes editorials championing segregation for the school newspaper. Linda mostly just mimics everything she’s heard her father, who is the editor of the local paper, say. When Linda and Sarah (along with Linda’s friend Judy) get paired up to work on a class project, Sarah begins taking Linda to task on her ideas and behavior. Unafraid to be outspoken, Sarah accuses her of not thinking for herself, suggests that deep down she doesn’t really share these same viciously hateful feelings that her father espouses. Sarah isn’t wrong. Suddenly, Linda is starting to feel shameful about the thoughts she’s been having about integration. She realizes she sort of likes and admires Sarah, but justifies these feelings by thinking that Sarah is special, that she’s better than the rest of “her people.” I don’t think characters need to be likeable or have redeeming qualities, but I will say that I initially balked at the narrative switch to Linda taking over the story. Talley does a fantastic job of getting in the mind of this young woman and letting her be hateful, ignorant, uncertain, curious, and complicated.

A large portion of the book is dedicated to another piece of this plot: Linda and Sarah’s growing attraction to each other. Sarah gives many hints early on that she’s been struggling with her sexuality. When she first notices Linda, she reminds herself that she’s supposed to force those feelings down, to act normal. When she thinks about kissing, she’s worried she’ll think the wrong things. Meanwhile, Linda has been spending a lot of time thinking about Sarah. But they’re just thoughts Anyway, Linda will marry Jack, her 22-year-old boyfriend, as soon as high school is done, escape her father’s house, and everything will be fine. Or at least that what she keeps telling herself, until she realizes that she can’t keep lying. She thinks, “I want Sarah the way I’m supposed to want Jack.” Both girls can only fool themselves for so long. When Sarah kisses Linda, their worlds break open. Suddenly, Linda and Sarah are questioning everything: their feelings for each other, their futures, the school integration, even the expectations from their families.

To call this novel powerful is an understatement. Told in alternate narration, the views Sarah and Linda give of this time in history are poignant. The unrelenting racism and violence is difficult to read, which is hardly surprising. The story is just as much Linda’s as it is Sarah’s. Both extremely stubborn girls confront their many preconceived notions. Both learn, change, and grow. Neither seems there simply to “teach” the other about the opposing side. Talley does an excellent job of showing how two young women do what they think they are supposed to do and act how they think they are supposed to act, only to discover that carving out their own futures might be possible. This book is an essential read. Talley tackles a lot in this novel, combining history, diversity, intersectionality, GLBTQ characters, family dynamics, and so much more. In less skilled hands, it would have been overwhelming. In Talley’s hands, it’s just masterfully knit together and moving.

An author’s note about this era in history and the research Talley did for her writing is appended, as is a section of Common Core-aligned questions for discussion.

Publisher: Harlequin
Publication date: 9/30/2014
Review copy courtesy of Edelweiss

Book Reviews: Rethinking Normal: A Memoir in Transition by Katie Rain Hill and Some Assembly Required: The Not-So-Secret Life of a Transgender Teen by Arin Andrews

by Amanda MacGregor

(NOTE: I’m going to use the pronoun “she” when referring to Katie even pre-transition and “he” for Arin pre-transition as well.)

When Arin and Katie met, they felt an immediate connection. It wasn’t just that they each thought the other was cute (though they did), but it was more that they understood each other in a way that not many other people they knew could understand them. Katie, born Luke, and Arin, born Emerald, are both transgender, and they met at an Oklahoma support group for trans teens. Their memoirs tell their individual stories of growing up and transitioning, as well as their story as a couple.

In Rethinking Normal, Katie (who is 20 and a junior in college as of the publication date of this book) talks candidly about transitioning from Luke to Katie at age 15. She jumps ahead in time to the start of college, giving readers a little peak at the life she leads now. Katie characterizes herself as tough-minded and emotionally strong, both qualities that most certainly helped her along her journey. Katie, who felt from a very young age that she was in the wrong body, suffered years of depression, even attempting suicide at age 7. She says she felt uncomfortable with her body and judged. By 4th grade, Katie is certain that she is a girl and that she is attracted to boys. At 15, she began taking hormones, and four months before college, she underwent gender reassignment surgery. She recounts losing friends in high school (and being bullied to the point that she switched to an online school) when she transitioned and her fear of losing her new college friends. She doesn’t tell them she’s transgender, fearful of their reactions. But it’s hard to think that they won’t find out the truth given how public Katie’s life has been.

While a high school student, Katie worked hard to serve as an advocate for the trans community, giving speeches at high schools and camps. She received a prestigious award for her work and eventually drew the media’s attention, too, with multiple newspaper articles and television segments focusing on her life. Katie writes about her childhood, family life, and relationships with her parents (both of whom came from very dark pasts filled with abuse, neglect, death, and fear). Katie discusses the medical side of transitioning (detailing doctor appointments, hormone shots, and surgery), the legal side (like changing her name), her dating and sexual history, and the many emotions that come along with so many large issues.

Her relationship with Arin is the largest thread of the story, from their initial infatuation with each other, to the media coverage of their relationship, to their eventual break-up. Told in a conversational tone, Katie weaves many stories of hope and joy through her memoir, making it clear that the uncertainty and sadness she once felt doesn’t get to win out. The book ends with lists of resources that helped Katie, tips for talking to transgender people (outlining what may be offensive, how to make them feel understood/how to try to understand, and reminders to respect confidentiality and privacy).

In Arin’s memoir, Some Assembly Required, he shares that he began transitioning his sophomore year of high school. Arin, who went to private Christian elementary school, always felt different. He wore his boy cousins’ clothes, desperately wanted to be able to pee standing up, and felt isolated from the other kids. He felt a lot of discomfort with his body—a lot of insecurity, anxiety, and shame. He was bullied in school for being too masculine, enjoying motocross and outdoor activities. At 13, he began to date Darian, a girl who identified at bisexual. Arin (still going by Emerald then) felt his identity was more complex than just appearing to a girl dating another girl. He preferred to think of himself as gay rather than a lesbian, which implied that he was a girl liking another girl. He felt maybe he was a gay tomboy, a “tomgay,” he writes. It’s the discovery online of the term “transgender” that helps Arin begin to understand who he really is.

Arin experiences horrible bullying at school and eventually gets kicked out because homosexuality violated the honor code. His new school, however, is extremely supportive, as is his mother, once she has a little time to come to terms with this news about Arin. Arin is lucky in that he finds a lot of support from his family.

It’s really interesting to see both teens write about their relationship, to see each side of the story, especially concerning the publicity and their break-up. Like Katie, Arin wants to serve as an advocate for their community, but doesn’t love all of the attention. Arin astutely points out that he understands why the media likes them so much—they were safe. In his words, they were “white, telegenic, and heteronormative.” He wishes that their time in the spotlight was leading to a wider spectrum of trans people being represented.

Arin is also always careful to say that this is just his experience, that all trans people do/feel/believe/undergo different things. When he talks about the medical side of things, he points out that he’s oversimplifying things for the sake of readability. His memoir also ends with a brief guide on how to talk to your new trans friend as well as a list of resources.

I hope these books will find the wide audience they deserve. Katie’s book is a little more unpolished than Arin’s, and I don’t mean that in a negative way. Her tone is more casually conversational, which will quickly draw in readers. Arin’s tone is a little more reserved and his narrative doesn’t jump around in time quite as much as Katie’s. Both teens put it all on the page, writing honestly about every aspect of their young lives. Their stories include a lot of pain, but their focus on joy and hope point to much happier futures than their pasts have allowed them. These are highly recommended for all collections. While cisgender and transgender teenagers alike will gain a lot from these moving stories, they may prove invaluable finds for trans teens looking to see that they are not alone.

Publisher for both: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
Publication date for both: 9/30/2014
Review copies courtesy of Edelweiss

Sexual Violence Inside (and Because of) the Closet by Anthony Isom (#SVYALit Project)

We live in a fortunate time. Once upon a time, homosexuality was viewed as either a disease or else an abnormality; things have certainly been changing as hatred toward homosexuality, AKA anti-gay discrimination, may not be viewed as abnormal but certainly as backward or retrogressive. This is a good thing. As a young gay man affianced to the love of my life, I both represent and benefit from the steady march of time. 

There is a disturbing trend which marches alongside progress, however, this idea that stories in which gay characters are represented as paradigms of romantic behavior trump those stories which highlight the often painful journey toward acceptance of oneself with which most teens relate. Don’t get me wrong. I adore BOY MEETS BOY or OUT OF THE POCKET or ARISTOTLE AND DANTE DISCOVER THE SECRETS OF THE UNIVERSE. I am all over the current swell of young adult titles relating the transgender experience, for example: FREAKBOY, BEAUTIFUL MUSIC FOR UGLY CHILDREN, I AM J, FAT ANGIE. Andrew Smith’s GRASSHOPPER JUNGLE is the first book I’ve ever read narrated by a bisexual character, and I think it a major literary achievement not to mention his best published work to date. Gay characters deserve diverse stories and experiences not simply because it is truly representative of our vast world but also because a singular story is always limited and boring. Everyone knows gay people are anything but limited and boring. Seriously.

What then is disturbing about this current trend of promoting gay “happily ever after” stories above stories of rape, incest, child molestation? Once again, gay characters deserve diverse stories and experiences. Thus as I watch the pendulum swing from fierce hatred, erasure, and mischaracterization of gay teens to the wealth of LGBTQ young adult literature our culture experiences I find myself asking, “What about all those gay teens who still have it hard?” I suppose I cannot help but go there because my native state is South Carolina, my native culture is African-American, my native religion Seventh-Day Adventism. Within all three portions of my youth, there is stiflingly little room for the gay man I’ve become. The gay seventeen-year-old who loved his best friend more than he himself could quite articulate nearly perished in the closet he helped society build for him to live inside.

Two books, separated by more than a decade, written about teenage boys and their forays into the greater meaning of their sexual selves truly dig into this topic of Sexual Violence in Young Adult Literature in dynamic ways. There is this bleak moment from Jim Grimsley’s DREAM BOY that takes place just before Nathan, our protagonist, is brutally raped by one of his boyfriend Roy’s best friends:

“Weariness. The hollow place in Nathan is echoing now, the inner wind is ripping him to rags, entering through the place where Dad tore him, the opening that Burke sees now, the wound that does not close. The dark attic fills with the sound that only Nathan can hear, the one note of the one song. He has knelt in this way before, there is nothing to do but let go again, with his head throbbing. It is as if he deserves it, as if both he and Burke understand that he is made for this use; Dad opened a hole in Nathan, and now anyone can use it. He opens his mouth, he makes a circle. Burke pushes inside.”

A great deal of abusive language occurs between Nathan and Roy throughout the book before Burke actually brutalizes Nathan. Like Nathan’s father, Roy often tells Nathan he cannot share their “secret”, that Nathan is not his boyfriend, and even a moment of jealousy occurs between the two boys as Nathan speaks briefly with a girl outside school because Roy has decided, that day, to ignore him entirely. This one poignant sentence sums up much of Nathan’s experience with Roy: “Roy will treat Nathan as he pleases, and Nathan expects the coldness. In the daylight Nathan will be invisible.”

And yet, throughout much of their relationship, Nathan first learns the truth of how he feels about what his father does to him. Another sentence from the book tells us “that what pleases him with Roy terrifies him with his father.” Both times I read this book I could not help but wonder whether Nathan would have felt half the things he did about Roy—the times he glimpsed his father’s rage in Roy’s discomfort, those moments he realized himself unequal compared to Roy—had his father never toyed with him as a child.

Nick Burd’s THE VAST FIELDS OF ORDINARY examines a different type of abusive relationship, one perhaps more akin to millennial experiences. The first time we see Dade Hamilton, our narrator, and Pablo Soto together in a scene, the same language which pervaded Nathan and Roy’s relationship exists here: “We don’t tell anybody about this.” “I already have a girlfriend. I don’t need another one.” This paragraph, taking place directly after Dade professes his love for Pablo (“I love you.”), forces knots in my stomach every time:

“I peered up at him to see his reaction. He’d screwed his face up into a look of disgust. He moved forward and grabbed me, pushed me against the wall, and raised his fist back behind his head. He was ready to punch me. I thought back to the first time he’d touched me, of all the times he touched me, of the way he pushed my face away whenever I tried to kiss him and how that didn’t stop me from trying over and over again.”

Two brief lines of dialogue later, we read this line: “He smacked me across the face. Hard.”

These books need not represent the brunt of LGBTQ youth experiences in this country. Let me be the first to say I am glad this isn’t the case. Yet with the swell of greater human rights, let us not forget how much work is still to be done. In every high school there aren’t just gay teens bursting out of the closet, many of them find themselves doing so due to or in line with abusive relationships because, despite Glee and Modern Family and LGBTQ-positive YA fiction, the reality of boyfriends or girlfriends is still underrepresented. Out of fear of being caught, both Pablo and Roy, each in his way, maintained sexual engagement with Dade and Nathan because it felt good and little understanding as to how to relate to their sexual partner outside of sex existed on their television screens during primetime or in the books they read (or didn’t). As we’ve learned with homosexuality in general, lack of representation breeds fear and encourages malcontent, most of all inside the person realizing how little of themselves they actually see on a daily basis.

Let us not make this same mistake with victims of sexual abuse who also happen to be gay.

Anthony L. Isom writes young adult and children’s fiction, serves as fiction editor for the East Jasmine Review (an online literary magazine), and volunteers regularly as both actor and stagehand at the local Croswell Opera House in downtown Adrian, Michigan. Currently, he is working feverishly toward joining his literary voice with the millions of others speaking to young people worldwide. “As is a tale, so is life; not how long it is, but how good it is is what matters.” 

This is the first in a series that Anthony is writing on the GLBTQ experience in #SVYALit.

TLA Reduex: Christie’s Speaker Notes

So, a couple of weeks ago I presented with Peter Coyl, the chair of the Stonewall Committee, and author David Levithan (Two Boys Kissing, Every Day) at the Texas Library Association about awesome books dealing with GLBTQI/QUILTBAG topics, issues and characters.
 (for those that don’t know, QUILTBAG stands for Queer/Questioning, Undecided, Intersex, Lesbian, Transgender/Transsexual, Bisexual, Allied/Asexual, Gay/Genderqueer. It’s a newer term, not as widespread in it’s usage, but it’s meant to be all-inclusive of the community and easier to say and be more memorable. 
At any rate, I promised people my notes (why they want them I have no clue) so here they are and downloadable on Scribd for all to enjoy.

Take 5: New LGBTQ Books to Look For 2014

One Man Guy by Micahel Barakiva (YA Fiction, May 2014)
Alek has never thought about having a boyfriend—he’s barely ever had a girlfriend—but maybe it’s time to think again. 
Sweet Tooth by Tim Anderson (Fictionalized Memoir, March 2014)
What’s a sweets-loving young boy growing up gay in North Carolina in the eighties supposed to think when he’s diagnosed with type 1 diabetes? That God is punishing him, naturally.

Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kuklin (Informational, already out)
Portraits, family photographs, and candid images grace the pages, augmenting the emotional and physical journey each youth has taken. Each honest discussion and disclosure, whether joyful or heartbreaking, is completely different from the other because of family dynamics, living situations, gender, and the transition these teens make in recognition of their true selves.
Fan Art by Sarah Tregay (YA Fiction, June 2014)
Senior year is almost over, and Jamie Peterson has a big problem. Not college—that’s all set. Not prom—he’ll find a date somehow. No, it’s the worst problem of all: he’s fallen for his best friend.

Lies My Girlfriend Told Me by Julie Anne Peters (YA Fiction, June 2014)
Brought together by Swanee’s lies, Alix and Liana become closer than they’d thought possible. But Alix is still hiding the truth from Liana. Alix knows what it feels like to be lied to–but will coming clean to Liana mean losing her, too?

“The Gay Characters”

Almost a year ago (February 21, 2012, actually) I reviewed Drama for Teen Librarian Toolbox.  Drama has been named a Stonewall 2013 Honor Book, a 2013 Rainbow Project Top Ten title, and a Great Graphic Novel Top Teen for Teens.

A few days ago, we (Teen Librarian Toolbox) got this comment in response to my review:

I felt this book was inappropriate for my 10 year old who was interested in it until reading about the gay characters. There should have been an indication in the opening or book synopsis that explains what “Drama” the story will be about.-Anonymous

Before we go any further, I would like to point out that the back cover has a very nice explanation of what the “drama” of the story is about without spoiling the entire book: 

Now, if you are concerned about what your 10 year old is reading or your 10 year old is concerned about what they are reading, there are many ways to go about finding out what books are about. Check out websites, review sites (*cough*) like this one, the subject headings in library catalogs, or even flip through the book or read it before your 10 year old does. That way you know if there is something “objectionable” in the reading material.

What you feel is appropriate for your 10 year old is up to you. I am not the parent of your child. You, however, do no get to put indications more than what the publisher chooses to put on the book in order to indicate content. You also do not get to choose what’s “objectionable” for someone else’s 10 year old. I have a number of 10 year olds that I work with that love the book, and those that toss it aside. I have others that are desperately waiting for the next issue of Wandering Son, which details two cross-gender children growing up in Japan and dealing with all that entails. It’s beautiful, poignant, and really reaches kids- because they identify with the feelings of not fitting in, whether it’s gender related or not. Just like readers identify with Cassie and the rest of the cast of Drama, and everything that goes on within a middle school.

If you do not want them to read about “the” GLBTQI characters, then do not have them read this book. Or A Girl Named Dan. Or Yuck, That’s Not a Monster. Or See You At Harry’s. Or Lola and the Boy Next Door. Or Better Nate Than Never. 

Definitely don’t have them watch cartoons like Spongebob Squarepants. Or Sesame Street. Or Teen Titans. X-Men: Evolution. Superman: The Animated Series. Sailor Moon. DragonBall Z. X-Men.

Oh, and don’t watch TV shows that my nieces adore, like Project Runway and Project Runway: All Stars. Or shows like Top Chef or Chopped. Or Once Upon a Time in Wonderland. Definitely stay away from anything science fiction (Doctor Who and Torchwood, Firefly or Star Trek). Don’t watch Glee, Gilmore Girls, Degrassi (original or next generation), or Modern Family. 

According to Gallup, 3.8% of the population admit to being LGBT (same as GLBT). That’s those who admit to it: those who are hiding their sexuality, or who think it’s really none of anyone’s business. That’s 4 out of 100 people. 1 out of 30 that admit it. 30 is the typical United States public classroom size. Statistically, there is at least one GLBTI person in each classroom. In each grade. In each school. Statistically, there will be at least 2 more (in each classroom in each grade in each school) that are questioning before they leave high school. 

For my local grade school, that’s 26 classrooms- so 26 kids that will by the time they are adults come out statistically, plus 52 more that will either hide what they are, or question.

More stats: 

  • Attendance for Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans in 2013: 71,024. Statistically out GLBT fans: 2,804. Not counting the gay athletes.
  • Six Flags Corporation (all of the Six Flags parks combined) third quarter 2013 attendance: 11.8 million guests. Statistically out GLBT coaster riders: 472,000. Not counting the workers.
  • Magic Kingdom (Florida) annual attendance (one park): 17.5 million people. Statistically out people visiting the most Magical place on Earth: 700,000. Again, not counting the workers.

So, if you’re not going to have your 10 year old read about “the gay characters,” when will you “let” your tween? Because “the gay characters” are all around- just like everyone else…..

Karen’s Note: My tween has read both Smile and Drama by Telgemeier, and she loves them both.  We’ve watched episodes of Glee and many other shows now where she has seen a boy kiss a boy or a girl kiss a girl.  I come from a conservative Christian background, so I get where some of the issues are coming from for parents.  But here’s the deal, last year one of my favorite family members entered into a same sex relationship.  It didn’t change her worth as a person.  It didn’t change our history together.  It didn’t negate all of our memories.  She fell in love with another woman and I can’t hide that from my tween.  People are in same sex relationships all over the globe and no amount of putting our head in the sand is going to negate that.  Our children know, they see it.  It is our job to teach them about the dignity of all people – even people we may not agree with for personal or religious reasons – because all people have basic, fundamental rights and value.  Coming out as GLBT is one of the leading causes of bullying, suicide and homelessness among our today’s youth.  I happen to think that is a problem.  One of the ways that we can help address this alarming stat is by promoting love and kindness.  

Sherlock and the Case of the Diversity Problem (and why representation matters)

The creator of the BBC Sherlock reboot is none other than Steve Moffat, who also is currently helming another popular BBC show – Doctor Who.  One of the things that has always impressed me about Doctor Who as I began watching it was the diversity of the show.  When we first meet the reboot Doctor, number 9, he takes a decidely white Rose into space and time with him, and sometimes her very non-white boyfriend joins them.  After Rose, the Doctor is accompanied by Martha, also not white.  And they have several adventures with Captain Jack Harkness, who later gets his own show called Torchwood, who is very white but is also decidely not straight.  In fact, there are a wide variety of characters that appear in both Doctor Who and Torchwood and the most amazing thing is – no one every comments really on their non-whiteness or their sexuality (I won’t say never, because it does come up in context a couple of times), because it is understood that we live in a diverse world and there is no need for commentary.

Early Doctor Who Reboot
Sarah Jane, Mickey Smith, Jackie Tyler, Rose Tyler, Doctor, Martha Jones, Donna Noble and Capt. Jack Harkness
Check out this article at The Mary Sue as the BBC responds to critics of racism in Doctor Who
So we have Mickey, Martha Jones, Tosh (on Torchwood), Captain Jack, Ianto (and they kiss – a lot), and a variety of supporting characters who pop in and out and THERE IS DIVERSITY.  Then Steven Moffat took over, and things changed.  And then he rebooted Sherlock.

So what happens to Sherlock?  Well, Sherlock lacks diversity.  All of the main cast of characters is decidedly white male, most of the supporting characters are as well.  But here’s the deal, later day Doctor Who and Sherlock are under a different creator/writer.  And this change has brought about some diversity issues.

To make matters worse, there is an undercurrent of homophobia running throughout the relationship of Sherlock and Watson, as if being a couple – gasp – would be THE. WORST. THING. EVER.  I mean, they feel the need to stop in the middle of murder investigations and make sure that everyone understands that there is no way in hell they would ever be a couple as if that is more important than the fact that people are dying.  I understand that there are men in real life who would definitely not want to be identified as homosexual, what I don’t get is why we feel the need to write it in as a running gag and a source of amusement on a show that already has so much going on.  It’s unnecessary and contributes to the continued harassment and stigmazation of a people group that has spent centuries being persecuted.  Keep in mind that identifying as GLBTQ in today’s world is one of the leading causes of teenage bullying, homelessness and suicide.  Making them the butt of the jokes on a popular show contributes to this ongoing epidemic.  And whatever one may personally feel about homosexuality, I don’t think it is okay to create a hostile environment for them.  Full stop.

Infographic Source

Of course Sherlock did try and give a nod to diversity once in an epic fail of an episode called The Blind Banker.  For a variety of reasons, this is my least favorite episode of the series to date.  Mostly, I simply don’t really care all that much for the story.  But also, this episode is one of the few episodes where we get some main characters of color and they are full of stereotypes.  There is a good discussion of the problem of diversity in The Blind Banker hereOr this post which points out that the script for The Blind Banker calls for “Soo Lin Yao, a fragile little porcelain Chinese doll; a stupid brute of a Sikh warrior; Japanese geisha nicknacks for sale in a Chinese…not a shop…the script calls it an emporium…”  It’s like the writers reached into their grab bag of Asian stereotypes and threw them all against a wall to see which would stick, and apparently they all did.

Molly Hooper: BBC

Then we come to the character of Irene Adler, which Christie already talked about on Monday.  I have such mixed feelings on Irene.  She is definitely shown as being a strong female character, a woman who confounds and beguiles Sherlock.  But her power comes primarily from her sexuality.  In fact, when Sherlock first meets her she appears in her birthday suit, she is using her nudity as a powerplay.  So although I love that we have a strong female character, I wish that her power could come somewhere other than her sexuality.  It seems as if our popular culture continues to assert to young women that they can only be powerful if they can harness and exude their sexuality.  In comparison, we have the character of Molly Hooper, who is once again a stereotype.  Molly is a smart girl, the token science geek girl if you will, so of course she must be mousey and socially akward and pine after Sherlock.  Imagine for just a moment if we could have had a strong, intelligent science minded woman who found power in her intellect and ability to help Sherlock as opposed to the only real female representation of power that we get in Irene Adler.  This is an interesting look at the character of Irene Adler, and more interestingly about how the role of Moriarty undermines the role of Irene Adler.  And perhaps my favorite comment about Irene Adler can be found here: “Well, to be fair, BCC Sherlock did turn Irene from a master of disguise and all-around genius who easily saw through Sherlock’s ruse into a pawn of Moriarty who needs to be told how to deal with Sherlock.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: ABC

Why does this matter?  Sherlock is a reboot, an updated take on the popular character.  In the original works, these issues would make more sense because they were written in a time period that thought differently than we do today.  But this Sherlock appears in modern day London.  As we update the setting, we also need to update the representation of people who are not white men to reflect modern day sensibilities.  Look around you, the modern day world is not as white as the world of Sherlock would lead us to believe.  And this is important because it affects how we perceive the world around us and how people who are not white men perceive themselves, and each other.  People often say that entertainment entertains but it does not influence.  But I can’t help but wonder, if we know that marketing works, and we do, then how can we suggest that what we see in our media doesn’t influence how we think about our world, ourselves and each other?  The answer is, I think, that we can’t.  Diverse representation matters because people need to know that people of color can be strong, intelligent, and powerful without being a bad guy, a red shirt, a token, or – gasp – a maid or gas station attendant (or a fragile porcelain Chinese doll).  And girls (women) need to know that they can be powerful because of their intelligence, their contributions to society, and in their friendships – it doesn’t have to come from sexuality, it isn’t all about sexuality.

Here’s the thing.  I really, really love the BBC’s Sherlock.  I love the way it looks visually, how you see how Sherlock is processing the evidence and coming to his conclusions.  I love the quirkiness that is Sherlock, and how he is kind of a despicable, arrogant character but has glimpses of humanity, often in relation to Watson or Mrs. Hudson.  Mostly, I love that it is intelligent drama that asks you to pay attention.  But I can’t pretend it is perfect even though I am an enthusiastic fan.  Just as I can’t pretend Doctor Who is perfect.  I want my tweens and teens to grow up in a world where they are represented in healthy and realistic ways so that they develop healthy images of themselves and their place in this world.  Sherlock needs to do better.  And yes, my teens are watching.

P.S. All these same arguments hold true for our MG and YA lit.  Diversity is important.  Representation matters.  Readers need to see realistic representations to have their existence, their place in this world, affirmed.  And readers need to have realistic depictions of those that are different from themselves so that they develop realistic and healthy ideas about those that are different than them.

“If she can’t see it, she can’t be it”
Beth Revis: I See You, Representation Matters (great post, read it)
Ramp Your Voice: Why Representation Matters in Children’s Books and Media
Actually, just Google “representation matters” for lots of great posts

More Diversity at TLT:
Racial Stereotyping in YA Literature
Race Reflections, Take II
Building Bridges to Literacy for African American Male Youth Summit recap, part 1
Friday Reflections: Talking with Hispanic/Latino Teens about YA Lit
See also the Diversity in YA Tumblr by Cindy Pon and Malinda Lo

More on Gender and Sexuality at TLT:
I’m Just a Girl? Gender issues in YA Lit
Girls Against Girls
Teach Me How to Live: talking with guys about ya lit with Eric Devine
Let’s Hear It for the Boys: Boys and body image
Who Will Save You? Boundaries, Rescue and the Role of Adults in the Lives of Teens
The Curious Case of the Gender Based Assignment 

You want to put WHAT in my YA?
Taking a Stand for What You Believe In
Annie on My Mind and Banned Books Week on My Calendar
Queer (a book review)
Top 10: For Annie and Liza (Annie on My Mind)

Take 5: Rainbow Project Nominee Sequels

The 2014 Rainbow List Nominees were announced the other day, and it looks wonderful. I cannot wait to see the final list when it is finished at ALA Midwinter in Philadelphia in January!
HOWEVER, did you know that there are SEQUELS coming out to these awesome books, some as early as JANUARY?!?!?!?!?! 
Well, what are you waiting for?

5, 6, 7, Nate follows Better Nate than Never in the adventures of Nate following his Broadway dreams. He auditions for a role in E.T.: The Musical, but will Broadway live up to his expectations?
(January 2014, ISBN: 9781442446939)
At the end of Pantomime, Micah has ditched the circus and is on the run with Drystan, but when they find a fallen magician willing to teach them the trade, Micah learns that magic is more than card tricks and illusion.
(January 2014, ISBN: 9781908844408)

Eight years after her first and only exposure to the addictive tracks, Alpha is still haunted by the music, and when her older brother Anthem calls for help, she is dragged back in to discover that the Corp has reappeared, this time more insidious than ever.
(May 2014, ISBN: 9780762449507)

Syd is the figurehead of the revolution, yet people are falling ill all over- with the former Guardians hit first, and the government does nothing to help. With the government indifferent to the sickness, Syd takes it upon himself to find a way to stop it- only to to be shocked by what he finds.
(May 2014, ISBN: 9780399165764)
An ongoing series just waiting for the English translations, Wandering Son tells the stories of Nitori-kun and Takatsuki-san, two transgendered kids who only want to be their true selves- which  is increasing difficult as they age, especially in Japanese society. Volume 5 was released in November 2013 (9781606996478) and volume 6 is scheduled to be released in January 2014 (ISBN: 9781606997079).

2014 Midwinter Alert: Rainbow Project Nominees Announced

The 2013-2014 Rainbow Project Committee announced their nominees for the 2014 Rainbow List on Monday. A committee of 9 members search all year long and talk and debate about books and whether or not they meet the criteria of the list, and this year they found 51 titles. The Rainbow Project is unique in that A. they create an annual bibliography and B. they work by consensus minus one. There are only two other book committees that works this way within the American Library Association framework: Over The Rainbow Project, which deals with LGBT books for adults, and the Amelia Bloomer Project, which looks for feminists books for youth ages birth through 18.

The Rainbow List meetings are open to the public, and will be discussing the nominees during the 2014 Midwinter Meeting in Philadelphia. Keep an eye on their blog for time and details, or search the Meeting Guide on the ALA site once it’s up and running.

So basically, a team of 9 librarians went through a ton of books (hundreds) and picked these to debate during ALA Midwinter. That should say something. 

Argo, Rhiannon. Girls I’ve Run Away With. 2013. 263p. Moonshine Press. $15.95. (978-0-9894396-0-2).

Barnes, David-Matthew. Wonderland. 2013. 192p. Bold Strokes Books, $11.95 (9781602827882).

Black, Holly. The Coldest Girl in Coldtown.  Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2013. 419 pp. $19.99. ISBN: 9780316213103. Grades 9-12 (YA Fiction).

Black, Jenna. Replica.  Tom Doherty Assocaties, 2013. 368 pp. $9.99. ISBN: 9780765333711. Grades 6-12 (Middle/YA Fiction).

Block, Francesca Lia. Love in the Time of Global Warming. 2013. 240p.  Henry Holt and Co., $16.99 (0805096272).  Grades 9-12.

Bornstein, Kate. My New Gender Workbook: A Step-by-Step Guide to Achieving World Peace Through Gender Anarchy and Sex Positivity. 2013. 312p. Routledge. $39.95. (978-0415538657).  Grades 9 & Up.

Clark, Kristin Elizabeth. Freakboy. 2013. 448 p. Farrar Straus Giroux $18.99 (9780374324728). Grades 7+.

Charlton-Trujillo, E.E. Fat Angie. 2013. 272p. Candlewick Press $ (0763661198). Grades 9 and up.

Demcak, Andrew. If There’s a Heaven Above. 2013. 275p. JMS Books LLC, $14.50 (9781611524161). Grades 10 and up.

Dos Santos, Steven. The Culling. 2013. 420p. Flux, $9.99 (9780738735375). Grades 9-12.

Egloff, Z. Leap. 2013. 223p. Bywater Books, $14.95. (978-1612940236). Age 14 and up.

Farizan, Sara. If You Could Be Mine. 2013. 256p. Algonquin Young Readers, $16.99 (9781616202514). Grades 9 and up.

Federle, Tim. Better Nate than Ever. 275p. Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers, $16.99 (9781442446892). Grades 4 and up.

Fishback, Jere’ M.  Tyler Buckspan.  2013.  198p.  Prizm/Torquere Press, Inc.  ISBN:978-1-61040-518-8. YA Fiction.

Georges, Nicole. Calling Dr. Laura: A Graphic Memoir. 2013. 288p. Mariner Books, $17.99 (9780547615592). Grades 10-12.

Goode, John. End of the Innocence : Tales from Foster High #4. 2012. 298p. Harmony Ink, $14.99. (978-1613724941). Ages 14 and up.

Hartinger, Brent. The Elephant of Surprise. 2013. 222p. Buddha Kitty Books, $12.99. (978-0984679454). Ages 12 and up.

Hartzler, Aaron. Rapture Practice: My One-Way Ticket to Salvation: A True Story.  2013. 400p.  Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, $17.99 (031609465X).  Grades 9-12.

Hoblin, Paul. Archenemy. 2013. 112p. Darby Creek Publishing, $7.95. (978-1467707213). Grades 9+.

Jackson, Corrine. If I Lie. 2012. 288 p. Simon Pulse, $16.99. (978-1442454132). Ages 14 and up.

Johnson, Alaya Dawn. The Summer Prince. 2013. 304p. Arthur A. Levine Books, $17.99 (9780545520775). Grades 9-12.

Karre, Elizabeth. The Fight. 2013. 128p. Darby Creek Publishing, $20.95. (978-1-4677-0596-7). Grades 6+.

Knight, Lania.  Three Cubic Feet.  2012.  137p.  Mint Hill Books.  $13.95.  ISBN: 978-1-59948-363-4.  YA Fiction.

Konigsberg, Bill. Openly Straight. 2013. 320 p. Scholastic. $17.99 (978-0-545-50989-3. Grades 7+.

Lam, Laura. Pantomime.  2013.  400 p. Osprey Publishing, $9.99 (9781908844378). Grades 9 and up (YA).

Levithan, David. Every Day. 2012. 336p. Knopf, $16.99 (9780307931887). Grades 9-12.

Levithan, David. Two Boys Kissing. 2013. 208p. Random House $16.99 (978-0-307-93190-0). Grades 7+.

Lo, Malinda. Inheritance. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2013. 480 pp. $18.00. ISBN: 9780316198004. Grades 9-12 (YA Fiction).

London, Alex. Proxy. L2013. 384 pages. Philomel, $17.99 (9780399257766). Ages 12 and up.

Mahurin, Paulette. The persecution of Mildred Dunlap. 2013. 202p. Blue Palm Press, $14.95 (9780977186617). Grades 9-12.

Malone, Jill. Giraffe People. 2013. 262p. Bywater Books, $14.95. (978-1612940397). Age 13 and up.

Marcus. Eric. What If? Answers to Questions about What It Means to Be Gay and Lesbian. Simon & Schuster. 2013. 192 pp. ISBN: 9781442482982

Maroh, Julie. Blue is the Warmest Color. 2012. 160 p. Arsenal Pulp Press, $19.95. (978-1551525143). Grades 10 & up.

Moon, Alison. Hungry Ghost (Tales of the Pack, Book 2). 2013. 295p. Lunatic Ink. $11.99. (9780983830931).  Grades 8 + (YA)

Moskowitz, Hannah. Marco Impossible. 2013. 247 p. Roaring Book Press $16.99 (9781596437210). Grades 6+.

Moynihan, Lindsay. The Waiting Tree. 2013. 218p. Amazon Children’s Publishing, $17.99 (9781477816424). Grades 9-12.

Ness, Patrick. More Than This. 2013. 480p. Candlewick Press, $19.99. (978-0763662585). Age 14 and up.

Parent, Dan. Kevin Keller 2: Drive Me Crazy. 2013. 104p. Archie Comics. $11.99. (978-1936975587). Ages 12 and up.

Pierce, Tamora. Battle Magic. Scholastic, 2013. 464 pp. $17.99 ISBN: 9780439842976. Grades 6-12 (Middle/YA Fiction)

Ryan, Tom.  Tag Along.  Orca, 2013.  208 p.  $12.95. ISBN:978-1-4598-0297-1.  ages 11-18.

Setterington, Ken.  Branded by the Pink Triangle.  2013.  158p. Second Story Press, $15.95. (9781926920962).  Grades 9-12.

Smith, Andrew. WingerSimon & Schuster, 2013. 448 pp. $16.99. ISBN: 9781442444928. Grades 9-12 (YA Fiction).

Solomon, Steven. Homophobia: Deal with it and turn prejudice into pride. James Lorimer, 2013. 32 p. $12.95. (978-1459404427). Grades 4-7.

Stiefvater, Maggie. The Dream Thieves (The Raven Boys, #2). Scholastic, 2013. 416 pp. $18.99.  ISBN: 9780545424943. Grades 9-12 (YA Fiction)

Sutherland, Suzanne. When We Were Good. 2013. 227 p. Sumach Press. $14.95 (978-7-927513-11-8).

Takako, Shimura, Wandering Son, v. 4. Fantagraphic Books, 2013. 200 pp. $19.99. ISBN: 9781606996058. Grades 6-12 (Manga).

Trevayne, Emma. Coda. Running Brook Press, 2013. 320 pages. $9.95. ISBN 978076244728. Grades 8 and up.

Trumble, J. H. Where You Are. 2013. 324p. Kensington Books, $15.00. (978-0758277169). Grades 9 and up.

Velasquez, Gloria.  Tommy Stands Tall.  2013.  108p.  Pinata Books/Arte Publico Press.  $9.95 (978-1-55885-778-0).  Ages 11 & up.

Vitagliano, Paul. Born This Way: Real Stories Of Growing Up Gay.  128p. Quirk Books, $14.95.(9781594745997). Grades 7-12.

Williams III, J. H. and W. Haden Blackman. Batwomn, Volume 3: World’s Finest.  DC Comics, New York, 2013. 168 pp. ISBN: 9781401242466. $22.99. Grades 9-12 (YA).