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Guest Blog: A Look at the Landscape of LGBTQ YA

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Today's blog entry is by Pam Harris, a middle school counselor by day and an aspiring YA author at night, as well as a student in Fairleigh Dickinson University’s MFA program for creative writing. She also runs a blog with her YA loving cousin and they can be found at: http://seepamwrite.blogspot.com


When I registered for the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) conference in Los Angeles last summer, the panel that I couldn’t wait to attend was the one focused on YA and the LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered, and Questioning) community.

At work, I frequently meet with students who are either teased or confused about their sexual identity. Every adolescent wants to feel like they belong and, being the book lover that I am, I think they should be able to pick up a novel and identify with a character that’s going through similar obstacles.

The SCBWI panel featured several prominent members in the publishing industry: Arthur Levine (editor, Scholastic), Tony Valenzuela (director of LAMBDA Literary), and Nick Eliopulos (editor, Scholastic). Here are just a few highlights of what was shared during this session:

-- Arthur Levine mentioned that less that 10% of submissions that cross his desk have gay characters, and an even smaller percentage feature gay protagonists.

-- Nick Eliopulos also admitted that he was not receiving many LGBTQ submissions and does not feel there is enough out there on the bookshelves.

-- Tony Valenzuela reminded everyone that there will still be obstacles because homophobia still exists. The panel suggests finding the right agent that will support your ideas and network at events where you can meet “gay-friendly” agents and editors.

There’s an obvious need for more of these books in the marketplace, so I encourage writers to take a leap and give it a try. In fact, a few of my favorite writers have already done so:

-- In Amy Reed’s Beautiful, the protagonist develops an innocent, loving relationship with one of her female friends.

-- Ellen Hopkins’ Tricks features a gay male protagonist, a female protagonist who has her first real relationship with another girl, and another male protagonist who becomes a gay escort to make money.

-- Davida Willis Hurwin’s Freaks and Revelations tells the story of a male prostitute and his eventual basher.

What I’m the most proud of about the YA community is how supportive we are of each other, and I think this is an issue that’s worth rallying for. About 10% of the population is gay, and I think it would be wonderful if our bookshelves can start reflecting this, as *all* teens need to be heard!


Pam has also asked that I give away a copy of Freaks and Revelations, and I'm more than happy to do so! (What a surprise, right??)

For your chance to win, you'll need to have a US addy, and leave a comment with *your* favorite book that has a LGBTQ plot/character in it.

I'll take comments through midnight EST this Friday, November 12th, and then one person will win a copy of Freaks and Revelations.

(P.S. Don't forget to leave a way for me to contact you so I can if you win!!)


Blogger Christi said...

My current fave LGBTQ book is Will Grayson, Will Grayson by Joh Greene & David Levithan.


November 09, 2010 10:07 AM  
Blogger Marquita Hockaday said...

I am not entering the contest b/c I am that YA loving cousin mentioned :) I just wanted to say how proud I am of Pam for spotlighting this issue (as I am a high school teacher and I see students struggle daily with the pitfalls of how our culture views the GLBTQ community) and that I am uber excited that YOU, Elizabeth, spotlighted her on your site. She is sooo excited to be on your blog :)

November 09, 2010 11:08 AM  
Blogger Karen said...

This is a really important issue - thanks for throwing some figures out there. Everyone deserves a book where they can identify with the hero/heroine. More than that, the easiest, least emotionally charged way to learn about people, places and cultures that are different from your own is through reading.

P.S. My favorite book with a gay or lesbian protagonist is Hero by Perry Moore.

November 09, 2010 2:06 PM  
OpenID icrad said...

My favorites are Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Greene and David Levithan, Luna by Julie Anne Peters, and Freak Show by James St. James. Thanks for recommending a couple that I haven't read!

November 09, 2010 4:41 PM  
Blogger BrittLit said...

My favorite LGBTQ book is Empress of the World by Sara Ryan. It really reached me when I was in school, and I recommend it to all my teens that are struggling with their sexual identity. teensatthelibrary[at]yahoo[dot]com

November 09, 2010 5:27 PM  
Blogger twentyxfragments said...

I love anything by David Levithan, and also "Jumpstart the World" is realllllly good!


November 09, 2010 10:31 PM  
Blogger BookChic said...

Don't enter me because I already have a copy, but I just wanted to comment because I loved this post. I want there to be more LGBTQ literature out there and am working toward it. I've got my own story that I'm writing that features a gay male protagonist and I'd love to see it published one day. Great post! Thanks Pam and Elizabeth!

November 10, 2010 12:30 PM  

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