Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Recs: LGBT Lit

One of my favorite YA subjects to read is LGBT literature. As I wrote in my first GLBT Reading Challenge mini-challenge, it was a book about a bisexual girl that changed my life. So I continue to seek out these books to continue to affirm my own identity on the spectrum of sexuality, and I highlight them in my blog as part of my commitment to LGBT visibility.

My primary motivation here is to highlight the books that are about more than being gay. LGBT stories can easily fall into the "problem novel" equation - the entire book is about someone coming to terms with their sexuality and coming out to those around her or him. Many of these are gripping and moving stories - but I'm all about diversity. I want to see more stories where a character's non-heterosexual-orientation is just one more aspect of their character. Heterosexual characters have all sorts of adventures in literature - why do gay kids only get to mope about how no one will accept them?

Because I want this list to be as useful for as many people as possible, I am also going to include some classic and great coming out stories, as well as stories featuring great LGBT characters in the supporting cast. This list only includes titles I've already read - but I am always accepting suggestions! Leave a comment or e-mail me at angela.craft AT gmail DOT com with your recommendations. I might not be able to post full blog reviews for every title, but it will at least get added on here.

All links lead to my previous reviews here on the blog.

Classic LGBT Lit:
These are the stories that started it all for LGBT YA.
Am I Blue?: Coming Out from the SilenceAm I Blue? Coming Out from the Silence ed. by Marion Dane Bauer. The first LGBT book I read, this is a collection of short stories written by some of the top YA writers in the mid-90s, including Bruce Coville, M.E. Kerr, Nancy Garden, Francesca Lia Block and Gregory Maguire. Great variety of stories.

Annie on my Mind by Nancy Garden. First published in 1982 and never out of print sense, the story of Liza and Annie who fall in love in New York City. Also features a pair of lesbian teachers who are stigmatized for their homosexuality. Considered to be the first YA LGBT book with a happy ending, it's still far more melodramatic than a lot of contemporary books, but a must-read for anyone interested in the subject.

Deliver Us from Evie by M.E. Kerr. Evie's orientation isn't the focus of this novel, told from the POV of her younger brother, but does provide some great insights into small town and family dynamics.

Coming Out Stories:
Contemporary stories of coming out and fitting in

Geography Club by Brent Hartinger. Russell is sure he's the only gay boy in his high school, but when he discovers his crush is actually gay as well, the two, along with Russell's best friend Min and her girlfriend, form the 'Geography Club' as a front for getting together to share their experiences.

Rainbow Boys by Alex Sanchez. Nelson is out to the world and in love with his best friend, Kyle. Kyle looks and acts straight, but since he hangs out with Nelson he's pegged for gay. Jason is an athlete trying to sort out his feelings, and the object of Kyle's affections. Their stories continue in Rainbow High and Rainbow Road.

More Than Their Orientation:
Most LGBT stories focus on the coming out process; here's what to read when you want to see gay kids doing something more than angsting

Another Kind of Cowboy by Susan Juby. Alex comes to terms with his sexuality while taking lessons in dressage horse riding, along with Cleo, a spoiled girl with no interest horses.

Rage: A Love Story by Julie Anne Peters. A chilling look at teen dating violence in a lesbian relationship.

Queer romances - everyone has a soft spot sometimes, right?

Vast Fields of Ordinary by Nick Burd. During Dade's last summer at home, he ends his relationship with the super-closeted Pablo, and starts seeing Alex, the local pot dealer.

Ash by Malinda Lo. Cinderella retold, this time with Cinderella falling for the King's Huntress rather than a prince.

Empress of the World by Sara Ryan. Nic attends a summer camp for gifted students and falls in love with the beautiful and enigmatic Battle. Its Nic's first crush on a girl, but she angsts more about whether Battle will like her back than anything else.

Rules for Hearts by Sara Ryan. The sequel to Empress, this is Battle's story the summer before she goes to college when she spends time with an eccentric theatre troupe, sorting our her feelings for her fellow actors as well as her brother.

LGBT Supporting Cast:
Once upon a time, LGBT characters were relegated to being part of a quirky sidekick - these books have fully developed LGBT supporting characters

Going Bovine by Libba Bray. This Printz-award winning book includes Gonzo, a hypochondriac Mexican-American dwarf who hooks up with a guy during an epic quest. Blink and you'll miss it, but that also conveys the normalcy of Gonzo's relationship (well, as much as anything is normal in this novel!)

King of the Screwups by K.L. Going. Liam's uncle Pete gets most of the character development here, but Pete has two gay friends and a boyfriend, who teaches at Liam's school. All four men provide support for Liam when the going gets tough, and while there's some stereotyping, the characters own their stereotypes and fully intend to live their lives to the fullest.

Almost Perfect by Brian Katcher. Logan falls in love with new girl Sage - only it turns out Sage was born a boy. Told from Logan's POV as he sorts out his feelings about Sage, trasgenderedness, and his own sexuality, both Logan and Sage are fully realized, complex characters.

LGBT Family:
When the LGBT person in your life is a family member

My Heartbeat by Garret Freymann-Weyr. Ellen adores her older brother Link and has had a crush on his best friend, James, for years. When Ellen joins her brother in high school, another girl mentions that Link and James make a cute couple - rocking Ellen's world.

Say the Word by Jeannine Garsee. When Shawna was a little girl, her mother left the family to live with her lesbian lover in New York City. After her mother dies, Shawna is forced to interact with her mother's lover and their children. Features one of the worst fathers in YA lit, but watching Shawna grow up is wonderful.

King of the Screwups by K.L. Going. After ticking off his father one time too many, Liam is sent to live with "Aunt" Pete, his cross-dressing, glam-rocking, trailer-park-living uncle.

Last Exit to Normal by Michael Harmon. After Ben has flouted the rules and the law one too many times, his dad and his partner, Edward, pack up to move the three of them back to Edward's childhood home in rural Montana. Ben's dad and Edward are fully formed characters, and Ben's relationship with them is about a lot more than their sexuality.

LGBT People of Color:
LGBT lit is dominated by white voices - these are stories by and about people of color

Down to the Bone by Mayra Lazara Doyle. Laura is Cuban-American and lesbian, which gets her into endless trouble in her conservative community.

My Most Excellent Year by Steve Kluger. Augie, one of the three narrators, is Asian-American and fabulously gay.

Ash by Malinda Lo. Lo was born in China and has said in interviews that she intended the cast of Ash to be Asian-inspired, though I'm not the only blogger who missed those descriptions in the text.

LGBT Stories of Disability:
LGBT characters who also have a mental or physical disability

I haven't read any yet...nor do I even know of any. Any recommendations?

Bisexual and Transgender Stories:
The forgotten letters in the acronym

Almost Perfect by Brian Katcher. The new girl, Sage, has a secret she has to keep from everyone: she was born a boy, and is in the process of transitioning to become a woman. Occasionally didactic on issues of Trans 101, still a wonderfully well done book.

Goth Girl Rising by Barry Lyga. Kyra isn't gay - she doesn't even think she's bisexual - but she has been known to kiss and fool around with one of her girl friends. Not a huge part of the story, but it's inclusion isn't tawdry or titillating.

Empress of the World by Sara Ryan. Nic has had crushes on boys before, which makes her attraction to Battle somewhat puzzling, but she is relaxed enough to want to find out where these new feelings take her.

Gender Variance:
For when a character isn't LGBT, but expresses him- or herself in a way that relates to the LGBT spectrum

Debbie Harry Sings in French by Meagan Brothers. Johnny is fascinated by Debbie Harry - so much so that he occasionally dresses like her. He's pretty sure he's heterosexual, but thanks to his gender expression faces homophobic bullying.


Tia said...

I'd love to also hear about LGBT young adult sci-fi/fantasy books if anyone has some to recommend. I read Ash, but it's one of the few I could find in both categories.

Angela Craft said...

Oh, good one, Tia! I'll keep an eye out and add a category as soon as I find something other than Ash!

Jeannine Garsee said...

Thank you so much for mentioning SAY THE WORD!

Color Online said...

Oh, I hadn't seen this. We have Am I Blue in our community library and I read and enjoyed Say The Word and I really liked Down To The Bone. Mayra is a wonderful person. We connected after I read the book.

I'm just starting M+O 4EVR.

You need some Woodson on this list, girl. :-)

Color Online said...

Arggg, I forgot. I was really impressed with Ash because I don't normally read the genre and Malinda swept me up.

I'm linking this on our FB page.

Color Online said...

I highly recommend M+O 4EVR by Tonya Hegamin. A small but impressive book. At times lyrical, great descriptions, tone and interweaving of stories is seamless.

Anonymous said...

One of the first I remember, and one of the finest for its complexity and its passion, is Aiden Chambers' "Dance on my Grave". All of Chambers YA books were wonderful, but this I remember most.

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