Young Adult Books Move Beyond the Coming-Out Story, But Still Face Hurdles

 
 

Mac has gotten the most amount of reader feedback for Crush, a YA lesbian coming-out
story, showing that even if post-coming out tales are increasing in number,
teens are still drawn to books about discovering one’s sexual orientation.

"I hear from teens all the time after they’ve read
it," Mac reported about Crush.
"Some of them just tell me how much they loved the book, but most of them
email me about their own stories. Some of them come out to me when they’ve only
just come out to themselves. I value those emails, and I think about those kids
a lot. I was a little dykelet in a Bible-thumping town, so I know what it’s
like to be going through that as a teen."

San Francisco Public Library librarian Nancy Silverrod, who
also serves as co-chair of the American Library Association’s GLBT Round Table,
thinks that coming-out stories still play an important role in YA fiction about
queer teens.

"People could say coming-out stories are overdone, but
I don’t think for teenagers they really are," Silverrod said in an
interview. "I really think that that’s where it’s at. If you’re coming out
as a teenager, that’s what you’re thinking about."

Julie Anne Peters’ lesbian coming-out story, Keeping You a Secret,
remains her readers’ favorite. "That book just keeps going and
going," Peters wrote via email, "and I still get letters from young
readers who are scared to death of coming out, fearful of their parents’
reactions, and embracing of a positive portrayal of lesbian love. Coming out
will always be a revelatory and defining experience in a queer person’s
life."

A Need for
More Racial Diversity

Though many coming-out books these days tend to focus on the
positive — Crush in
particular was luminous in its positivity — the experience can still be
torturous, especially for teens raised in conservative cultures.

Mayra Lazara Dole‘s debut novel, Down to the Bone, which was
set in the conservative Catholic Cuban-American community of Miami, pulled no
punches when it came to the consequences of coming out for the main character,
Laura.

Author Mayra Lazara Dole

"Coming out for some Latina or black lesbian
teens can be as soothing as getting run over by a Mack
truck!" Dole told AfterEllen.com. "Young adults usually have a
blast, but some deal with issues of self-esteem and self-acceptance,
along with intellectual expansion, new ideas, questioning of belief
systems and of our parents’ and societies expectations of
us. Coming out as a young teen in Hispanic cultures is huge for most of us
and takes tremendous courage to fight against rigid traditions that
date back to biblical times."

Down to
the Bone
is one of only a handful of YA LGBTQ books with minority
characters, and is also unique because of how deeply the story is embedded in
the Cuban-American culture. "My book has true sexy
Latina flavor because I was born in Havana and raised in hot
Miami’s Cuban-American community," Dole explained. "I’m an
authentic Latina lesbian writing from real experiences."

Very few books have been written about African-American
lesbian/bisexual teen girls, though interested readers can turn to author Jacqueline
Woodson’s The House You Pass
Along the Way
(1997) or Nina Revoyr’s The
Necessary Hunger
(1997), which also includes an Asian-American lesbian
teen.


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