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

Looking
Ahead

The rising number of YA books about queer teens shows no
sign of slowing down, and one can hope that as more are published, bisexual
characters and teens of color will also be more widely represented.

Another problem that must be addressed is the fact that far
more books about gay male teens are published than books about lesbian/bi
girls. This disparity is particularly unusual for YA fiction, which skews
heavily toward books about and for girls.

When asked why this imbalance continues, Levithan answered:
"This is honestly one of the most confounding questions I face on a
day-to-day basis. I genuinely have no idea. If there’s one submission
I would love to get as an editor, it’s a great girl-meets-girl
story. Because the inequality on the YA LBGT shelves is astonishing.

"I think I can genuinely say it’s not for a lack of
looking; I am far from the only editor who is looking for a fantastic YA
lesbian book. But for whatever reason, they just aren’t being submitted to
us. I see many, many more submissions about gay boys. So it’s not
that we’re getting amazing lesbian YA and turning it down (for whatever reason),
it’s because writers for some reason aren’t writing it."

But for every librarian or bookseller who chooses to not buy
a queer YA book for their collection, there may be others who do so secretly.
During Silverrod’s first job as a children’s librarian in a conservative suburb
of Detroit, "I was buying what few titles there were at the time and just
slipping them in and hoping nobody was going to make a big fuss."

In some places, the tide may be shifting in a completely
opposite direction.

Silverrod said that the San Francisco Public Library
recently received a book challenge in which someone wanted to remove a graphic
novel from the collection because it contained anti-gay
material. "As far as I know, this is the first situation where this has
come up," Silverrod said, "and I don’t know what they’ll
decide."

This year, several new books that include lesbians and
bisexual girls will be published: Megan Frazer‘s Secrets
of Truth and Beauty
(July); Lauren
Bjorkman
‘s My Invented Life (September); Kirstin Cronn-MillsThe Sky Always Hears Me and the Hills Don’t Mind (September);
Julie Anne Peters’ Rage: A Love
Story
(September); Catherine Gilbert Murdock‘s Front and Center (October);
and my own novel, Ash
(September).

These six books mark a slight increase in the average number
of books about lesbian/bi girls published each year since 2004. They can’t fill
all the gaps in the ways that lesbian/bi girls are represented in YA fiction,
but hopefully they are only another sign of more books to come.

 

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