Monday, April 8, 2013

G is for GLBT!

Welcome to Day 7 of the Blogging From A to Z April Challenge here at Reading on the F Train.  Today's topic is GLBTQ YA!

(NOTE: Turns out I have a lot to say about this.  If you're looking for recommendations, feel free to scroll to the bottom.)

Let me start by saying there are several different acronyms I could have chosen today (LGBTQ, QUILTBAG, LGBTQIA, probably others I'm just not aware of.)  My choice was simply based on which letter of the alphabet I had open, not ideology.  (If you want to learn more about why there are so many different possibilities, this New York Times article is a pretty interesting place to start.)

As a grad student at NYU, I had a really fantastic professor, Joe Salvatore.  Joe talked a lot about the small words and actions that teachers and librarians can use to show students that they are welcoming of all comers.  I think this is something that applies to all kinds of diversity, but Joe's focus was on the LGBT(QIA) student population, and because of him, it became an especial focus of mine as well.

In my classroom in Queens, I found that many of my students thought nothing of using "gay" as a derogatory term, or even of throwing around the OTHER "f-word" (which, frankly, I find WAY more upsetting than the one most people consider the big bad.)  Needless to say, the culture there was not exactly safe or welcoming for LGBTQ students. 

So, I picked my battle, and this was it.  Even in my first year, back when my students were actively hostile toward me most of the time and many of them were working together to try to get me to quit or be fired (yes, really; they told me about it the next year, when I came back and they decided I was ok after all)--even then, after a few months, the kids stopped using those words in my classroom.  Or, if somebody slipped, I didn't have to step in; another student would quickly say, "Shut up!  You can't say that around Mrs. S!"  I think, more than anything, they were sick of hearing me call them out EVERY SINGLE TIME, but it did have an effect.

And then there was my library.  We had limited access to our campus library, but I took real pride in my classroom library, a few hundred books that I had begged, borrowed, stolen, or bought so that I would always have a selection on hand for my students.  I did my best to stock my library with books that represented my students, and also books that showed my students other kinds of people.  Sadly, it was often tough to find books that reflected the diversity of my classroom (ethnic, socionomic, cultural, religious, romantic/sexual) but I did my best.  I have my own personal favorites, but I also turned to resources like Lee Wind's enormous database of titles at I'm Here, I'm Queer, What the Hell Do I Read?

There were times when I handed a student a book with LGBTQ characters because I thought that student might be struggling with his or her own sexual/romantic identity; there were other times when I recommended the same book because I knew a certain student would enjoy the story (the suspense of Shine, the adventure of Hero).  In both cases, though, the student learned that I was an LGBTQ ally, and they learned that LGBTQ people are just as deserving of having their stories told as any other kind of character.  And here's the thing: unless students actually came out to me, which I think happened maybe twice, I really had no idea which of my kids saw their own stories in the books on my shelves. 

If you are a teacher or a librarian, I promise you: you have taught students who are gay, or lesbian, or bisexual, or questioning, or trans*, or something other than cis-gendered straight people.  And you will teach more.  And if by some statistical anomaly you haven't, you have definitely taught students who will grow up in a world where they will interact with people who are all of those things, openly or not.  That's the bottom line.  That's why we need these stories on our shelves.

Here are some YA books I've personally enjoyed (and would stock in my classroom library) that involve characters (minor or major) who are LGBTQIA:

Starting From Here by Lisa Jenn Bigelow
Beauty Queens by Libba Bray
Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan
Between You & Me by Marisa Calin
Graceling, Fire, and Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore
Notes from the Blender by Trish Cook and Brendan Halpin
The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth
Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green
Geography Club (and its sequels) by Brent Hartinger (see my interview with Brent here.)
Perfect by Ellen Hopkins
The Bermudez Triangle by Maureen Johnson
Ask the Passengers by A.S. King
Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan
Ash and Adaptation by Malinda Lo
Dramarama by E. Lockhart
Finnikin of the Rock and Froi of the Exiles by Melina Marchetta
Hero by Perry Moore
Shine by Lauren Myracle
Starglass by Phoebe North
Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life (and its sequels) by Bryan Lee O'Malley
Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins
Americus by M.K. Reed and Jonathan David Hill
Way To Go by Tom Ryan
17 & Gone by Nova Ren Suma

1 comment:

  1. This is a great book list! I haven't read all of these so I'll check them out. It's great you worked so hard to get your former students to stop using derogatory language.


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