Image from GLYS-WNY’s website
Gay and Lesbian Youth Services of Western New York (GLYS-WNY) recently asked me to contribute to their ‘Book Corner’ at their website.
My first article: “Some Tips for Finding LGBT Books for Teens” went live just this past Sunday.
GLYS-WNY is a great organization in my hometown of Buffalo. While they have a long history of providing services and a safe haven to LGBT kids, I was much too chicken as a teen to walk through their doors. I was actually stunned to learn that they have been around since 1983, which was before I even realized I was gay.
I have worked professionally with the organization’s amazingly committed Executive Director Marvin Henchbarger for many years, and she has been very generous with spreading the word about my authorly pursuits in Buffalo. Many thanks Marvin, and I’m looking forward to bringing information about LGBT literature to the members of GLYS-WNY. We’re hoping to do an event for teens in the near future.
I’m re-running my article here with hyperlinks for your convenience. Meanwhile, if you’re inspired by what you see over at GLYS-WNY, consider making a donation to them through their PayPal account.
Some Tips on Finding LGBT Books for Teens
By Andrew J. Peters
Happily, there are more LGBT books for young adults being released each year than ever before. The trick is: how do you find them?
You can peruse the shelves of libraries and bookstores, and the virtual ‘shelves’ of on-line retailers. But unless the cover is emblazoned with rainbows or some obvious girl-girl or boy-boy combination, books about LGBTs are as indistinguishable as many of us LGBTs ourselves.
Another challenge is that doing a search for “transgender,” or “gay,” or “lesbian,” or “bisexual” at a big retailer like Amazon will turn up first and foremost romance novels, and many of them will be a tad risqué. Nothing wrong with those kind of books, but you’ll have to scroll through many pages if you’re trying to find something different, like a story about lesbian shifters or gay superheroes or transitioning genders in a religiously conservative family.
As an LGBT young adult author, I have some suggestions. Consider these tips as departure points for discovering LGBT books out there in the universe. They do not constitute a comprehensive guide.
Tip #1: Talk to a Young Adult Librarian
This may not be an option for everyone, if the thought of strolling up to the reference desk at your local library and uttering the word “lesbian” or “gay” makes you want to crawl under your bed and not come out for six weeks, for instance. But I have to tell you, in my experience, librarians are pretty cool and knowledgeable about diversity.
An advantage of this tip is that librarians are information-gatherers. Your questions might prompt her/him to consider the number and the breadth of the library’s collection of LGBT titles. He/she might order more of those books so that future readers will benefit.
Tip #2: Browse ‘LGBT YA’ Sites
As LGBT young adult literature has grown, many educators, authors and fans have created resources on the web. It’s really become a movement, sometimes under the abbreviated banner #YesGayYA on Twitter (YA=young adult). There are a ton of sites, and I will just highlight a few that I check out frequently.
“I’m Here, I’m Queer, What the Hell Do I Read?”: Run by blogger and educator Lee Wind, this site profiles recent releases and has a sidebar that lists some books by interest area, including transgender, bisexual, lesbian, gay and questioning.
Diversity in YA: Scaling a bit broader, DiYA is on the web and Tumblr with a mission: “to celebrate young adult books about all kinds of diversity…and to bring attention to books and authors that might fall outside the mainstream, and to bring the margin to the center.” It is moderated by young adult authors Malinda Lo and Cindy Pon, and includes some great lists like: “YA books about LGBT characters of color.”
True Colorz: True Colorz’ tagline is “your web source for all things YA in the LGBT community,” and it hosts a wide variety of new release announcements, an archive of titles that run the gamut in terms of genre, as well as “featured author” pieces to get to know the writers, as well as book giveaways.
Tip #3: Take a Look at LGBT Publishers
A quick lesson about the publishing business: the “Big Five” publishing companies (Hachette, Simon & Schuster, Harper/Collins, MacMillan, and Penguin/Random House) produce the bulk of young adult books. There was once a “Big Six” and before that a “Big Seven” and so on. Some experts predict that there will be a “Big One” in ten years or less.
That consolidation of publishers has implications for LGBT literature. As companies wanting to profit from the biggest share of the reader market, mainstream publishers produce a pittance of books for us ‘10-percenters.’ That pittance is about fifteen books each year, according to advocate Malinda Lo. There’s not a lot to choose from, especially if you’re looking for LGBT books outside of contemporary, realistic stories.
Small, LGBT-owned presses have always led the way to making LGBT books of every possible genre available to readers, and notwithstanding the impact of self-publishing, I believe that trend is not likely to change. Thus, it’s worth checking out those publisher’s websites to see their current and upcoming titles. It’s also a nice way to support our community.
Here are a few suggestions.
Bella Books: A leader in lesbian fiction, Bella Books has a list of titles specific to teens and children.
Bold Strokes Books: BSB is one of the biggest publishers of LGBT literature, and its Soliloquy line is geared to young adults.
Harmony Ink Press: A publisher of LGBT stories that feature characters who show “significant personal growth through the course of the story.”
Prizm Books: With a list of primarily female authors, Prizm is an offshoot of Torquere Press, which publishes romance books and stories.
Tip #4: Get a Recommendation from Good Reads
If you’re ready to take the plunge into reader geekdom, which I say with full respect and approval, Good Reads has a lot to offer. You can create a user profile, add books to your ‘shelves,’ connect with ‘friends,’ and ‘follow’ the reviews of readers with similar interests.
Good Reads is an interactive platform with reader-suggested lists as specific as “YA fantasy/sci fi novels with major LGBTQ characters” in which people vote on their favorite titles. You can also join interest ‘groups’ like “YA LGBT Books.” Some of those groups function like an on-line book club (‘Group Reads’), and members can suggest a book to read together and discuss.
Also, check out the ‘Book Giveaways’ section of the site. You might score free books in exchange for posting a review.
Finally, another tip: in Good Reads-speak and elsewhere in the LGBT YA community, LGBT is often called ‘QuILTBAG’ as an umbrella covering Questioning, Intersex, Lesbian, Transgender, Bisexual, Asexual and Gay.
I hope this information is helpful. If you have a specific question, feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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