Wednesday, October 2, 2013

LGBT History Month

LGBT History Month originated in the United States, and was first celebrated in 1994. Just in time for the month of October, we have created a Teen LGBT Book List, called "Let's get one thing straight: THESE BOOKS AREN'T!" with all our teen fiction from each of these categories (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender). We also included the "gay-straight alliance," for books in which the protagonists are both straight and gay.

Here is what librarian Hubert Kozak, who assisted us in compiling this book list, has to say about the history of gay literature for teens:

When gay teenagers first appeared in literature for youth as protagonists of the story, the novels in which they appeared were part of that sometimes depressing sub-genre for young people known as the "problem” novel. The problem novel took as its subject the plight of a teen facing some extraordinary challenge in his or her life: the tragic loss of a sibling or parent, living with a mentally ill sibling, a mother or father diagnosed with a terminal disease, an addiction to drugs, an abusive relationship, etc. Being gay was considered one of those problems, a trauma of self-realization that even when it was presented in a sympathetic manner made it clear that the social implications for being gay were serious, that a teen would fight issues of self-acceptance and would likely face the rejection of parents and friends and social institutions at large. Being gay set these youth apart from their peers and presented them with a unique set of “problems.”

The great achievement, and triumphant evolution, of gay literature for youth in the last few years is the realization that gay youth, whatever the continuing degree of social rejection or intolerance (the world has changed for many, but not much for some), also face in their development the same issues that all youth face: learning about who they are, developing a positive self-image, working out altered relationships with friends and family, coming to understand the nature of intimate relationships, and all the other developmental “tasks” of these formative years. Their fundamental needs make them more like their peers than their gayness sets them apart. We now have for youth a literature that makes gay teens feel less apart and shows straight teens the fundamentals that they and their peers share in common, regardless of their individual sexual orientation.

The mix of characters in a gay youth novel now looks more like the social world of a gay high school student today. And as in gay adult literature, gay characters in literature for youth are now crossing the next frontier: Young gay characters are starting to appear in the more popular genres, such as dystopian novels, mysteries, graphic novels and speculative fiction, as writers no longer feel compelled to quarantine gay youth in “serious” and literary novels. While these may still be books written particularly for them (something still both necessary and positive), gay youth are now starting to see their reflection in the whole world of literature for youth.

Thank you, Hubert! No one could have phrased it better. We will be featuring the book list, along with the books on it, in displays in our libraries this month, and we hope you will check out a few excellent reads from this category of teen fiction.

Illustration used with permission from the Keith Haring Foundation.


  1. Any chance of linking the list?

  2. Sue, the list will soon be available through our catalog, which you can reach by > I want to...find a book > "Have you read?" > Teen Booklists > click on GLBT Fiction for Teens! Or, if you will send me your email address, I will send you the pdf of the book list.