Wednesday, June 23, 2010

GLTB YA (and Libraries) in the New Yorker

Via E. Lockhart's Facebook feed, I found this article in the New Yorker, Books With Gay Themes for Young Readers Take Off.

Libraries didn't come off very well: the article interviews one teen who got a flat-out "No way," when asking for GLBT books at his middle school library, only found books for adults at his public library, and had to go to a bookstore to find the real stuff. Ouch. He's not alone, either:
Recent research in Texas, for instance, indicated a strong ''I don't serve those teens'' attitude among librarians.

''It's the argument that drives me crazy,'' said Teri Lesesne, who teaches young adult lit in the Department of Library Science at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas.

''It's like, `Yeah, you do.' They might not be coming in and saying, `Hi, I'm gay or I'm bi or I'm transgender or I'm questioning my own identity,' because they're afraid,'' she said. ''But they're there and they're looking for these books.''
Now, I know not all libraries or librarians are like that. Couldn't they have found one example of a public or school librarian who said, "Oh, yeah, I recommend those books all the time. Wanna see my display?" Sigh.

Still, it's a good article, with mentions of the recent John Green/David Levithin collaboration Will Grayson, Will Grayson and the book that peeked around closet doors the same year that man landed on the moon, John Donovan's I'll Get There, It Better Be Worth the Trip.

Things I wish they'd included? A booklist. They did mention some great authors (Julie Anne Peters! Woot!) but would it have killed 'em to go, "Check out these awesome books too!"?

Still, they did get a wonderful quote in there:
''I see the [gay] characters trickling into the mainstream genres. I really like that,'' Brent said. ''It makes being gay feel natural, which it is, of course. Books give you hope.''


Jenny said...

Great article - but you're right about the libraries coming off badly. I can't imagine it would be impossible to find a librarian who was excited about promoting books with GLBTQ themes, just for balance.

Bibliovore said...

Balance, that's the word! I also noticed that the middle school librarian claimed those books weren't "appropriate" for her library. Of course, the real reason is probably the GLBT content, period, but doubtless she would say, "Oh, they're all for teens, with sex and drinking and such." I'm gathering examples of books with gay and lesbian characters (main, secondary, tertiary) where they are soooooo appropriate for middle school that the only possible reason not to include them is the GLBT theme.

I thought of Totally Joe and My Most Excellent Year, both of whom have wonderfully gay-and-comfortable-with-it characters, but I need more middle school titles. You got any?

Anonymous said...

The Manny Files by Christian Burch is hysterical. My family recently listened to the audio version and loved it. (grades 1, 3, and 5) I am not sure if my first grader noticed the GLBT content; he just thought the Manny was funny and Uncle Max was a good friend of his. My husband saw the stereotypes, but the kids didn't. Appropriate for elementary and younger middle school.

Nyssa said...

That does depress me that they didn't show the other side. I just took down my GLBT teen display! And I have a booklist. Maybe you and I should work on updating that booklist...