Today's guest post comes from Dana Rudolph founder and publisher of Mombian, a blog and resource directory for LGBT parents.
The American Library Association's Rainbow Project in February published its third annual Rainbow Bibliography, a list of recommended, LGBT-inclusive books for readers under age 18. Nel Ward, head of the Rainbow Project, said that the Bibliography is designed to address one of the biggest problems librarians have with including LGBT-inclusive books in their collections: they don’t know what to buy.
LGBT book-award programs, such as the Lambda Literary Awards or the ALA’s own Stonewall Book Awards, "highlight just the very, very best," Ward explained. In contrast, the Rainbow Bibliography takes a broader view, beyond just the top two or three titles.
The Rainbow Bibliography is not a catch-all of last year's books with LGBT content, however. Ward said that she and her committee of eight ALA members looked at almost 150 books, nominated 64, and selected 46 for the final list. In order to be considered, books needed to have significant LGBT content, be accessible to readers under age 18, and be of sufficient quality.
The committee cited four works for "exceptional quality and impact": How Beautiful the Ordinary: Twelve Stories of Identity, a collection for teens edited by Michael Cart; Ash, by Malinda Lo, a retelling of Cinderella with a lesbian twist; Into the Beautiful North, by Luis Alberto Urrea, about three young women and their gay friend seeking to protect their Mexican town; and Finlater, by Shawn Stewart Ruff, the story of two teens who fall in love and must deal with homophobia and racial tension in the 1970's.
Ward, in an interview, also highlighted two of the books with transgender characters. One is the fictional Almost Perfect, by Brian Katcher, about a boy who falls in love with a girl and finds out she’s transgender. "It's very nicely done," she said, "and it shows the difficulty on both sides of dealing with this situation."
The other is Mara Drummond's Transitions: A Guide to Transitioning for Transsexuals and Their Families. Although it is not aimed at youth per se, Ward said she thinks it will be of use to students in middle school and beyond. She relates that in Portland, Oregon, near her home, there have been newspaper articles about two ministers and a high school teacher who made gender transitions and remained in their positions. "These are people that young people will then need to know information about," she observed. "I think [Transitions] will provide them good information about why they [transition]. It's not clinical. It's just very, very straightforward material."
Ward noted that although there are also several other non-fiction works on the list, none were written specifically for children and young adults, a gap she hopes some authors and publishers will remedy.
One of the difficulties of creating the list, Ward said, is that the cataloguing headings assigned to books by the Library of Congress do not always indicate LGBT content. The lack of appropriate subject headings meant that at least one book—Alison Goodman’s Eon: Dragoneye Reborn, which has both a crossdressing character and a transgender one—was missed by the committee until after its October 2009 deadline. The good thing is, Ward noted, that a sequel is due out this fall, and should be a candidate for a future Rainbow Bibliography.
Although there is much overlap between the Rainbow Bibliography and the ALA's list of the most frequently banned and challenged books, Ward said feedback about the Bibliography has been overwhelmingly positive, both from librarians and children. Youth are posting to online social networks "about how grateful they are to get these books," she said. Gay-straight alliances and other diversity programs are also using the Bibliography as a core list for their work.
The entire Rainbow Bibliography is available online at ALA Rainbow Project