Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Guest Post: Free to a Good Home: Slash Goggles

Today's guest post is from Renay of Subverting the Text. Welcome to our blog, Renay!

Greetings, book comrades! Gather round and settle in: grab some refreshment and a comfy seat. I have a story to share with you.

Totally relevant: I'm a cisgendered bisexual woman from the South.
I write stories. Most of the time they are fanfiction and we're all pals so I will be honest: I write fanfiction because I love speculative fiction sources that have really intense friendships. Lots of us love those, except heterosexual folks call them "romances". I love these really intense friendships because they won't become explicit romances. It's yet another chapter in Mainstream Culture Loves the Binary.

I "discovered" slash (male/male or female/female relationships for the purposes of this post) when I was 16. I had, of course, discovered it and daydreamed it and written it before, but I didn't know what it was called besides wrong! It wasn't in any published material that I could find — clearly a statement. That's when I started reading slash fanfiction on the same internet I am now posting this essay on. Here's a fun fact: I was ashamed of reading it, shamed to the bone, shamed to even speak aloud this new hobby. You could say my experience with slash mirrored my experience with my own sexuality. You would not be wrong in making that connection.

Here was everything I wanted from the sources I loved that the sources couldn't, and maybe wouldn't give me. There were hundreds of people writing it (later, I would learn, an entire subculture made up of thousands), but it was wrong, wasn't it? Mainstream culture said so and talk about a grab bag of emotional bemusement; I was 150% deviant for reading about Harry and Draco making out and boy, if I mentioned it out loud it was as if I had set the entire Harry Potter series on fire and also spit on it, because how could I think Harry Potter liked gentlemen. Imagine that, for one moment, please: that when heterosexual people can form a fandom about Team Sparkle and Team Fur and it's normal, but when people like me get fannish and transformative, explore texts from different angles to place people like us and relationships we want to see in them, we're just wrong, and not wrong in the "it's not canon" sense: morally wrong. So wrong, we don't even deserve to touch the source itself.

Cue rending of fabrics and long nights in front of my computer, confused but unable to stop. I read fanfiction and started to write fanfiction, for all these sources I loved where these really intense relationships were never going to become explicit in the text and I finally understood why. What's a confused teenager to do? Accept the source and put away the shameful toy? That's like telling us to shut off our minds.

That's Gay. No, Really.
Homoerotic subtext. I've made a cozy internet home on the basis that it will continue to happen. It's the flavor of the day, a sly nod that yeah, creators know we're there but they can't always acknowledge it because it hurts their bottom line. It's happening in sources that exist right now. As Aja points out in her post, i know you care for him as much as i do.:

We don't have gay main characters. Oh, we get them as sidekicks. ... But we don't get nearly enough gay heroes. We don't get nearly enough stories like Malinda Lo's Ash, where the real story is about how the heroine defeats a curse, and — oh, yeah, just happens to fall in love with a woman instead of a man. In fact, the reason Ash was so acclaimed when it debuted last year was because it was the exceptional exception to every rule. And all those rules basically boil down to: WE CAN'T HAVE MAINSTREAM STORIES ABOUT GAY PEOPLE.


But I want more. I hate that Guy Ritchie just slammed down that much ballsy homoeroticism in Sherlock Holmes, and yet the first time I mention it in casual conversation, someone will tell me that I'm crazy. Because why shouldn't I be crazy? Why shouldn't I be reading too much into things? As long as homosexuality exists only on the periphery of mainstream stories, and is only presented in "acceptable" overt ways, it will continue to reinforce the celluloid closet. It will continue to reinforce among the ignorant the idea that homosexuality isn't something that applies to them or what/who they love.

Her whole post is excellent. I highly recommend it.

We are living in the future!
These days I can go outside the main text for stories that have the type of relationship dynamics I want written by fans like me who want the same thing and I'm not shackled to a vein of literature that's rarely going to yield gold. The teen I was couldn't do that because before the internet there were only books and the books around me didn't reflect my feelings at all. There was no way Jessica Wakefield was going to suddenly decide to make out with the ladies — unless I wrote it myself. There was no way I would ever convince my sophomore English teacher that there was some hardcore homoerotic shenanigans between Gene and Finny in A Separate Peace. YA literature, literature in general, failed me, through no fault of its own — our voices were rarely considered, and when they were, it was a very long way from Rich Publishing Company to Podunk, Arkansas, Population: Homophobic.

This is what I want to share with this tl;dr post: the paradigm shift of then and now, aided by changing times and internet power — the power every book blogger now has. YA literature isn't failing teens now. No, in fact, I look at what YA literature is offering LGBT teens and I ache for my teenage self a little, even though I wouldn't give up my transformative, slashy works and community for anything. All these narratives, reaching out to teens and even adults and going, "look, here we are!". It's a little like living through those years is being validated, one YA book at a time, with characters that reflect my teenage self back at me and say, "you made it!". It's on shelves, it's being published, it's evolving as LGBT writers fill the canon with their stories. The stories pour out, they're coming, faster and faster, and getting better and better. We live in, if not perfect times, positive, hopeful times. When I compare now to then I marvel; we are lucky, so lucky, and we will only get more so.

We can have gay heroes now in literature, even if we have to be patient and watch twenty heterosexual romances pass us by — we have not yet reached the tipping point. We have pounded the metaphorical pavement of the years to reach a place where a LGBT author can be on the bestseller list, where a LGBT book can be faced out on shelves, even if we're not there yet in other types of media. If we want, we can take off the slash goggles and just have text — not subtext, not winks and nudges from creators, but honest LGBT relationships. We can live in our imaginations, but now it is no longer our only option.

It can only get better from here by LGBT lit being embraced by everyone, not just LGBT folks and allies. We've been reading heterosexual texts for years because we pine for stories, stories, always more stories. We've been asked to identify with heterosexual characters, invest ourselves in their stories, look past the fact that we were never represented and when we were it was often tragic or played for laughs. What I want is a future in which cisgendered heterosexual people can do that for us. The stories don't have to be romance. They just need to be stories that feature people like us: westerns, romances, SF/F, realistic fiction, religious fiction. To reach that, everyone has to be able to look at the stories and see, instead of a binary divide, just people — people who love in ways that do not conform to the cisgendered, heterosexual norm.

I believe in the day where LGBT characters in popular media are the norm and not tokens, characterized vividly and as thoroughly as their heterosexual counterparts. I believe in the day that these types of representations exist outside the culture of transformative works as well as inside it. I believe in that day. I believe in us.

It's an adventure and the door is wide open.
I could recommend texts here and I thought about doing so — but this isn't meant to be a recommendation post. It's a call to expand horizons and look beyond our own experiences into something wider. It's a call for more education for people whose perspective is so radically different that they can't imagine how anything in a LGBT character's life could apply to theirs. It's about reaching out to those stories and narratives. it's about empathy, it's about learning to value and learn from all human experience, not just one that reflects back what we already know and understand about the world. It's above love.

In case you do want reccommendations, well, there are three places I value above all others: Lee Wind, who has been blogging and promoting LGBT books for years as well as posting on topics relevant to YA experiences. His blog is invaluable, he's one of our greatest treasures for the work he is doing. He should be in everyone's reader: I'm Here. I'm Queer. What the Hell do I read?

QueerYA posts reviews on so many interesting titles. The archives are rich and full of guidance.

Lambda Literary Awards, which not only covers YA in their lists, but has their finger on the pulse of tons of LGBT literature.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Guest Post: 2010 Rainbow Bibliography Highlights LGBT Books for Kids

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

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Guest Post: Bi This Book!

Today's guest post comes from Lauren Bjorkman, author of My Invented Life. She's here to talk about the very underrepresented topic of bisexuality in YA lit, and to give suggestions on books to read. Welcome to our blog, Lauren!


Bisexual characters, especially bi protagonists are unusual in teen lit. A visit to Lee Wind’s website—I’m Here. I’m Queer. What the Hell Do I Read?—makes this clear. Only eight out of 200+ GLBT titles there have bisexual characters or themes. Until recently, the in-betweens hovered on the fringe of the literary rainbow world. For instance, the Lambda Literary Award only began recognizing bisexual lit in 2006, though the award started in 1988. Here are a few of the myths bis have had to overcome--

They go for everything that moves.

They’re not as committed to the gay movement “real” gays.

They prefer to date the opposite sex so they can “pass” as straight.

They’re going through a transition on their way to becoming gay.

They’re confused and indecisive.

Here’s the cool part! Two weeks ago, I bought a stack of bi teen novels and read them all from cover to cover. They were universally excellent, deep, and heart-warming. Some made me laugh aloud. Besides that, they blasted these stereotypes and crazy ideas right out of the water. Check out my book recommendations at the end of the post.

When I started writing My Invented Life, I knew little about bisexuality. In fact, I didn’t set out to write about bisexuality at all. My theme was sisters and the secrets that come between them. But in the midst of planning my novel, I went to my high school reunion. The drama around certain classmates that came out inspired me to use sexual orientation as the wedge between my fictional sisters. When I shared my premise with my critique group, one member dropped out. Which meant I was onto something.

As part of my research, I read a number of gay and lesbian novels, and discovered David Levithan’s Boy Meets Boy. Some call his setting gaytopia—a world where being queer is not an issue. I loved this! I wanted to write a fun and light-hearted book, too. So I made the main conflicts in My Invented Life about competition between the two sisters.

After I started writing, friends and acquaintances asked me about my WIP. When I told them about my queer characters, they surprised me with their personal stories. Women who where married to the opposite sex—some I’d known for years, some I barely knew at all—came out to me for the first time. I’m bisexual. I had a lesbian phase in college. I had a crush on a woman once. I find women attractive but it’s easier to be with a man.

Around then, I learned about the Kinsey scale. Kinsey considered sexual orientation a continuum rather than an either/or situation. This made so much sense to me! Of course, I had to have a character bring up his research. My characters uses the dashboard of a car instead of a scale, and places herself somewhere around the glove compartment. And so my story evolved. One blogger, Shelf Elf, reviewed My Invented Life as: funny + depth = reading bliss. I hope you agree.

Here are some other bi-books for your TBR pile!

The Bermudez Triangle by Maureen Johnson

Three girls—Nina, Avery, and Mel—have been best friends since childhood. Nina leaves town to attend a leadership program the summer before senior year. While she’s gone, Mel and Avery have a sleep over that leads to romance between them. Mel has always known she was a lesbian, but kept it to herself. Avery learns that she can be attracted to girls for the first time. When Nina returns, things go from complicated to VERY complicated. Despite the drama, the story stays sweet and funny. Nina, Mel, and Avery are wonderfully flawed, and yet likeable. I enjoyed the tender romance, as well as the friendship story.

“Hello,” I Lied by M.E. Kerr

This one hooked me from the first sentence. Lang is a gay teen in love with a twenty year-old actor, who loves him back. The story takes place during a summer when Lang lands a job helping his mother as an assistant to a fascinating and elusive rock star. The rock star insists on throwing Lang together with a mysterious daughter of another rock star. And though Lang is securely gay, he falls for her. The gay romance and bi romance are both beautiful and believable. And talk about lyrical and poignant writing! This one differs from the others because it focuses on a bi relationship that looks allegedly heterosexual to the outside world.

Attack of the Soul-Sucking Brain Zombies by Brent Hartinger

This sequel to Geography Club has a unique feature. In the first half, Hartinger tells the story from one character’s POV. When you finish, you flip the book over and read from a different POV. The feisty bisexual Min narrates the second half. She’s on a quest to find new romance, and succeeds while working as zombie extras on a movie set. But her new girlfriend won’t come out to her friends. Out-spoken Min has trouble accepting this. Hartinger’s style is funny and matter-of-fact. He creates adorable, good-hearted, and authentically teen characters.

Of All the Stupid Things by Alexandra Diaz

This debut novel has a lot going on. Like in The Bermudez Triangle, there are three friends who have been friends forever. Unlike Maureen Johnson, who writes in the third person, Diaz writes in the first person from each of their POVs. Tara, a hitherto straight girl, falls for a girl outside their triangle. The romance is sweet and wonderful. And Tara quickly accepts that she can have romantic feelings towards girls as well as boys. The other plotlines surround friendship, self-confidence, and abandonment. I especially loved how these three girls stand up for one another when the going gets tough.

Empress of the World by Sara Ryan

This book came out in 2001, breaking some serious ground. It is a quintessential coming of age story. Nic has always had crushes on boys until the summer she meets Battle at a summer school for gifted children. Battle is a beautiful Southern belle and daughter of a minister. Nic dissects these new feelings with the ardor of an archeologist—the profession she hopes to pursue as an adult. But when romance blooms, she doesn’t stop dissecting. This puts a strain on her new relationship. At the end of the story, Nic still hasn’t decided whether she is lesbian or bisexual, but feels okay not labeling herself. I really loved Nic’s observant “field notes” scattered throughout the story.

Love and Lies: Marisol’s Story by Ellen Wittlinger

Marisol defers her first year of college to write a novel. She moves into a cramped apartment with a friend who brings home strays, works in a rundown cafĂ© on Harvard Square, and enrolls in a novel writing class. Right away, she falls for her stunning writing instructor, Olivia Frost. Their budding relationship starts of romantic, but quickly goes down hill when Olivia’s dark-side comes through.

I included this sequel to Hard Love because Ellen Wittlinger writes amazing novels. If you haven’t read Parrotfish yet, you should! But I hesitated. Because this was the only book in my stack where the bisexual character turned out to be an unsympathetic character. Perhaps she isn’t even bisexual. But I decided to leave it in so I could ask this question. Should authors only portray GLBT characters in a positive light? Or can they be messed up, or even villainous? Why or why not?

Here are some cool websites and a non-fiction book to check out--

I’m Here. I’m Queer. What The Hell Do I Read?


Alex Sanchez’s list of GLBT books


Bi Magazine


Bi any other name: bisexual people speak out

Monday, April 5, 2010

Guest Post: a survey of GLBT YA books

Today's guest post is from Andrea at The Little Bookworm. Thanks for your thoughts, Andrea!

Almost all of the books I read for the GLBT Challenge are young adult. It's what I read, my genre if you will. So I've put together a list of some great GLBT YA books written in the last decade. I've read almost all of them. Some I will admit I haven't gotten to yet, but they are the list. I will say that this genre of YA has grown considerably in the last decade with it becoming more acceptable for gay teens in books to have uncloseted relationships. It's a good thing that will hopefully get even better.

Rainbow Boys by Alex Sanchez (2001): I haven't actually read this one yet though I have skimmed though parts. Based on that, it's something that I want to read. An exploration of high school life through boys who are in different stages of coming out. There is the openly gay one, the closeted jock, and the one who is in the in-between stage of accepting his sexuality.

Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan (2003): An very idealistic work, where the town the main character lives in is openly accepting of gays and the characters are mostly crazy. It's a very sweet and hopeful book.

The Bermudez Triangle by Maureen Johnson (2004): Actually one of my favorite books period, this one by the always entertaining Johnson is about three friends, two of whom start dating each other and the havoc this bring to their childhood friendship. Less about a lesbian relationship and more about what happens when two out of three friends start dating.

Between Mom and Jo by Julie Ann Peters (2006): I'm pretty sure Amanda will back me up when I say this is one of the most moving books ever and if you haven't read it yet, get thee to the bookstore or local library. The main character is torn between his two moms when they split up and the thought provoking story of what happens to the kid in the middle of a lesbian divorce and parental rights in that case.

Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Leviathan (2006): A intriguing straight love story surrounded by the main guy's queercore band, one crazy night that all begins with the question "Will you be my girlfriend for the next 5 minutes?" and ends with something amazingly beautiful.

Another Kind of Cowboy
by Susan Juby (2007): Alex is gay though no one knows yet. Cleo doesn't like riding dressage though she can't seem to get her mom to understand. But they are brought together by the horse show world and find something they were each missing in each other.

Hero by Perry Moore (2007): One of the more interesting GLBT books I have read involves a gay teenage superhero and his ragtag group of superhero friends. He is trying to hide both his powers and his homosexuality from his disgraced father. But he finds that it's harder to hide yourself than he thinks.

Nothing Pink by Mark Hardy (2008): A sweet novella set in the 1970's about the son of a preacher who tries to hide his homosexuality from his parents, but finds himself fascinated by a new boy at church.

Twelve Long Months by Brian Malloy (2008): I actually own this one but haven't read it yet. It's the story of a girl hopelessly in crush with a guy in her high school. But when they graduate and move to the big city, she finds something out about him that throws her for a loop. He is just experiencing the freedom of being himself for the first time. Can they remain friends?

Ash by Malinda Lo (2009): Modern retelling of the Cinderellas story with a twist. Cinderellas falls in love with the King's Huntress and must figure out how to save herself from her wicked stepmother.

Of All the Stupid Things by Alexandra Diaz (2009): I haven't yet read this one, but it's high on my list. Tara is friends with Brent and Pinkie. But when Brent sleeps with one of the guy cheerleaders (so goes the rumor) it throws their friendship in chaos. But then a new girl arrives and Tara feels an attraction to her throwing Tara herself for a loop.

Friday, April 2, 2010

April Mini-Challenge

All right. We have two winners for March, since this mini-challenge was for two different challenges. Random.org has chosen.....

Bri from What Bri Reads


Shellie from Layers of Thought

Congratulations, Bri and Shellie! Take a look at the prize bucket and send me an email (address is in the sidebar) with your choice and address.

The April mini-challenge here at the Challenge That Dare Not Speak Its Name is all about Young Adult books. The task is simple: read a GLBT YA book.

Once you read it, leave a link to your post in the Mr. Linky. I will draw a winner of all participants at the beginning of next month. Winner will be able to pick from the prize bucket.

There will also be a second winner in April, as Lauren Bjorkman, author of My Invented Life, has graciously donated a copy of her book as a prize for April. Thank you so much, Lauren!

Mini-challenges are, of course, totally optional. :)

**Note: While you do not need to do the mini-challenge if you are a GLBT Challenge participant, you must be a participant if you would like to enter here. Thanks!

Also, keep an eye on the blog - we have some excellent guest posts about GLBT YA books coming up, as well as some author talk!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Reviews - 2nd Quarter

First things first, thanks to everyone who has participated in the GLBT Challenge so far. We are drawing a 1st quarter winner from all active participants. Random.org has chosen......

CB James!!

Congratulations, CB! Take a look at the prize bucket and send me an email (address is in the sidebar) with your choice and address.


Below, you can link to your reviews in April, May, and June. Remember a prize will be drawn for all active participants! Can't wait to see what you all read!

PS - The winner for the March Mini-Challenge will be drawn tomorrow, so make sure to get your entries in!