As a teenager in the 90’s finding young adult books in my small town library was hard enough, but finding books that were at all diverse was nearly impossible. By middle school I was mostly reading adult but to be honest, I don’t think I ever read a book where the characters were Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual or transgender while in middle or high school. It’s possible I’m just not remembering though. As an adult thinking, and looking back, I can see how books that are more diverse can impact young people. They can connect with characters and stories that are like them. It can show them that others go through what they go through and that they aren’t alone. It also helps normalize it so people are just more accepting.
I grew up in a small town in the midwest and if anyone even hinted at being LGBT it was a BIG deal. I know now of many of my classmates that didn’t come out until they were adults and had moved to larger cities. I also know of a few who claimed they were as teenagers (and took hell because of it) but as adults they decided they weren’t. Teenagers don’t always know and not knowing is fine. It’s part of growing up. Experimenting with what you like, who you love, etc, is normal. Teens need to know that. As an adult I’m incredibly thankful to see that YA has taken off and become huge a genre and people of all ages are loving it. I know I can’t seem to get enough of it and I’m enjoying the fresh take on things and seeing more diverse books becoming much more popular.
The next book I’m going to talk about is Huntress by Malinda Lo (Review). This book is a fantasy with Asian and LGBT themes. I love that she wove those things together and once again, it was just how it was, it wasn’t an ‘issue’. There are lots of teens (and adults) that love fantasy and including things they connect with on a more personal level is something that I love seeing.
One book that I LOVED was Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins. Lola has two dads. Two gay fathers. I’m not sure if I’ve read a book about a child that has gay parents. I’m probably just not remembering. But in this one we see it from the childs perspective. Lola never has a problem with it or anything, it’s just part of her life. I liked that. I liked seeing how it might be growing up with two fathers instead of a mother and a father. It’s not really much different, but others may see it differently and make life difficult. Another thing in this book, that doesn’t technically bring it under diverse, but I think with the whole theme of the book it kind of still fits, is that Lola is very different herself. She may not be a lesbian, bisexual or be of color, but she is certainly her own person. She designs her own outrageous outfits and it’s her. But others don’t always see it that way and she sometimes gets a hard time from people. This book was just amazing on so many levels, I couldn’t recommend it any more highly.
HUGE thank you to Cindy Pon (read her books, they are freaking AWESOME) and Malinda Lo (also awesome!) for putting this together. I know it put many, many new books on my radar and I have an entire bookcase now dedicated to ‘diverse’ books. Most I still need to read but plan to very soon!