queer teen lit

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Heya! I saw you in the "queer teen lit" tag. I like "why this blog" post - it brings up a bunch of queer teen lit issues. I run the fyeahqueerteenlit tumblr - it lists all the queer teen lit books I've been able to find, focusing mainly on recent books. Anyways, I hope you don't give up on updating - your reviews are great.

Aw thanks! I’m so glad someone reads my reviews, and I will definitely update now that I am aware of that! :] Your blog is awesome, followed!

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I am J

imageI am J, by Chris Beam, is one of the few pieces of YA teen fiction that I have ever read that deals with trans/gender-queer issues. In an honest, unabashed way, the novel tells the story of J, who was assigned to the gender female at birth. The narrative refers to J with male pronouns, and when people call J by female pronouns in the story, it is jarring. Quite simply, Beam writes J as a boy, not as a girl who wants to be a boy. And that, in itself, is huge.

J is a teenager living in Washington Heights, Manhattan. He attends high school and has a somewhat fraught relationship with his parents. He loves to swim and is very interested in photography. In the book, J discovers that he is transgender by doing some research on the internet. He finds out that he is not alone, and that other people feel the way he does. There’s a really great scene where he constructs a homemade chest binder, a scene to which almost all female bodied but not necessarily cisgender people can relate to.

The book features its fair share of melodrama—the coming out debacle, culminating in J getting kicked out of his house and living with his best friend Melissa, for whom he harbors a huge crush. While I would like to say that J’s story at this point in the book is overblown, the sad truth is that it isn’t. J’s story is that of a huge number of trans* teenagers. Readers both trans* and cis will be heartened to see J’s progression through the story.

The novel is by no means Hollywood-esque (as if Hollywood would ever even deign to produce a movie outside of the heterosexist cultural narrative). It is not a dramatically overstated “IT GETS BETTER” message. It is a coming of age story that is heartbreaking and hopeful. You should definitely read this book.

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Guys, I wrote an email to Malinda Lo, a YA author whose work features queer protagonists, a few months ago, and I just received an email response with a link to a lengthy response on her blog. I think you guys will appreciate it, so I’m sharing it here. 

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This is a video produced by Writopia Lab, a non-profit writing workshop for kids ages 8-18. I appear in it! (my official name is Nora so that’s what’s in the video, although I go by Rory). It’s an It Gets Better video, which I sometimes have issues with, but I like that this one has a theme—it gets better, and writing helps that process.

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Keeping You a Secret

Keeping You a Secret by Julie Anne Peters was the first book about a queer teenager that I ever read. It’s a quick read, only 250 pages long. I finished it in about four hours, but I thought about it long after.

We begin by meeting our protagonist, Holland Jaeger, a motivated high school senior taking a tremendously difficult course-load. She has a boyfriend with whom she has mediocre sex. She has a group of fairly one-dimensional friends.

Enter Cece Goddard, an out-and-proud lesbian transfer student. Holland finds herself strangely drawn to Cece, to the confusion of most of the student body.

And thus we embark on a love story, a charming romance that does not gloss over the hard parts. Homophobia is raging in Holland’s classmates and her family. While somewhat predictable and often melodramatic in plot, the story does not try to have a perfect ending. It illustrates struggles queer teenagers have without blithely announcing that “It Gets Better!” and sparing us the gory details.

This book doesn’t showcase extraordinary writing. It is what it sets out to be—a lesbian love story that is not a porno. It isn’t trash, but it isn’t groundbreaking. But it does its job well, and in terms of YA queer lit, it should be considered something of canon, a modern-day version of Nancy Garden’s Annie on my Mind. Highly recommended.

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why this blog?

This blog exists to list and review books about queer teenagers, for the reading pleasure of LGBTQIA identified and straight folks alike. I have compiled a list of reasons why I think this blog, and other efforts like it, are important.

  • Because there aren’t enough books about people like us.
  • Because queer YA lit is a very specific genre composed mostly of a few set archetypes. We’ve all read that book before. The protagonist is a football player or something. He has a girlfriend he isn’t really attracted to. BIG REVELATION. He’s gay! He tries to hide it. But of course everyone finds out, and he gets kicked off of the football team and harassed and called mean names and perhaps briefly stops going to school to hide at home. But then he makes a supportive friend and starts a GSA at his school, and like a Dan Savage video clip, it gets better. 

    I’m not saying this story isn’t important. On the contrary, it’s a story that needs to be told, and has opened up closets and eyes. But what about the rest of us? Where do all the other young queers fit into this story?
  • Because queer YA lit shouldn’t have to be a genre. You can find all kinds of books about straight teens. There are straight teens who are vampires, straight teens who live in a dystopian future society, straight teens who have general straight teen angst. We need to locate and make available the (limited) books there are about gay teens who are angsty vampires, etc.
  • Because when I look up lesbian fiction in the library catalogue, all I find is erotica.
  • Because when I finished my public library’s supply of queer fiction, I asked a librarian to help me find non-fiction books about LGBTQIA stuff. And she pointed me to the religion section. When I came back to the desk and told her she must’ve made a mistake, that the call number she had given me was for the religion section, she told me, and I quote, “You’ll find everything you need there.”
  • Because these books do exist. I have spent hours in bookstores and libraries, done countless internet searches, proving that.

So queers, let’s read!



P.S. If you have any book recommendations or want to write a guest review for this blog, send me a message!