Tuesday, November 20, 2012

2012 YA Lit Symposium - The Invisible Minority

The Future of young Adult Literature
YALSA's Young Adult Literature Symposium

Perhaps the most informational program I attended at the YA Lit Symposium was The Invisible Minority: LGBTQ Teens and Their Literature. 

Brian Katcher speaking at the YA Literature Symposium in St. Louis
(November 2, 2012)
Funny story, I actually work in the same town Brian Katcher lives in. He teaches computers in the the Elementary School and I've met him a few times when the librarians have gotten together to talk summer strategies. An incredibly nice guy, I was seriously wowed by his speech and his passion for LGBTQ issues.

Brian's book, Almost Perfect, is the story of Logan and the girl he falls in love with, Sage. Only, in this tale, Sage may not be everything she appears. Dealing with complex issues such as sexual and self identities, Almost Perfect is a wonderful story of acceptance and love. 

Logan Witherspoon recently discovered that his girlfriend of three years cheated on him. But things start to look up when a new student breezes through the halls of his small-town high school. Sage Hendricks befriends Logan at a time when he no longer trusts or believes in people. Sage has been homeschooled for a number of years and her parents have forbidden her to date anyone, but she won’t tell Logan why. One day, Logan acts on his growing feelings for Sage. Moments later, he wishes he never had. Sage finally discloses her big secret: she’s actually a boy. Enraged, frightened, and feeling betrayed, Logan lashes out at Sage and disowns her. But once Logan comes to terms with what happened, he reaches out to Sage in an attempt to understand her situation. But Logan has no idea how rocky the road back to friendship will be.
During the program, the panel touched on the astonishing statistics involving our gay youth of today. (For the sake of my blog, I'll point out that LGBTQ stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transexual, Queer) Did you know that most LGBTQ realize they are different around the ages of 11-13? 11-13! 

In addition, the panel shared some scary information on harassment for these teens. According to various studies, 25-40% of homeless teens identify themselves as gay or transgender. LGBTQ students are FIVE times more likely to attempt suicide and over 84% of gay teens reported being verbally abused in the LAST year. 

Think that LGBTQ teens are a small segment of the population? Not so - 4-6% of teens identify themselves as LGBTQ. That means that out of every 100 kids that step foot in your library, 6 of them could fall into this group. Having materials, both fiction and nonfiction, for this section of the teen population is incredibly important. 
Knowing to have these materials and actually having them can be a challenge. During the discussion, a librarian mentioned a time when she had some gay teenagers in her library complaining that there are never books for them. No characters that they could identify with- which led the librarian to searching her catalog. Upon inspection, she realized she only had three books in her library that had gay characters...and four students wanting the books. 

The program was incredibly interesting and quite the eye opener. I have made an effort in the past year since bullying has come to the forefront to buy books dealing with these issues, but in the future I think I will be making a point to buy more books with gay characters. Beyond helping the teens who are in this LGBTQ group, it will help other teens become more accepting and open with those complex issues.

The panel shared the following article with the group and I thought it important to share as well. Whether you are a Young Adult librarian looking to beef up your collection or just someone who would like to read books with positive gay characters, here are some wonderful suggestions.

By: Miranda Lo
  1. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe By: Benjamin Alire Saenz
  2. Beauty Queens By: Libba Bray
  3. Boy Meets Boy By: David Levithan
  4. Boyfriends with Girlfriends By: Alex Sanchez
  5. The Difference Between You and Me By: Madeleine George
  6. Empress of the World By: Sara Ryan
  7. I am J By: Cris Beam
  8. It's Our Prom (So Deal with It) By: Julie Anne Peters
  9. Parrotfish By: Ellen Wittlinger
  10. Wildthorn By: Jane English
  11. Huntress By: Malinda Lo
Some links that may be helpful:
Jessi Menold's Blog: LGBT @ Your Library

1 comment:

  1. I loved Almost Perfect. Such a wonderful story. Thank you for posting more LGBTQ YA novels. I'm always looking for more to read.