May 17 is the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia so I thought this was the perfect time to talk about books that feature LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered) characters.
First off – I’m no expert so if you are wondering what it all means there’s a great glossary at the UC Davis Resource Centre.
I’ve often talked about how important it is for young readers to recognize themselves in the books that they read, and for that reason it’s obviously important for LGBT characters to have access to books with characters that reflect their own experiences. I don’t know whether those books existed when I was a teen – although that was a million years ago.
I spend a lot of time choosing books for my classroom library. I’d love to have a little bookstore someday, but stocking the shelves in my classroom is almost as much fun. But I digress. When I’m buying books for my class I try to keep in mind all my students – so I have to buy books about hockey and skateboarding and kids from other countries. I have to buy non-fiction.I have to buy easy books and challenging books. I have to appeal to all my readers and, more importantly, I have to give my kids an opportunity to read books that will expand their worlds. Books have done that for me; I want books to do that for them.
Having the opportunity to read about someone’s journey – regardless of what that journey is – goes a long way to developing understanding, acceptance and the most important human quality – empathy. We seem to be inching our way towards a world of acceptance – lots of positive things happening out there – the straight guy who asked his gay friend to the prom, for example…but the world that I dream of for my own kids is one where people are just people and that kindness extends to everyone and that a story like that is the norm…and therefore, not news, really.
So I have some book suggestions.
Every Day – David Levithan
So every day the main character ‘A’ wakes up in a different body. He spends 24 hours in that body and he is essentially that person. This is a strange way to live, but it gets even stranger when A falls in love with Rhiannon, the girlfriend of one of his ‘host’ bodies. This book really blurs those gender lines and asks its readers to consider what love is and, more importantly, what it is not. I recommend this book a lot in my classroom.
More Than This – Patrick Ness
So everyone knows I am a huge Ness fan and I loved this book, too. The fact that Seth, the main character in this confounding novel is gay is only incidental, really. The novel starts with Seth drowning and then waking up in a bizarre sort of post-apocalyptic world. More Than This is a page turner, for sure. It’s philosophical and difficult and profoundly moving.
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe – Bejamin Alire Saenz
I just finished this book and I loved it. Aristotle is a 15 year old Mexican American and lives with his parents in Texas. It’s 1987. He’s angry and sort of depressed, too. He meets Dante at the pool and they become friends when Dante (also Mexican-American) offers to teach Ari to swim. This is a coming-of-age story and a story about family and community and it’s a love story. I may have teared a few times reading it. So good.
Here are some other books featuring LGBT characters and I encourage everyone to expand their reading horizons to mark May 17th, sure, but beyond that – let’s make every day a day of acceptance.