In which Annie (high school teacher, mother of two young girls and a younger boy) and her aunt Deborah (children's bookseller, mother of two young women in their 20s) discuss children's books and come up with annotated lists.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Guest blog: Gay YA

Dear Aunt Debbie,

How can I have missed Diana Wynne Jones?  Her name is familiar to me, but honestly, I'm not sure that I read a single one of her books as a kid.  Clearly someone who needs to go on my list now.

In expanding our discussion of YA books, I checked in with my friend Emily for her advice about YA books about gay teenagers.  Her first thought was Nancy Garden's Annie on My Mind, which I read in grad school and found...okay.  It was written in 1982, and feels a little dated; worth reading for being one of the first lesbian YA books with a (sort-of) happy ending, but nothing I wanted to reread the heck out of.

Emily contacted her friend and book maven Tatiana, who responded with an email so comprehensive and awesome that I immediately asked for her permission to turn it into a guest blog.  And here it is:

Okay, here's what I got.

First, graphic novels:

by Mariko Tamaki & Jillian Tamaki, super beautiful book about a HS Asian girl who falls in love with her female teacher.
Ariel Shrag has a series of four books called
Awkward, Definition
, Potential and Likewise that are basically a diary of each year of HS and her budding lesbianism (but oh my god is her girl-dating brutal to those of us who have dated emotionally brutal girls).

Book books:

Basically the holy grail of lesbian YA books is Julie Anne Peters.  She writes a ton of them and they're way better than what a lot of other people are putting out.

Keeping You a Secret
is the best one she's got.  She also has Luna, which is another transgender book, focusing on a girl and her budding M to F brother.  There's Far From Xanadu and Rage, which are more standard girls falling for unattainable girls stories, Rage with some domestic violence thrown in (very good, but issue-y).  There's Between Mom and Jo which is lesbian mom divorce told by son. 

Then there's a bunch of books by other authors that I though were just "eh", but I'll mention them anyway. Kissing Kate, Empress of the World, Crush, Girl Walking Backwards. These are much more your standard, "hey I'm in love with a straight girl I can't have," maybe I'm gay stories.  Except for Crush which, if I remember correctly is more "hey, I think I'm in love with a straight girl, I'm really not, I'm just a confused adolescent and my book is boring." 

Anyway, back to the good stuff. 

Dare Truth or Promise
, budding lesbians in New Zealand with some religious questions thrown in for good measure.  Very good.  There's
The IHOP Papers
, which I think is about an under-20 gay girl, but Ali Liebegott is a Michelle Tea protege so there's a lot of sex drugs & rock and roll.  Speaking of Michelle Tea, she wrote a YA book.  Rose of No Man's Land.  Not bad, very Michelle Tea-esque though.

If you want boys, I have a few recommendations I picked up from someone's teacher friend. 
Boy Meets Boy
and Finlater, Finlater I think is speficially about non-white gay boys.  Haven't read either of them yet, but will be getting around to them eventually (I have a soft spot for girls, obviously).

Moving on to books that I don't consider YA but have young protagonists, there's the absolutely insanely wonderful
Pages for You
, which is about a girl who moves off to college and falls in love with her TA.  Also Stir-Fry, another start-of-college hey-I-like-girls in Ireland book.

There's anything by Helen Oyeyemi, she is Nigerian and grew up in England, all her protagonists are girls in high school or younger and her books are sheer poetry.  Really amazing. 

There's the classic How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents which my mom handed to me when I was young much the same way older lesbians handed me Rubyfruit Jungle when I was young (I say don't bother with RJ, it's just not worth it, Dorothy Allison did it better and with way way more talent than the cat lady)

And I think that's it for now, but I'll keep my eye out.


Thank you, Tatiana!  

Anything to add, especially on the gay boy front?

Love, Annie 


  1. um, does the entire Mary Renault oeuvre count?

  2. oh, and must plug the collected works of our friend (and caleb's fellow librarian) sara ryan!

  3. oh, wait, you have already included sara's "empress of the world." this is what happens when you skim.