Feb 10, 2009
2009 Rainbow List spotlights queer YA fiction
This list, which is compiled by the American Library Association’s Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgendered Round Table and the Social Responsibilities Round Table, highlights "well-written and/or well-illustrated titles with authentic and significant gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgendered/queer/questioning (GLBTQ) content for youth from birth through age 18." Here are some quick stats about the list:
- 34 books were selected (which implies that even more than 34 books were published last year with LGBTQ themes!)
- None of the four picture books or middle-grade books include lesbian characters
- Of the 25 young adult titles selected, 12 include lesbian characters. Not bad!
- It is not clear if any of the books focus on bisexual female characters. (If anyone knows for sure, please do tell us in the comments!) ETA: Love & Lies does include a bisexual character, although it is sort of a surprise at the end.
- At least six of the 12 lesbian YA titles include people of color as main or supporting characters. Yay!
Among the highlights of the list, Mayra Lazara Dole’s Down to the Bone was selected as one of four books especially deserving of recognition. I wrote about Down to the Bone in my most recent Notes & Queeries column, and I agree that it is one of the more unique LGBT YA books I’ve read. The fact that pretty much the entire cast of characters are Latina makes it all the more memorable.
I was also pleased to discover that two of the books are fantasy/sci-fi — Big Big Sky (dystopian science fiction) and Sword Masters (fantasy). Both books are published by smaller presses, which might make them more difficult to find in your local library, but they are both available for purchase online. Both covers are also just about the most lesbian book covers I’ve seen in awhile:
Boots. Women holding swords. Tell me: Why aren’t there more fantasy/sci-fi novels about lesbians? This seems like a vast, gaping hole to me!
Another vast, gaping hole? Bisexuals. Given that girls are often much more likely to be heteroflexible (at least in popular consciousness) than boys, I find it bizarre that there are so few YA books about bisexual girls. I think that bisexuality is often touched upon in coming-out novels as a stop on the way to gayness, but it is rarely explored as a real, viable option (notable exception being Brent Hartinger’s Geography Club books).
So, what do we need more of in the future? Science fiction and fantasy with bisexual characters. I, for one, am planning to write some.
Here are all the YA titles that include lesbian characters (summaries from Rainbow List, links to Amazon):
Bach, Tamara. Girl from Mars. Translated by Shelley Tanaka. 2008. 180p. Groundwood Books, $12.95. (978-0-88899-725-8). Gr. 7-10. At fifteen, Miriam’s life in a small German town lacks excitement and meaning until she meets Laura and begins to discover how full her life already is.
Dole, Mayra Lazara. Down to the Bone. 2008. 367p. HarperTeen. $16.99 (Trade); $17.89 (Lib. Binding). (978-0-06-084310-6; 978-0-06-084311-3). Gr. 8-12. After sixteen-year-old Laura is outed at school, kicked out of her home, and rejected by her girlfriend, she finds herself and her community in this hilarious debut novel with an all-Latino cast.
Dunnion, Kristyn. Big Big Sky. 2008. 244p. Red Deer Press, $14.95. (978-0-88995-404-5). Gr. 10-12. When a pod of five young well-trained female warrior assassins starts falling apart, each must show her strength in the outside real world to avoid being captured and unplugged.
Grant, Stephanie. Map of Ireland. 2008. 197p. Scribner, $22.00. (978-1-4165-5622-0/ 1-4165-5622-2). Gr. 10-12. Ann’s junior year is complicated by the forced busing of Black children to her formerly all-white high school, forcing Ann to deal with her racist environment while coping with being a lesbian in an inter-racial relationship.
Hegamin, Tonya Cherie. M+O 4EVR. 2008. 165p. Houghton Mifflin, $16.00. (978-0-618-49570-2). Gr. 7-10. After the death of Marianne, Opal’s best friend—and more—Opal deals with her loss through the life of Hannah, a runaway slave who died in 1842.
Levithan, David. How They Met, and Other Stories. 2008. 256p. Knopf, $16.99 (Trade); $19.99 (Lib. Binding). (978-0375848865; 9780375948862). Gr. 9-11. Find the answer to “what is love?” in this diverse collection of short stories.
Lieberman, Leanne. Gravity. 2008. 245p. Orca, $12.95. (978-1-550469-049-7). Gr. 9-11. Brought up as a strict Orthodox Jew to believe that homosexuality is an abomination, 15-year-old Ellie struggles with her sexual feelings for another girl.
McMahon, Jennifer. My Tiki Girl. 2008. 246p. Dutton, $16.99. (978-0-525-47943-7). Gr. 9-11. After once-popular Maggie, 15, is left with an injured leg after a car accident that kills her mother, she finds solace with Dahlia, the new girl at school, and her unconventional family, including a mentally-ill mother.
Penny, Patricia G. Belinda’s Obsession. [Not Just Proms & Parties series]. September 2007. 134p. Lobster Press, $7.95. (978-0-897073-62-9). Gr. 7-10. After she discovers that her mother is having an affair, Belinda’s obsession with saving her parents’ marriage damages her growing relationship with her last summer’s fling, Candace.
Rosen, Selina. Sword Masters. 2008. 313p. Dragon Moon Press, $19.95. (978-1-896944-65-4). Gr. 9-12. Determined to avenge her father’s death, Tarius pretends to be male and non-Katabull to study with the Sword Masters but finds more than she bargained for when she falls in love with the headmaster’s daughter, Jena, who thinks that Tarius is a man.
Tamaki, Mariko and Jillian Tamaki. Skim. 2008. 140p. Groundwood Books, $15.00. (0888997531/9780888997531). Gr. 9-12. Would-be Wiccan and goth Skim, aka Kimberly Keiko Cameron, is revealed in this graphic novel as a sometimes target for the popular students at her all-girls private school in Toronto, where she falls in love with her English teacher Ms. Archer.
Wittlinger, Ellen. Love & Lies: Marisol’s Story. 2008. 256p. Simon & Schuster, $16.00. (1416916237) (978-1416916239). Gr. 9-11. When Marisol takes a year off between high school and college to write a novel, she falls in love with her creative writing teacher, Olivia.
See the whole list here. What do you think of the list?