Oct 30, 2013
YA Books About LGBT Characters of Color
There may be few LGBT YA books out there compared to the number of books about straight characters, but there are even fewer books about characters who are both of color and LGBT. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone, and yet even I was a little bit taken aback by the sheer paucity of books I could find about queer characters of color — and I am in real life a queer Asian American woman.
Since I’ve been keeping track of LGBT YA and YA with characters of color for a few years, here are the books I’ve found that are about queer characters of color. This is a very short list, and I have probably missed some.1 (I hope I have!)
The descriptions that follow come from WorldCat; the notes are my own.
Crash Into Me by Borris Albert (Simon Pulse) — Four suicidal teenagers go on a “celebrity suicide road trip,” visiting the graves of famous people who have killed themselves, with the intention of ending their lives in Death Valley, California. Note: One of the four points of view in this book is from Korean-American lesbian Jin-Ae.
I Am J by Cris Beam (Little, Brown) — J, who feels like a boy mistakenly born as a girl, runs away from his best friend who has rejected him and the parents he thinks do not understand him when he finally decides that it is time to be who he really is. Note: J is Puerto Rican and Jewish.
If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan (Algonquin) — In Iran, where homosexuality is punishable by death, seventeen-year-olds Sahar and Nasrin love each other in secret until Nasrin’s parents announce their daughter’s arranged marriage and Sahar proposes a drastic solution. Note: Sahar and Nasrin are Iranian.
M+O 4evr by Tonya Hegamin (Houghton Mifflin) — In parallel stories, Hannah, a slave, finds love while fleeing a Maryland plantation in 1842, and in the present, Opal watches her life-long best friend, Marianne, pull away and eventually lose her life in the same Pennsylvania ravine where Hannah died. Note: Opal is African American.
Huntress by Malinda Lo (Little, Brown) — Seventeen-year-olds Kaede and Taisin are called to go on a dangerous and unprecedented journey to Tanlili, the city of the Fairy Queen, in an effort to restore the balance of nature in the human world. Note: This is an Asian-inspired fantasy novel.
Dramarama by E. Lockhart (Disney Hyperion) — Spending their summer at Wildewood Academy, an elite boarding school for the performing arts, tests the bond between teens Sadye and her best friend Demi. Note: Demi is African American and gay.
Proxy by Alex London (Philomel) — Privileged Knox and and his proxy, Syd, are thrown together to overthrow the system. Note: In the dystopian future world of this novel, Syd is gay and of color.
The Necessary Hunger by Nina Revoyr (Simon and Schuster) — The rivalry and love of two high school girls playing basketball in Los Angeles. One is a shy Japanese-American, the other an aggressive African-American, and both are lesbian. Their relationship receives a new twist when the mother of the African-American moves in with the father of the Japanese-American and the girls begin living under one roof. A first novel.
Boyfriends With Girlfriends by Alex Sanchez (Simon and Schuster) — When Lance begins to date Sergio, who’s bisexual, he’s not sure that it’ll work out, and when his best friend Allie, who has a boyfriend, meets Sergio’s lesbian friend, she has unexpected feelings which she struggles to understand. Note: Sergio is Latino, and Sergio’s lesbian best friend, Kimiko, is Japanese American.
The God Box by Alex Sanchez (Simon and Schuster) — When openly gay Manuel transfers to Paul’s high school, Paul, a born-again Christian, begins to question his own sexuality. Note: Paul and Manuel are Mexican American.
Also, note that Alex Sanchez’s Rainbow Boys trilogy includes a gay Latino character, Jason Carrillo.
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Bejamin Alire Saenz (Simon and Schuster) — Fifteen-year-old Ari Mendoza is an angry loner with a brother in prison, but when he meets Dante and they become friends, Ari starts to ask questions about himself, his parents, and his family that he has never asked before. Note: Ari and Dante are both Latino.
Last Night I Sang to the Monster by Benjamin Alire Saenz (Cinco Puntos Press) — Eighteen-year-old Zach does not remember how he came to be in a treatment center for alcoholics, but through therapy and caring friends, his amnesia fades and he learns to face his past while working toward a better future. Note: Zach is Mexican American.
The House You Pass on the Way by Jacqueline Woodson (Delacorte) — When thirteen-year-old Staggerlee, the daughter of a racially mixed marriage, spends a summer with her cousin Trout, she begins to question her sexuality to Trout and catches a glimpse of her possible future self. Thirteen-year-old Staggerlee used to be called Evangeline, but she took on a fiercer name. She’s always been different–set apart by the tragic deaths of her grandparents in an anti-civil rights bombing, by her parents’ interracial marriage, and by her family’s retreat from the world. This summer she has a new reason to feel set apart–her confused longing for her friend Hazel. When cousin Trout comes to stay, she gives Staggerlee a first glimpse of her possible future selves and the world beyond childhood. Note: Staggerlee is African American.
Orphea Proud by Sharon Dennis Wyeth (Delacorte) — While reciting her poetry at a club in Queens, New York, seventeen-year-old Orphea recounts her childhood in Pennsylvania, leaving after her parents and the girl she loves die, and learning about her family and herself while living with her great-aunts on a Virginia mountaintop. Note: Orphea is African American.
Money Boy by Paul Yee (Groundwood Books) — Young immigrant Ray Liu is struggling to adjust to North American life. When his father discovers Ray has been cruising gay websites, the teen is kicked out of the family home. He heads to downtown Toronto, where the harsh reality of street life hits him. Note: Ray is Chinese Canadian.
Don’t forget to check out the Giant YA Pride 2013 Giveaway to win tons of wonderful LGBT YA novels.
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