LGBTQ YA by the Numbers: 2015-16

LGBTQ YA by the Numbers: 2015-16

Since 2011, I've been tracking the number of young adult books about LGBTQ characters. Here are my statistics from 20112012, 2013, and 2014, as well as an overview of LGBT YA published by mainstream publishers from 2003–13. I took a break in 2015 and 2016, but this year I've decided to update my statistics to include the last two years. I have not calculated the numbers for 2017, since the year is not over yet.

Anyone who reads these posts can see that the topics I’ve been interested in unpacking have changed and focused, my methodology has been refined, and the language I’ve used to describe gender has changed as I’ve learned more and as the language itself has evolved. Before I begin, let me provide some context and background.

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2014 LGBT YA by the Numbers

For the last three years I’ve been tracking the number of young adult novels about LGBT ((LGBT stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender. It is currently most widely accepted English term used to identify sexual and gender minorities, but its initials omit other identies such as queer, intersex, asexual, and more. While I could add more initials (e.g., LGBTQQIA+) or use a term such as QUILTBAG, I believe that would simply be too confusing for the general reader, so I’ve chosen to follow the standards in the GLAAD Media Reference Guide - AP and New York Times Style.)) characters. Here are my statistics from 2011, 2012, and 2013, as well as an overview of LGBT YA published by mainstream publishers from 2003–13. Anyone who reads these posts can see that the topics I’ve been interested in unpacking have changed and focused, my methodology has been refined, and the language I’ve used to describe gender has evolved as I’ve learned more and as the language itself has evolved. I use the term “LGBT YA” to identify a young adult book with an LGBT main character or that has a plot primarily concerned with LGBT issues. Some books have multiple main characters, and if one of that cast of primary characters is LGBT, I also count that book as an LGBT YA book (e.g., Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater). In the cases of books about LGBT issues, those issues typically focus around a straight person’s relationship with an LGBT person who comes out to them (e.g., The Boy I Love by Nina de Gramont). I do not include YA books with supporting LGBT characters because I think it’s important to focus on books where the LGBT person is the star of the story, but I recognize that the dividing line between supporting and main can be pretty blurry. Nor do I include YA books that have subtextual gay story lines (e.g., The Girls of No Return by Erin Saldin; and more recently, Dirty Wings by Sarah McCarry), because I’m focused on books where the gay story line is overt. (In other words, I’m tracking openly gay YA!) That means I may have left out some YA titles that others would count as “LGBT YA,” either on purpose or by accident.

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LGBT Young Adult Books 2003-13: A Decade of Slow But Steady Change

When I wrote my 2011 post that broke down the statistics on LGBT young adult books, I was relying on data collected by other people for other (equally valid) purposes. I wrote the post in one long, late night of number crunching, and I always hoped that I’d have the opportunity to revisit that data because I was pretty sure I’d gotten some things wrong. This year for YA Pride, I’ve decided to look at the data again, but with a different, more specific focus. My conclusions echo what I’ve concluded every year since 2011: There aren’t a lot of LGBT YA books being published, and there is definitely room for growth and change in the kinds of LGBT YA being published. The good thing is, I do think that change is happening, even if it’s at a snail’s pace.

The Data

Since 2011, I’ve realized that the data I used then, which mostly came from Christine Jenkins’s bibliography of LGBT YA and additional information provided by researcher Michael Cart, did not fully align with the goals of my own research. This isn’t necessarily surprising, because Cart and Jenkins, whose data came from co-writing the book The Heart Has Its Reasons: Young Adult Literature With Gay/Lesbian/Queer Content, 1969–2004, were working on a different kind of project.

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2013 LGBT YA by the Numbers

In 2012 I counted how many LGBT YA novels were published. In comparison to statistics on LGBT YA from 1969-2011, it looked like the representation of LGBT characters in YA was continuing to improve. This year there is both an increase and a decrease in the number of LGBT young adult books published. How does that work? Well, things are complicated. Additionally, things don’t look so good for girls. Here’s the overview:

  • 94 YA books published in 2013 include LGBT main characters or are about LGBT issues

  • 29 of those books were published by the Big 5 ((Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin Random House, Simon and Schuster)) or mainstream publishers ((These are general interest publishers that range in size from small to pretty big: Algonquin Young Readers, Scholastic, Candlewick Press, Carolrhoda Lab, Entangled, Flux, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Kensington, Running Press, Skyscape/Amazon, Soho Teen, and Strange Chemistry.))

  • 65 of those books were published by LGBT publishers ((Bella Books, Bold Strokes Books, Harmony Ink, Prizm Books, Queerteen Press, Tiny Satchel Press))

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