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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Perceptions of Diversity in Book Reviews

For the past few years, I’ve read hundreds of reviews for Diversity in YA. I read them to determine whether a young adult book has a main character who is of color, LGBTQ, and/or disabled, and thus is appropriate to include on DiYA. Sometimes the book’s cover copy reveals this, but often it does not — or it deliberately obscures it — and then I have to read reviews to figure it out.

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2014 LGBT YA by the Numbers

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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More YA and YA-friendly Books About LGBT Characters of Color

Originally posted at Diversity in YA

Last October, I posted a list of YA books about LGBT characters of color. It’s been tough to find more books, so these additions expand the goal slightly and are about (1) a queer person of color protagonist; (2) a queer protagonist in a romantic relationship with a POC; or (3) a main character dealing with queer POC parents as the central story line.

Please note: Not all of these were published as “young adult” novels; some are technically “adult” novels but are about young queer people of color coming of age. Links go to Barnes & Noble; descriptions are from Worldcat.

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The Bane Chronicles by Cassandra Clare, Maureen Johnson and Sarah Rees Brennan (Margaret K. McElderry Books)

Ten short stories about bisexual, half-Asian warlock Magnus Bane from Cassandra Clare’s The Mortal Instruments and The Infernal Devices trilogies.

Angry Management by Chris Crutcher (Greenwillow Books)

A collection of short stories featuring characters from earlier books by Chris Crutcher.

Happy Families by Tanita S. Davis (Random House Children’s Books)

In alternating chapters, sixteen-year-old twins Ysabel and Justin share their conflicted feelings as they struggle to come to terms with their father’s decision to dress as a woman.

Down to the Bone by Mayra Lazara Dole (Bella Books; originally published by HarperTeen)

Laura, a seventeen-year-old Cuban American girl, is thrown out of her house when her mother discovers she is a lesbian, but after trying to change her heart and hide from the truth, Laura finally comes to terms with who she is and learns to love and respect herself.

The Culling by Steven dos Santos (Flux)

In a futuristic world ruled by a totalitarian government called the Establishment, Lucian "Lucky" Spark and four other teenagers are recruited for the Trials. They must compete not only for survival but to save the lives of their Incentives, family members whose lives depend on how well they play the game.

For Today I Am a Boy by Kim Fu (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Peter, the only boy among four siblings born to Chinese immigrants, is convinced he is a girl and must fight the confines of a small town as well as the expectations of his parents to forge his own path into adulthood.

Mariposa Club by Rigoberto Gonzalez (Lethe Press)

Four gay high school boys start a club, and when one of them is targeted in a homophobic incident, the entire school turns to them as a symbol of grief, fear and hope.

Sister Mischief by Laura Goode (Candlewick)

Esme Rockett, also known as MC Ferocious, rocks her suburban Minnesota Christian high school with more than the hip-hop music she makes with best friends Marcy (DJ SheStorm) and Tess (The ConTessa) when she develops feelings for her co-MC, Rowie (MC Rohini).

A Map of Home by Randa Jarrar (Penguin)

Nidali, the rebellious daughter of an Egyptian-Greek mother and a Palestinian father, narrates her story from her childhood in Kuwait, her early teenage years in Egypt (to where she and her family fled the 1990 Iraqi invasion), to her family’s last flight to Texas. 

Chulito by Charles Rice-Gonzales (Magnus Books)

Set against a vibrant South Bronx neighborhood and the youth culture of Manhattan, Chulito is a coming-of-age, coming out love story of a sexy Latino man and the colorful characters that populate his block.

Blue Boy by Rakesh Satyal (Kensington Books)

Satyal’s lovely coming-of-age debut charts an Indian-American boy’s transformation from mere mortal to Krishnaji, the blue-skinned Hindu deity. Twelve-year-old Kiran Sharma’s a bit of an outcast: he likes ballet and playing with his mother’s makeup. He also reveres his Indian heritage and convinces himself that the reason he’s having trouble fitting in is because he’s actually the 10th reincarnation of Krishnaji. He plans to come out to the world at the 1992 Martin Van Buren Elementary School talent show, and much of the book revels in his comical preparations as he creates his costume, plays the flute and practices his dance moves to a Whitney Houston song. But as the performance approaches, something strange happens: Kiran’s skin begins to turn blue. Satyal writes with a graceful ease, finding new humor in common awkward pre-teen moments and giving readers a delightful and lively young protagonist.

Street Dreams by Tama Wise (Bold Strokes Books)

Tyson Rua has more than his fair share of problems growing up in South Auckland. Working a night job to support his mother and helping bring up his two younger brothers is just the half of it. His best friend Rawiri is falling afoul of a broken home, and now Tyson’s fallen in love at first sight. Only thing is, it’s another guy. Living life on the sidelines of the local hip-hop scene, Tyson finds that to succeed in becoming a local graffiti artist or in getting the man of his dreams, he’s going to have to get a whole lot more involved. And that means more problems, the least of which is the leader of the local rap crew he’s found himself running with. Love, life, and hip-hop never do things by half.

Love & Lies: Marisol’s Story by Ellen Wittlinger (Simon & Schuster) (America Latina lesbian MC)

When Marisol, a self-confident eighteen-year-old lesbian, moves to Cambridge, Massachusetts to work and try to write a novel, she falls under the spell of her beautiful but deceitful writing teacher, while also befriending a shy, vulnerable girl from Indiana.

From the Notebooks of Melanin Sun by Jacqueline Woodson (Penguin)

Almost-fourteen-year-old Melanin Sun’s comfortable, quiet life is shattered when his mother reveals she has fallen in love with a woman.

Thanks to Daisy Porter of Queer YA for many suggestions.