Thursday, March 31, 2011

Richer - A Questioning Teen Novel with a Gay Dad

By Jean Blasiar

The sequel to "Poor Rich," "Richer" continues the story of Rich, whose poem gets adapted to music by a rock star... which turns out to be a nightmare.

With his parrot U2 as his companion, Rich tries to deal with his mom's divorce, his gay dad, a major health complication, and trying to figure out the mysteries, pain and ecstasy of first love.

Add your review of "Richer" in comments!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Gender 101: A New Video Series, Episode One


You're born either a boy or a girl, right?

It can seem so cut and dry to many of us... But if we look closer, at others (and sometimes even at ourselves), gender can be much more complicated. Much more interesting. Much more.

But Gender is something that is rarely spoken of in our culture.

With the help of a new friend, we're going to change that, one short webisode (or if you prefer, vlog) at a time.

So please, meet Lucy. I mean, meet Benji. I mean both. And hang out with us while we talk - and you can learn right along with me.

GENDER 101: Don't Box Me In


Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A good thing you can do for the people in Japan

Readers! Writers! Everyone who wants to do something to help out in the aftermath of the devastation in Japan...

Go check out this online auction, kidlit for Japan:

There are signed copies of picture book, middle grade, and young adult books, manuscript critiques, and swag! It will run for three weeks, and new items appear hourly during M-F working hours - some auctions only run for a few days, so click back often!

Some of the amazing things I saw that were open for bidding:

So far 13 published authors are offering manuscript critiques, including my friend, the brilliant Deborah Davis!

There were author visits (in person and on skype!)

There are ARCs of books that aren't out yet, original art, and so much more! (Haven't you always wanted to NAME a character in your favorite author's next book?)

They had 114 donors in all, and so much interest that they had to close off donations - they had enough for the full three weeks of the auction's run.

So check it out - get something great for yourself or to give as a gift, and do your part to help "aid victims of the 2011 Sendai earthquake and tsunami."

Full props to Greg R. Fishbone for putting this together and making it happen, and to all the generous donors for the amazing auction items!

Namaste, and good bidding,


Monday, March 28, 2011

Bullying on RuPaul's Drag Race: The Difference Between Team Spirit and Bullying

So once again I find myself going totally fan-boy over RuPaul's Drag Race, season 3.

I love RuPaul's mentoring of the younger drag queens (as I've talked about in the past) and mostly, I love her kind spirit and wise sayings, like

"If you can't love yourself, how the hell you gonna love somebody else? Can I get an Amen in here?"

And I pretty much always say "Amen," or "That's right" or "Um-Hm!" right back at the TV when she says it.

But this season, amidst all the regular cattiness of a reality show where they eliminate a different contestant every week, there's been a disturbing clique thing happening that I feel has crossed the line from YAY us! to Boo them!

And that's really upsetting.

If you watch the show, you probably know I'm talking about how some of the contestants are referring to themselves as "the Heathers" - and they fancy themselves prettier and more talented and more popular than the group of other drag queens, who the Heathers refer to as "the boogers."

Now I know it might be nothing more in terms of intent than building team spirit, but I strongly feel that we in the GLBTQ community need to be clear about this:

Bullying is when people put down others to make themselves feel higher. But that's a false equation, and the only way you can really feel better about yourself is for who you are and what you do.

Raja (a "Heather")

As much as I admire Raja's sense of gender-bending style and approaching drag like art, I cringe when she pulls out the verbal knives and comes off as, well... a bully.

Delta Work (a "Heather")

And Delta Work was interviewed in the March 17, 2011 edition of Florida's gay Hot Spots magazine and when asked who she hopes wins says, "GOD I HOPE HEATHER MAKES IT."

Manila Luzon (a "Heather")

There are minorities on both sides of the Heather/Not-Heather divide, but to me it feels mean spirited and frankly a touch racist. Am I being too sensitive?

Alexis Mateo (not a "Heather")

Yara Sophia (not a "Heather")

Shangela (not a "Heather")

Maybe it's just that I'm hoping that "America's Next Drag Superstar" has a bit of that same wisdom and graciousness I see in RuPaul - not that she can't be sassy, but she's never a bitch.

I'm gonna keep on watching, but I gotta say, I'm hoping for some more kindness to be added to the mix. Because in my book, that's the magic quality of a real Queen.

What do you think? Are the Heathers just up for themselves, or are they being bullies?


ps - You can watch episodes of the show here and decide for yourself!

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles Presents Their "It Gets Better" Video

The world-changing "It Gets Better" project continues, and this one really got me.


My thanks to Daniel for sharing this with me so I could share it with you. And if you'd like to see my It Gets Better video, click here.


Thursday, March 24, 2011

American Idol's Hug Of Shame, 2011 Edition. It just gets worse.

So when people ask me what the most popular post of all time on my blog is, the answer is my American Idol Hug Of Shame post.

I thought it was a really telling example of the heterosexist machinery of fame, and I had hoped that three years later, we'd moved on - maybe grown a bit, maybe matured, maybe graduated from the it's-only-okay-to-be-straight brainwashing of a show that has over 25 million viewers weekly. I mean, Adam Lambert came out as gay. Okay, after he was a contestant on the show, but still, I thought things might have changed.

I was wrong.

Last night, American Idol hit a new low. Get this.

So Jacob Lusk sings the heck out of his Motown song (You're All I Need To Get By) and after the judges praise him (and Steven Tyler leaps onto the stage to kiss him on the cheek and hug him, crying out "Baby Luther! Baby Luther!")

Then Jacob goes and kisses his grandmother on the cheek and they hug.

Still sweet right?

Then Ryan Seacrest invites everyone in the front row to come up and kiss and hug Jacob while Ryan runs down the voting numbers.

Count 'em.

One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Six. Seven. Eight. Nine. Ten. Eleven. Twelve girls.

Wait! There's a guy in the line.

And what happens?

Ryan puts out his hand and physically stops the guy from climbing the steps.

"I'm going to have to call it quits... Sir! I'm sorry, we're all out of time, Sir. (audience laughter) I know it's killing you, but I'm going to have to stop you there. Thank you very much."

Meanwhile, girl number thirteen slips by and gets in her "safe" heterosexual hug.

Wow, Ryan (and producers, and that audience!) Is it that horrible to consider that a guy fan would want to hug a guy singer? That funny a notion to consider? That among thirteen audience member hugs, one would be from a guy? Did Steven Tyler's embracing Jacob freak you out that much?

Think about it. 10% of America is queer. So 10% of the hugs on American Idol could be, too.

The studio wouldn't spontaneously combust. The sky wouldn't fall. You might even make me a fan of your show again.

But for now, I'm just angry with you.

Ryan's hand stopping that male fan was a hand stopping everyone different. It was the hand telling every gay kid out there that the only way to be accepted in our culture is to be straight. It was a moment that Gay-bashed our queer hopes and dreams.

Steven Tyler and Jacob's grandmother got in some lovely moments of celebration. But after that?

It wasn't just one hug of shame. It was thirteen.

What do you think? Am I making too much of this, or does this piss you off, too? Let me know.


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

I am J - a Transgender Teen (FTM, Female To Male) Novel

By Cris Beam

J always felt like a boy mistakenly born as a girl. And up until puberty, he'd pray to wake up as a real boy. But then his body started to betray him, and he just tried to be invisible.

But now he's almost 18, and after his best friend deserts him, he decides he's done hiding. It's time.

Time to transition to male.

Time to start at a school for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth.

Time to begin therapy so he can be approved for testosterone injections.

It's time to be who he really is.

Add your review of "I am J" in comments!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The TrevorSpace Book Club's LIVE Webchat with Jodi Picoult Answering YOUR Questions is TODAY!

It's the finale event for our Trevor Project's TrevorSpace Book Club preview title - and to celebrate over two weeks of great discussions over at TrevorSpace, we're putting on a LIVE virtual question and answer session - where you get to ask Jodi Picoult, author of the incredible SING YOU HOME, your questions! We're all being hosted by, and I'll be moderating the Q & A, which you can watch live in the window below (or check out the archived edition after it airs!)

So pull up a virtual chair, enjoy some delicious imaginary lemonade (or steaming tea, depending on where you are in the world right now) and chime in with your questions for some very REAL answers!

Remember, if you need someone to talk to, The Trevor Project has people ready to take your call. (866) 4-U-TREVOR

My thanks to Jodi, Laura, the Youth Advisory Council, and everyone at the Trevor Project, and of course for being a team with me to pull something this amazing off!

(I put together the silly image above from Jodi's publicity pic, my photo by Rita Crayon Huang, and the chairs on lawn pic was from here.)

Monday, March 21, 2011

My Writer's Perspective Column is Published: Why We Should Include GLBTQ Characters and Themes in our Writing and Illustrating

So this article I wrote was published in our Society of Children's Books Writers and Illustrator's Los Angeles/Santa Barbara/Venture and Orange County Regions newsletter. It's really from my heart, and I wanted to share it here, too! (If you prefer, you can download the whole issue here.)

Anne Sibley O’Brien, in a recent series of articles in the SCBWI Bulletin, brought our attention to the phenomenon of “white mind” – how many of us default our characters in our writing and illustrating to be white. I’d argue we also have “heterosexist mind,” where we don’t even realize we’re not including Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning characters. Our princesses end up with princes. Our boy characters are attracted to girls, our girl characters are attracted to boys, the adults in our books are by default straight, and we don’t even notice we’re doing it.

I’d like to advocate that we, as children’s content creators, become the engine for a re-education that gets people’s minds to include gay possibilities. That’s no more radical than suggesting that the universes of our books include the diversity of the world in which our children are already growing up.

Just as African-American children and Asian children, disabled children and foreign children, Latino children and Jewish children, fat children and deaf children, and every other group of “other” children do, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and questioning children need that moment of seeing themselves reflected in the books they read.

Without seeing themselves in the stories they grow up with, how can they believe there’s a place for them in our world? Sadly, so many GLBTQ children don’t see a future for themselves. And not believing in a future is one cause of the tragic rash of gay-teen suicides.

Before going any further, I need to debunk a devastating stereotype about what it means to be gay. Being attracted to someone of the same gender is NOT a choice. If you’re straight, was there a moment in your life when you CHOSE to be attracted to people of the opposite gender? We can’t convince ourselves to be attracted to Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie if that’s not what we find attractive. We can’t control or choose how our bodies are wired.

The dearth of positive portrayals of GLBTQ characters in children’s literature doesn’t keep GLBTQ children and teens from existing. But, it does feed a culture where gayness is equated with second-class citizenship. It feeds a lack of self-esteem. It feeds a loss of hope.

You certainly don’t need to be GLBTQ to write a GLBTQ character – any more than you need to be male to write about boy characters. Do your home- work. Get your details right. And in the words of Jane Yolen: “H.O.P.” – get your Heart On the Page. Because, at the end of the day, GLBTQ characters have emotions and hopes and fears just like every other character. And if we can tap into OUR real emotions when we write them, they’ll ring true.

Ellen Wittlinger famously said (and I’m doing my best to make her famous for saying it) that she includes GLBTQ characters in everything she writes, even the books that aren’t about those characters, because they’re part of the world of her readers, and she wants her books to reflect that.

And for illustrators, there’s an equally important opportunity to open minds and hearts. Look at the amazing work of two-time Caldecott-Honoree Marla Frazee, whose illustrations to Susan Meyer’s words in their board book, Everywhere Babies, includes an exhausted two mom family, right next to all the other racially diverse, exhausted parents.

I once asked a children’s illustrator if he had any gay content in his portfolio, and he reacted as if I’d asked if he had any pornography among his drawings. Look at Madge and Bernie Wubbington in Peter Brown’s The Fabulous Bouncing Chowder. They may be heterosexual, but they’re not having sex. They’re sitting on a couch. Similarly, including GLBTQ characters doesn’t necessarily sexualize a book.

So, I urge us all to consider including gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and questioning characters and themes in our writing and illustrating for children. Include them in our picture books, our chapter books, our middle grade, and our young adult manuscripts. Include them in our magazine articles, our nonfiction, and in our art.

At the very least, we can contribute to a more respectful sense of safe space in our world – and in our literature – by not having characters disparage GLBTQ people with expressions like “that’s so gay” as toss-off moments of dialog – even if it’s what teens today say.

None of us would use the “N-word” carelessly. Our culture has shifted to where racism is unacceptable. We need to make homophobia unacceptable as well. It’s not about censorship, but about recognizing that using words like “faggot,” “that’s so lame,” “retard,” and boys calling girls “bitch,” contributes to a culture where kids learn to build their own self esteem by putting others down. We need to change that power dynamic.

The goal is not tolerance. Or even acceptance. The goal is for us to be able to
celebrate our differences.

And as creators of content for children, WE can help get us there. We can make kids’ and teens’ lives better for having read and experienced our stories – all kids. Gay and straight.

We can make a difference. And we should.

Thanks for reading!

Friday, March 18, 2011

John Amaechi Talks About Homophobia and Sports... And How We Are Better for Being Complex (And not viewing each other in two dimensions!)

I had the amazing opportunity recently to hear John Amaechi speak to a local middle and high school at their Diversity Day celebration.

John played for the NBA.

John is a tall black man.

John is British.

John is a psychologist.

John is... amazing.

He spoke about how "people love you very conditionally when you play sports - and conditional love sucks."

About how homophobia and racism and sexism are all different heads of the same monster: prejudice.

About the damage words can do... and about the disproportionate power of teens today to affect thousands of other people's lives - for the worse, or for the better.

I even got to ask him a question!

Lee: What do you think can be done to get rid of the homophobia in sports?

John: If there was a meme, it would be: 'Don't flatter yourself. You're not that clever, you're not that interesting, you're not that hot."

John was funny, erudite, and insightful. He has a memoir out, Man In The Middle, and after hearing him in person, it's launched onto the top of my TBR (to be read) pile!

Thanks, John!


Thursday, March 17, 2011

Good News for Gays and Leprechauns - A St. Patrick's Day Encore

I did this video two years ago, but much of it remains true (and I still think it's funny!) There's still controversy over allowing Proud Gay people (and our supporters) to march in St. Patrick's Day parades - like the gay group and individuals who were barred from marching in Staten Island on March 6, 2011:

"He grabbed my jacket and tried to rip the [rainbow] ribbon off of me," St. Jermaine Endeley, 20, said of his confrontation with a parade official. "It's not fair. This is America. I can wear what I want."
And the Mr. Gay World competition continues, and you can check out the 2011 competitors (they call them "delegates" here!) As he's representing Ireland, we'll wish Barry Gouldsbury good luck, but of course there's Chris Flanagan (representing Northern Ireland) and Michael Kevin Holtz from the USA, and Leigh Charles of Australia... Oh, I can't choose just one to cheer on, so good luck to all the delegates!

Happy St. Patty's Day!


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Debbie Harry Sings In French - A Novel About A Straight Teen Guy Who Dresses Like A Girl Rock Star

By Meagan Brothers

Johnny's 17, and fresh out of rehab for drinking.

He's sent to live with his uncle, and starts to attend a prep school where his goth look makes him an outcast as everyone assumes he's gay.

He discovers Debbie Harry, and is fascinated by the singer's mix of tough and beautiful. He sort of wants to BE her.

Johnny bonds over music and being an outcast with Maria, and as their relationship grows, Maria encourages him to dress up and perform as Debbie Harry in a drag contest.

Add your review of "Debbie Harry Sings In French" in comments!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Stuck Rubber Baby - A Black and White, Gay and Straight, Civil Rights-Era Graphic Novel

By Howard Cruse

In the 1960s American South, Toland Polk is a young guy who works at a gas station. He's rejected from the Army draft for admitting to "homosexual tendencies," and falls in with a group of friends who are civil rights activists, are into folk music, and go to integrated and gay-friendly nightclubs.

And from the publisher:
"Toland's story is both deeply personal and epic in scope, as his search for identity plays out against the brutal fight over segregation, an unplanned pregnancy and small-town bigotry, aided by an unforgettable supporting cast."

This is a new, 15th anniversary edition, with an intro by Alison Bechdel. It's won a number of graphic novel awards, including the Eisner and Comics Creators Awards, and The Comics Journal included "Stuck Rubber Baby" among its listing of the "100 Best Comics of the Century."

My thanks to Andrew for the recommendation. Please add your review of "Stuck Rubber Baby" in comments!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Let's Talk About Jodi Picoult's SING YOU HOME!

The chats are on-going over at TrevorSpace (and if you're 13 to 24 years old, head on over there and sign up now!) and I thought it would be fun for all the rest of us to open up the conversation here to discuss the book. (And yes, of course, if you're 13 to 24 you're welcome to join in here, too!)

Here are the discussion thread questions so far, and feel free to chime in below in comments to any of these or bring up your own thoughts regarding the characters or situations in SING YOU HOME!

Let's get some book club talk going...

Zoe and her mother argue about her mother wanting Zoe to friend her on facebook. Do your parents try to friend you on facebook? What do you think about that?

Jodi collaborated with Ellen Wilber on the accompanying CD of music - songs to give Zoe a real voice. Which track on the CD speaks to you the most, and why?

Pastor Clive and Wade Preston spew a lot of hateful lies about gay people. Why do you think they're so anti-gay?

Zoe’s identity and attraction to others changes over time. Do you think who you’re attracted to (other boys or girls or both) is fixed or something that evolves as you live your life?

Vanessa talks about the “subtle difference between tolerance and acceptance.” And one example she gives is “It’s the chasm between being invited to a colleague’s wedding with your same-sex partner and being able to slow-dance without the other guests whispering.” Do you see this in your life? And is the goal tolerance? Acceptance? Or something more… celebration of our (and others’) differences?

Is being queer seen as the obstacle to parenthood that it once was?

On page 123 Zoe notes that “It’s been two months since Vanessa and I bumped into each other at the Y, and she has seamlessly slipped into the role of my closest friend.” Do you have any friends in your life that just slipped in and seemed to fit perfectly?

When did you first suspect that Vanessa and Zoe were going to fall in love? When did you realize they were in love?

On page 127 Zoe notes that the protesters outside the movie theater “are not militant, crazy people. The protesters are calm and organized, and wearing black suits with skinny ties or modest floral print dresses.” Why do you think Zoe is shocked by this? Have you ever been shocked by the ‘normalcy’ of people spewing hateful lies?

Have you ever experienced any discrimination or been stereotyped in ways that helped you sympathize with Zoe and Vanessa?

I can't wait to hear what you think (and I'll do my best to approve comments as promptly as I can throughout the day!)


Friday, March 11, 2011

Guess Which Organization Has THESE As Their Core Values: Part Two, The Surprising Answer

Okay, remember we wanted to know which organization champions these values?

•Tell The Truth
•Be Fair
•Keep Your Promises
•Respect The Individual
•Encourage Intellectual Curiosity

And the answer is:

Harley-Davidson Motorcycles.


I was talking last week with my brother-in-law, who races motorcycles and teaches motorcycle safety, about the whole Harley-Davidson motorcycle culture, and he shared with me that the reason he's so committed and proud to be part of the Harley-Davidson community is what they stand for.

And I said, slightly sarcastic, "what? Revving their engines super loud? Looking tough?"

And he pulled this out of his wallet:

I was floored.

Harley Davidson? The leather-wearing, super-butch biker crowd holds "Tell The Truth" as one of their five core values? "Be Fair?" "Keep Your Promises?" "Respect The Individual?" It sounds like some high achieving elementary school creed. And then, "Encourage Intellectual Curiosity" - and when I read that fifth core value, I could almost hear my inner stereotypes about "bikers" shatter.

I mean, hey, I know my brother-in-law, and it's no surprise to me that he holds those values. But even knowing how involved he is in the world of Harley-Davidson, and racing motorcycles, it didn't occur to me that maybe the other guys on the bikes, with the handlebar moustaches and the leather chaps, with the shiny chrome bikes and the ear-splitting engines, maybe they, too, are all about telling the truth, and being fair, and keeping your promises, and respecting the individual, and encouraging their own and others' intellectual curiosity.

And all I can say is, wow. I didn't realize I was holding onto that stereotype and putting a whole group of people into a box that was based on myth and fear and ignorance.

But now I (and you) know better.

Harley-Davidson Motorcycles. They've got some awesome core values.

And the next time I meet a biker, I'll treat them (even in my mind) with more respect.

Stereotypes are insidious things - and it's always fascinating (and humbling) to call ourselves on holding them. Knowledge is power, and the more we know about others, the better world we will all create.

So, did you see that coming?

Thanks, Steve.


Thursday, March 10, 2011

Guess Which Organization Has THESE As Their Core Values: Part One, The QUIZ

•Tell The Truth
•Be Fair
•Keep Your Promises
•Respect The Individual
•Encourage Intellectual Curiosity

Go ahead, put your guess about what organization champions these values in comments!

I'll give you the answer tomorrow. (Oh, and no fair googling it - try to guess based on what you already know. It'll be more fun that way.)

One clue: I would NEVER have guessed this. EVER.


Wednesday, March 9, 2011

F2M: The Boy Within - A Transgender (FTM, Female To Male) Teen Novel

By Hazel Edwards and Ryan Kennedy

18 year old Skye plays in an all-girl punk band, The Chronic Cramps. And she is just coming out as someone who feels that inside... she's a guy. As a transgender FTM (female to male) teen, Skye starts transitioning into Finn.

With help from friends and family, Finn goes public about his transition as he makes his way and his name in the punk music scene.

This book has been nominated for the 23rd Annual Lambda Literary Awards, and I thought it was really interesting that Ryan, one of the authors, experienced gender reassignment from female to male himself. Add your review of "F2M: The Boy Within" in comments!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Today is International Women's Day... And Daniel Craig (My Favorite James Bond) Dresses Up In Drag For Women's Equality

Watch the Daniel Craig and Dame Judi Dench video (playing their 007 James Bond and "M" roles) in support of women and the We Are Equals campaign. It's British, and brilliant, and will make you think...

Oh, and I found this via the at the amazing towleroad website!

Women, you ROCK! And now, to continue to work for your equality, too!


Monday, March 7, 2011

Katy Perry's FIREWORK - A Music Video That's Changing Our World

I loved this.


Oh, the gay kiss! The teen girl with the real body! And of course, the lyric:

Baby you're a firework
Come on let your colors burst
Make 'em go "Oh, oh, oh!"
You're gonna leave 'em all in awe-awe-awe

Yes! Every one of us needs to let our colors burst - and allow ourselves to be our unique, authentic selves!

And I was thrilled to see that the song: dedicated to the "It Gets Better" campaign, which is about fighting against harassment of gay teens.


And thanks to Katy and her team: The song was composed by Perry, Stargate, Sandy Vee and Ester Dean and the music video was directed by Dave Meyers!


Friday, March 4, 2011

The Exclusive Jodi Picoult Interview To Kick Off The TrevorSpace Book Club Preview Selection: SING YOU HOME

Sing You Home, by Jodi Picoult

The TrevorSpace book club’s preview title is Jodi Picoult’s newest novel, Sing You Home. Heart-wrenching and at times laugh-out-loud funny, Sing You Home follows the story of a lesbian couple and their struggles to start a family. Jodi is a New York Times best-selling author, and reading her book it’s clear why - she writes a heck of a story, with characters that I really took to heart.

Here’s how this TrevorSpace book club preview will work:

We kick things off here with this exclusive author interview. (And as the book just hit shelves officially on March 1st, I’ll try not to spoil any plot twists to give you all a chance to read it!)

There'll be a virtual book-signing event on March 7th with Jodi that you can watch online via LiveStream. (7pm Eastern, 4pm Pacific.)

And every day from today until March 22nd, there will be a new conversation thread started over at TrevorSpace, where we’ll talk in-depth about Sing You Home. About the characters. About the songs on the accompanying CD. About what happens in the story – and your perspective on it all. And every one of those discussion days one randomly chosen participant will win a signed copy of the book! You even have one more chance to win by commenting here today!

The finale will be a live web-chat on March 22nd hosted by the where I’ll moderate a Q and A between you and Jodi. It’s going to be amazing!

And now, let’s get to the kick-off interview…

Jodi Picoult

Lee: You’re donating part of the proceeds of each signed copy of the book sold at to The Trevor Project. Can you share with us why you’re so passionate to help GLBTQ teens?

Jodi: I started writing Sing You Home because I think gay rights are really the last civil right we have yet to grant in the US and I wanted to explore the issue, and to see why those still opposed to gay rights are opposed. However, this became a much more personal quest for me when my oldest son came out to me during the writing of the book. Did I know beforehand? Sure. I could have told you he was gay when he was three, and It didn't make any difference to me. I wouldn't love him any more if he wasn't gay; I don't love him any less because he is. Kyle is brilliant, a Yale sophomore who is an Egyptology major and who can read hieroglyphs (and about four other languages) and can do math that gives me an aneurysm; who competes in ballroom dance and runs a children’s theater and outreach drama program in the New Haven Schools. His sexual orientation is the least interesting thing about him.

But I also know another young girl who is a member of a theater troupe I run for teens. She was suicidal, because she is a lesbian, and that's just not something her very conservative evangelical Christian family can handle. She worried about them finding out she had a girlfriend. She worried about being disowned so she couldn't go to college. She had to hide who she was every time she walked in her own door. Going home, for her, meant living a lie. Her parents gave her no support when she hinted at her sexuality, and in fact suggested she talk to a Christian counselor. This girl felt like she had no one to turn to, no adult who cared about her, until I started to mentor her. Unlike Kyle, coming out was not going to be a celebration.

Many teens who decide to come out have a disastrous experience, unlike my son. We've seen the media picking up on LGBTQ teens who have been bullied, and who have turned to suicide. I want ALL LGBTQ teens to have an experience like my son had. It's hard enough being a teenager without having to hide who you really are. The Trevor Project is a safe haven for kids who need the support they're not getting from their families. What I dream of is a world where there's no need for The Trevor Project, because no matter who you are, you're accepted.

Lee: The buzz about “Sing You Home” hit the message boards on TrevorSpace months ago. And while your books are published as adult titles, you have a huge teen and young adult following – with high schools and colleges among your upcoming book tour destinations! Does awareness of your teen readers shape your writing?

Jodi: I love my teen fans. First of all, they're not shy. They write me all the time and talk about how much they enjoy my books, and who wouldn't like that kind of feedback!? I've had teenage fans bake me cupcakes and bring them to events; I've had them make up Jodi Picoult Fan Club tee shirts -- they make me feel like a rock star. I do actually think about them when I write my books, which is one reason I often have a teen narrator. I love teen narrators because they have a built-in BS meter. They won't let you get away with a lie; they always cut to the heart of the matter. When it comes to making decisions, they have great swinging passions and sometimes too little cerebral cortex - which also makes for a great character.

Lee: Music is so integral to the lives of teens and young adults, and also to your main character Zoe. She’s a music therapist, and the CD that accompanies “Sing You Home” has ten tracks, with lyrics by you and music written and performed by Ellen Wilber. You wrote in the book that the songs were to give Zoe a real voice – what was the process of creating those songs with Ellen?

Jodi: People who oppose gay rights often don’t know someone gay very well. If you do – if you have a relative or teacher or butcher who’s gay, you know they’re just ordinary people. I wanted readers to get to “know” someone gay – and Zoe’s the one I picked. I wanted readers to really listen to her. I could have given her a first person narrative (and did) but I wanted to go one step further. I wanted you to literally hear her voice, hear her pour her heart out to you in her songs…and THEN see if they can still dismiss her dreams of marriage and a family. My friend Ellen and I have collaborated before on original children's musicals that are performed by a local theater troupe to raise money for charity every year. We've done over 100 songs together, with me writing lyrics and Ellen writing music. So I asked her if she might be interested in a different kind of project, and she was very excited to be part of it. I'd basically write a poem that encapsulated what Zoe was feeling in each chapter, and give it to Ellen, and she'd come back with an amazing melody that brought it to life.

Lee: Kinsey came up with a scale of sexuality, saying that almost everyone fell somewhere between 0 and 6, with some people at “0” (completely heterosexual) and some at “6” (completely homosexual), and most people somewhere in the middle. One of the characters in “Sing You Home” was in a straight relationship and then fell for someone of the same gender. Do you think there’s an element of time that needs to be considered – that people’s attraction to others and/or identity shifts over time? Or is it that some people are bisexual and never realized it because they either fell for someone of the opposite gender first or because our culture reinforces straight relationships in a way it doesn’t support queer relationships?

Jodi: My first crush was in second grade on a boy named Kal Rustiala. He had a jungle gym in his basement and an iguana. I never made the conscious decision to like him, it just happened. So I assume that it's exactly the same for someone who is gay.

Lee: It is! Though my first crush didn't have an iguana. He had a rock tumbler.

Jodi: When I was interviewing lesbian couples for research, I found that while some of the women knew they were attracted to the same sex very early on, an equal number had had committed relationships with men before falling in love with a woman. I wanted to represent both angles, which is why Vanessa is the “gold star” lesbian but Zoe comes to her same-sex relationship after having a heterosexual one – and yet, Zoe also reflects on a same-sex attraction as a child that she dismissed because it wasn’t “how she was supposed to feel” about her best female friend. So I guess that the answer to your question is all of the above.

Lee: Writing from three points of view, getting inside your characters, must have been challenging - especially when your characters are on completely opposite sides of their beliefs in the equality of gay people. Is there a part of you that felt a sense of danger in having your characters articulate anti-gay sentiments?

Jodi: It was really hard to create Max. He had to be a sympathetic character but his views are (to me personally) abhorrent. I had to make him almost befuddled, so that he truly believes in what he's saying without realizing how hateful it is to some of the people who hear it.

That also meant doing research with an evangelical Christian group opposed to gay rights. I interviewed representatives from Focus on the Family, a group that supports the Defense of Marriage Act, opposes gay adoption, and (under the umbrella of Exodus International, which has since taken over) offers seminars to “cure” gay people of same-sex attraction. Like Pastor Clive in my novel, their objection to homosexuality is biblical. Snippets from Leviticus and other Bible verses form the foundation of their anti-gay platform; although similar literal readings should require these people to abstain from playing football (touching pigskin) or eating shrimp scampi (no shellfish). When I asked Focus on the Family if the Bible needs to be taken in a more historical context, I was told absolutely not – the word of God is the word of God. But when I then asked where in the Bible was a list of appropriate sex practices, I was told it’s not a sex manual – just a guideline. That circular logic was most heartbreaking when I brought up the topic of hate crimes. Focus on the Family insists that they love the sinner, just not the sin – and only try to help homosexuals who are unhappy being gay. I worried aloud that this message might be misinterpreted by those who commit acts of violence against gays in the name of religion, and the woman I was interviewing burst into tears. “Thank goodness,” she said, “that’s never happened.” I am sure this would be news to the parents of Matthew Shepherd, Brandon Teena, Ryan Keith Skipper, or August Provost – just a few of those murdered due to their sexual orientation - or the FBI, which reports that 17.6 percent of all hate crimes are motivated by sexual orientation, a number that is steadily rising.

It's always scary to give voice to an opinion that you feel spreads hate -- but sometimes that's what you need to do to really hold a mirror up to the people in the world who really DO think like Max and Pastor Clive; to get them to really listen to what they're saying. One of the great joys about Max is that he, as a character, espouses a journey I hope that these people also take when they read my book. He begins with an opposition to gay rights because of what he's been told to believe by others. But when he tries to hold these beliefs up against the reality of the gay people he knows - and has loved - he sees that disconnection, and ultimately makes a decision not based on religious dogma but on personal ethics.

Lee: The protests and rallies in the aftermath of the murder of Matthew Shepard help your character Vanessa find the inner strength to come out as a lesbian. Strength and hope from tragedy. There’s a lot of tragedy in “Sing You Home” – are you hoping readers can find their own strength and hope from the catharsis of reading your book?

Jodi: There's a lot of tragedy in Sing You Home - particularly in Zoe's fertility struggles - but I actually think of this book as an uplifting one! I think the book leaves you with the belief that the world now, for LGBTQ folks, is so much better than it was twenty years ago; and that changing one mind at a time is the way to gain acceptance for all regardless of sexuality. If you have been struggling to be honest about your sexuality, and you finally come out, you might change the mind of a relative or friend who previously opposed gay rights -- because you force them to rethink their logic. They already love you, and know you're not a bad person, therefore not all gay people can be bad. I hope it doesn't take another twenty years to achieve equality but I do think we are headed in the right direction.

Lee: Early in the story, on pg. 18, there’s a really tender moment of Zoe’s mother saying that her daughter couldn’t disappoint her if she tried. And in track 9, “Where You Are,” there’s a beautiful lyric Ellen sings, “I think home is a person and not so much a place.” Is there a healing for you in your writing?

Jodi: Writing this book for me was not just healing, but proactive. I had been writing about an issue that I supported, but it was theoretical. Sure, I had gay friends and colleagues, but it wasn't until Kyle came out to my husband and me that I realized I had a personal stake in this fight. I want to do my part to change the world for my son. I want to know that this book has opened minds, so that by the time Kyle wants to marry and have a family, it’s not an uphill battle.

Thanks so much, Jodi! That's amazing how the book (and Gay rights) started out theoretical and became so personal for you. I'm so glad you're creating stories like Sing You Home to change the world!

You can join in the discussion about Sing You Home over at TrevorSpace right now! (Go here:

Today’s discussion topic: What would you tell a friend about Sing You Home? Would you recommend it? If so, what would you tell them to convince them to read it?

And remember, leave a comment here for a chance to win a signed copy of “Sing You Home!”


Thursday, March 3, 2011

Very LeFreak - A Bisexual/Pansexual Teen With A Technology Problem

By Rachel Cohn

Very (don't call her Veronica) is pansexual. But that's not her problem. See, she's plugged in. A little too plugged in. And when she can't stop texting/tweeting/facebooking/flash-mobbing, she's sent to rehab.

Electronicaholic Rehab.

And maybe - just maybe - Very can unplug enough to figure out what her heart really wants... and take a chance at real love.

Check out this book trailer:

Add your review of "Very LeFreak" in comments!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Will - A Teen Novel With A Gay Friend Who Changes Everything

By Maria Boyd

Will is a jock. He's popular. He plays guitar. And when he moons a bus full of girls, he thinks it'll be awesome...

Only, he's caught and assigned community service: He has to play guitar for his high school musical. That's set in a Girls' Finishing School. That's called "The Boy Friend." He's humiliated.

Doing his time, one of the guys in the musical comes out to Will as Gay - and with that friendship, and getting to know the musical theater crowd, Will starts to get an idea of who he wants to be.

Add your review of "Will" in comments!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Another Life Altogether - A Coming Of Age Teen Novel

By Elaine Beale

Jessie is thirteen when her family moves to a small village in Yorkshire for a new start (after her mother tries to kill herself.)

In her new school, Jessie falls in with the two most popular and feared girls, Tracey and Amanda, and thinks that maybe she'll be able to pull off this new, "normal" life...

except that she realizes she has a growing crush on Amanda!

Now what is she supposed to do?

Add your review of "Another Life Altogether" in comments!