Monday, March 31, 2014

Sam Orchard's "Family Portraits" LGBTQ Comic Kickstarter (And US Tour...)

This sounds like a very cool kickstarter project, from a creator in New Zealand!

Good luck with it, Sam!


ps - thanks to Ozma for the heads-up on Sam and this project!

Friday, March 28, 2014

The 2014 Lambda Literary Award Finalists!!!

Who will win this year's Lammy?

The Lambda Literary Award Finalists in the LGBT CHILDREN'S/YOUNG ADULT category have been announced!

They are...

Better Nate Than Ever, Tim Federle, Simon & Schuster, Inc./ Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Boy In Box, Christopher R. Michael, Hubbub Publishing

Girls I've Run Away With, Rhiannon Argo, Moonshine Press

If You Could Be Mine, Sara Farizan, Algonquin Books

Openly Straight, Bill Konigsberg, Arthur A. Levine Books

Rapture Practice, Aaron Hartzler, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Secret City, Julia Watts, Bella Books

The Secret Ingredient, Stewart Lewis- Author, Rebecca Short-Editor, Delacorte Press (Penguin/Random House)

The Summer Prince, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Arthur A. Levine Books

Two Boys Kissing, David Levithan, Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers

What Makes a Baby, Cory Silverberg and illustrated by Fiona Smyth, Seven Stories Press/Triangle Square

The winner will be announced at the Lammy Awards Ceremony on June 2, 2014 in New York City. Congratulations to the finalists!!!

You can find out more about the Lammy Awards and the Lambda Literary Foundation at their website here.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Penny Dreadful - A Middle Grade Story Where The Main Character Has A Friend With Two Moms

Penny Dreadful by Laurel Snyder

Penelope is ten and lives a rich, protected, and, frankly, boring life in New York City. She wishes she could have adventures like the ones in the books she loves.

When her dad announces he's quit his job to write a novel, the family's finances bottom out and soon they've relocated to a ramshackle house Penelope's mom inherited in Thrush Junction, Tennessee.

Penelope re-names herself Penny, and suddenly she's having adventures - and friends - and the kind of life she's only read about.  And among Penny's new friends is Twent, who can't say his r's and has two moms.

Add your review of "Penny Dreadful" in comments!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Riding Freedom - Middle Grade Historical Fiction About Charlie "One Eyed Charlie" Parkhurst, A Famous Stagecoach Driver In the California Gold Rush Who Lived As A Man And Had A Female Body

Riding Freedom by Pam Muñoz Ryan, illustrated by Brian Selznick

Charlotte Parkhurst was raised in an orphanage for boys, which suited her just fine. She didn't like playing with dolls, she could hold her own in a fight, and she loved to work in the stable. Charlotte had a special way with horses and wanted to spend her life training and riding them on a ranch of her own.

The problem was, as a girl in the mid-1800s, Charlotte was expected to live a much different life -- one without the freedoms she dreamed of. But Charlotte was smart and determined, and she figured out a way to live her life the way she wanted.

Charlotte became an expert horse rider, a legendary stagecoach driver, and the first woman ever to vote. And she did these things at a time when they were outlawed for women. How? With a plan so clever and so secret - almost no one figured it out.

My note: This is a well-written fictionalized story about real-life One-Eyed Charlie, though by keeping the feminine pronoun throughout, the author never lets you forget that Charlie is "really" "Charlotte." But were they? Isn't it possible that Charlie was the more "true" identity for this historical figure?

While clearly a story of gender non-conformity, the question of Was Charlie transgender? is challenging, as these identities are self-defined. We don't know how Charlie/Charlotte felt about living their life as a man - was it solely to have a better life than they could have had as a woman? Or was it also because they authentically felt they were a man? From my perspective, if someone presents as a man, it's polite to refer to them as such. Thus, every time the author kept referring to the main character as "Charlotte," I chaffed.

But clearly, no disrespect was meant by the author, and this book makes you really like the main character. I enjoyed it.

Add your review of "Riding Freedom" in comments!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Death-Defying Pepper Roux - A Middle Grade Adventure At Sea With A Cross-Dressing Ship’s First Mate

The Death-Defying Pepper Roux by Geraldine McCaughrean

Pepper's fourteenth birthday is a momentous one.

It's the day he's supposed to die.

Everyone seems resigned to it—even Pepper, although he would much prefer to live. But can you sidestep Fate? Jump sideways into a different life? NaÏve and trusting, Pepper sets a course through dangerous waters, inviting disaster and mayhem at every turn, one eye on the sky for fear of angels, one on the magnificent possibilities of being alive.

Add your review of "The Death-Defying Pepper Roux" in comments!

Monday, March 24, 2014

My top ten inspirations from #LA14writersdays

What an amazing weekend!

The two-day Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators - Los Angeles writers conference I just ran (along with my co-regional advisor, Sarah Laurenson, our assistant regional advisor, Sally Jones Rogan, and a whole team of fellow volunteers) was a great success, if I do say so myself. (But it's not just me. Lots of other people are saying it, too!)

Saturday was a day of keynotes and a first pages panel, and Sunday were the intensives.

Here are some of the moments that are still resonating for me:

1. "Writers hear 'no' more than toddlers do." ...And how that's part of the creative and career process of being a writer - Katherine Applegate (Newbery-winner for her MG novel, "The One And Only Ivan.")

2. 'If there's a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it.'- Toni Morrison, as quoted by Katherine Applegate.

3. "If you're writing YA, read one YA a week... Know what's out there." - Catherine Linka (bookseller and children's book buyer for the Flintridge Bookstore and Coffeehouse and YA author of the upcoming "A Girl Called Fearless")

4. "What are the first five to ten details you learn about the character? Do they follow through?" - Heidi Fiedler (Editor at Teacher Created Materials and Argosy Press.)

5. "Fiction is frogs misbehaving." - Advice from the first pages panel, a comment on a first page where a child character rode a frog who jumped from country to country in a tour-around-the-world format.

6. The idea of building a story backwards from a profound last line, as Danielle Smith (agent at Red Fox Literary) described in her keynote.

7. Antagonists need their own plot-line: what do they want that conflicts with what your protagonist wants? - Martha Alderson (The Plot Whisperer)

8. Your main character's goals may change throughout the story: chart out their goal at the beginning, the middle and the end. (They have to have a goal in every single scene.) - Martha Alderson (The Plot Whisperer)

9. Related to #7: "The only way we can begin to emotionally identify with a character is if we know what they want." - Martha Alderson (The Plot Whisperer)

10. The final notes: Having more than 160 people sing along with me the words that describe what SCBWI offers: Inspiration, Business, Craft, Opportunity... (To the notes - moving up the scale - C, E, G, high C... And then, as a chord: Community!

and a bonus inspiration:

11. We had to stack all the venue chairs to the side of the gymnasium at the end of Sunday's program. This is a job that usually takes our small group of event volunteers nearly a half-hour. Just before we broke for the day (and sang those words in #10), I asked those for whom it was physically easy to please carry the chair they were sitting in over to the side and help us stack the chairs.  Every chair was stacked in under 10 minutes. Wow - what an illustration of the power of community!!!

Namaste (the light in me recognizes and acknowledges the light in every one of you),

ps- If you were there and blogged about your top take-aways, add a link in comments! Thanks!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Los Angeles' Writers Days! #LA14writersdays

I'm excited about our SCBWI Los Angeles' Writer's Days conference this weekend!

It's my local SCBWI chapter's biggest event of the year, and for the third year in a row I'm organizing it along with my co-Regional Advisor, Sarah Laurenson, our Assistant Regional Advisor, Sally Jones Rogan, and our team of fellow volunteers!

We've got Newbery-Winner Katherine Applegate (How much am I loving "The One and Only Ivan!")

Bookseller and YA Author Catherine Linka (Who'll share insights from wearing both hats!)

Editor Heidi Fiedler (An editor hungry for new-to-her writers, both for trade books and work-for-hire projects!)

Literary Agent Danielle Smith (Newly at Red Fox Literary, actively looking to build her list!)

Additional faculty includes Social Media Guru Greg Pincus (who's doing social media consults!) and Literary Agent Jen Rofé (whose Sunday intensives are sold out!)

and Martha Alderson (The famed "Plot Whisperer!")

There's a first-pages panel, contests, the awarding of the Sue Alexander Service and Encouragement Award (to recognize one of our region's hardest-working volunteers) and it wouldn't be "Writer's Days" without lots of writing exercises and the chance to work on our craft!

It will be two days full of inspiration, opportunity, craft, business and community -- I can't wait!

We'll be taking walk-in registrations for Saturday and for Sunday's all-day PLOT intensive with Martha Alderson.

If you're writing for kids and/or teens, consider joining us. Details are here.

And if you're able to attend or not, you can follow the conference buzz on twitter, with the hashtag #la14writersdays

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Newsgirl - A Middle Grade Historical Where 12 Year Old Amelia (Who's Raised By Two Women) Poses As A Boy

Newsgirl by Liza Ketchum

It's the spring of 1851 and San Francisco is booming. Twelve-year-old Amelia Forrester has just arrived with her family (Amelia's being raised by two women: her mom and Estelle) and they are eager to make a new life in Phoenix City. But the mostly male town is not that hospitable to females and Amelia decides she'll earn more money as a boy. Cutting her hair and donning a cap, she joins a gang of newsboys, selling Eastern newspapers for a fortune. And that's just the beginning of her adventures. Participating in the biggest news stories of the day, Amelia is not a girl to let life pass her by - even and especially when it involves danger!

Add your review of "Newsgirl" in comments!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Matthew Shepard Continues To Make A Difference: An ELA/History Resource Guide For High School Educators

GLSEN, the Matthew Shepard Foundation, Lesléa Newman and Candlewick Press have collaborated to develop He Continues to Make a Difference: Commemorating the Life of Matthew Shepard, a resource for high school educators interested in:

• Commemorating and learning from the life of Matthew Shepard

• Teaching themes of empathy and social justice

• Implementing LGBT-Inclusive curriculum while meeting reading and writing standards

• Supporting LGBT students

Using Lesléa Newman’s award-winning book of poetry, OCTOBER MOURNING: A SONG FOR MATTHEW SHEPARD, as a foundation, educators can foster meaningful dialogue with students while meeting English/Language Arts and Social Studies standards.

I like a lot of this guide - the discussion of windows and mirrors, the core curriculum tie-ins, the call to educators to include more LGBTQ curriculum materials, and especially Lesléa's introduction "Why Matthew's Story Still Matters," which included these very moving words:

When someone is reduced to a slur, he or she becomes, in the
eyes of a tormentor, less than human. He or she becomes, in a
tormentor’s eyes, someone of no consequence, someone who
doesn’t matter, someone—or something—easy to destroy.
And this is why we must keep telling Matthew Shepard’s story.
Matt was not a “fag.” Matt was a person. He was a son, a brother,
a boyfriend, a classmate, a friend. In the Jewish tradition, which is
my tradition, it is said, “Whoever saves a life, saves a whole world.”
I believe that the opposite is also true. Whoever destroys a life,
destroys a whole world. We will never know all the great things
Matthew Shepard would have done had he not been murdered
(ironically, he wanted to work for international social justice). We
will never know how he would have looked once his braces were
removed. We will never know what he would have done upon
graduating from the University of Wyoming. We will never know
if, later in life, he would have married and raised children. We will
never know all the joy and love he would have continued to bring
to his family and friends and to those he had yet to meet. When
his life was cut short, a whole world was destroyed.

In my tradition there is a concept known as “tikkun olam” which
means “repairing the world.” Every person is assigned this task at
birth even though it is assumed that our broken world will never
be fully repaired. Still, each one of us must contribute to “tikkun
olam” in some way. It is also assumed that no individual can do
this alone. And that is why I am so excited to be working with the
Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN), the Matthew
Shepard Foundation, and Candlewick Press. Together we can
do so much. Together we can reach high school educators and
administrators, political activists, LGBT youth, librarians, parents,
and readers of teen literature, all of whom can work together
to carry on Matthew Shepard’s legacy to make the world a safer

The resource guide is available as a free pdf, and is well worth checking out.


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Lazarus, Covenant, and Epiphany - A Trilogy About Gay Black and Latino College Guys

Lazarus, Covenant and Epiphany by Rashid Darden


ADRIAN is handsome, brilliant, and devoted to serving others. Under the cool exterior, however, he is tormented and unfulfilled. Abandoned by his father and emotionally distant from his mother, he feels alone - adrift on campus - until he meets SAVION. With rhymes dripping from his lips like honey, Savion has just what Adrian needs: stability, maturity, and love. Although their friendship is filled with peaks and valleys, their relationship is threatened by Adrian's biggest challenge: BETA CHI PHI.

Finding the appeal of pledging his father's fraternity irresistible, Adrian decides to take the plunge and pledge Beta Chi Phi in an attempt to fill the void in his heart, even after his relationship with Savion blossoms. Almost immediately, Adrian is thrust headlong into a world of mind games, controlled behavior, and strokes from the paddle--tempered with the brotherhood that bonds men in times of adversity. Adrian knows that he must keep his relationship with Savion a secret at all costs, for if his new-found family were to learn the truth, he may have to choose...

The one he loves...or his brothers.


Who will be the first to break?

ADRIAN is on a mission to heal himself from his emotional wounds. Though he is fresh off the “burning sands” of Beta Chi Phi, he suddenly finds himself alone. He sets himself to the task of reconciling with his parents while forging his own path as a newly “out” man on campus – no easy feat when some fraternity brothers still harbor animosity toward him.

ISAIAH is struggling to redefine himself. He is a student, basketball player, and boyfriend to a beautiful young lady. But who does he want to be? Isaiah’s friendship with Adrian awakens new feelings within him – feelings that are both exciting and terrifying. Over the course of one summer these two men are united as friends – and more.

What happens between them is kept secret, even from their closest friends. As they cross each other’s paths on the close-knit campus, they both long to finish what they started during that long, humid summer. Still, they made a promise…


ISAIAH is head over heels in love with his boyfriend and isn’t afraid to let the world know it. His devotion threatens his future as a professional basketball player. Though he is being forced to choose between the love of his life and his career, it appears that he could be making a decision which could irrevocably affect his future.

Meanwhile, ADRIAN has unfinished fraternity business. As a Big Brother for the first time, he has an obligation to uphold the chapter’s sacred traditions, yet feels a responsibility to end the cycle of violence.

Friendships will dissolve. Rivals will return. Secrets buried in LAZARUS and maintained in COVENANT will finally explode in EPIPHANY.

These books were published by the author. Add your review of Lazarus, Covenant and/or Epiphany in comments!

Monday, March 17, 2014

This Father of a Gender Non-Conforming Child Says It So Well

I was really impressed with this interview Matt Duron gave at "The Mother Company" site. Matt's the dad of C.J., the gender non-conforming child Lori Duron writes about raising in her blog and book, Raising My Rainbow.

It was great to hear from the dad in that family! Here's an excerpt:

You say you’ve “evolved” in terms of his ability to handle your boy’s inclination? How?
It’s not uncomfortable at all anymore to see my son wearing “girl clothes” or playing with “girl toys.” I got to the place where I realized that clothes are just fabric and toys are just plastic, who cares what fabric a kid wears or plastic they play with?
I mean, I could care. I could be a jerk to my kid and tell him that he can’t like the kind of stuff that he likes, but what kind of man and father would that make me? I’m supposed to teach my kids right from wrong, self-confidence, decency, respect, how to treat others, how to treat themselves, how to be good people and be leaders. Teaching my boys those qualities are what’s important to my wife and me. Their gender expression has nothing to do with any of that. I’m not going to kill his spirit by telling him that the way he was born is wrong or bad.
If you read the statistics for kids like my son they are pretty scary. They have the highest rate of suicide attempts, drug abuse, unsafe sex and depression. Am I going to drive him to those things or try to save him from those things by loving him no matter what? You better believe it’s the latter of those two. I will do everything I can possibly do to ensure my son doesn’t become a statistic and help as many other kids as I can.

Join me in cheering their whole family on! Go check out the interview here.


And thanks to my friend Greg for sharing this with me, so I could share it with all of you.

Friday, March 14, 2014

The Rainbow List is Here! The Rainbow List is Here!

The Rainbow Project website (I do love how they link to this blog in their "Stay Tuned" sidebar!)

The 2014 Rainbow Project Reading List, a project of the American Library Assocation's Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Round Table (GLBTRT) and Social Responsibilities Round Table (SSRT), is a wonderful resource and powerful tool to:

Let readers know what's really great in terms of kid and teen books with LGBTQ characters and themes that was published last year (2013) and

Give librarians and other professionals who buy books for library collections a list of LGBTQ-inclusive and themed books recommended by the American Library Association as being "high quality."

This year, 30 books were selected out of 150, and here are the Rainbow List's top ten (noted with a star, not in order)

Juvenile Fiction
*Federle, Tim. Better Nate than Ever. 2013. 275p. Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers, $16.99 (9781442446892). Grades 4 and up.
Thirteen-year-old Nate runs away from his small town in Pennsylvania to New York City to audition for E.T. the Musical. With the help of his best friend, can he come back home before anyone notices he’s gone?

Teen Non Fiction
*Bornstein, Kate. My New Gender Workbook: A Step-by-Step Guide to Achieving World Peace Through Gender Anarchy and Sex Positivity. 2013. 312p. Routledge, $39.95. (9780415538657). Grades 7 and up.
This updated edition of Bornstein’s original gender workbook shows the reader how to deconstruct not only gender, but other societal values and morals with candidness, compassion and humor.

*Setterington, Ken. Branded by the Pink Triangle. 2013. 158p. Second Story Press, $15.95. (9781926920962). Grades 9 and up.
Jews were not the only ones persecuted and executed by the Nazis in World War II. Instead of a Star of David, homosexual men were marked with a pink triangle, which now stands as an international symbol for gay rights.

Teen Fiction
*Block, Francesca Lia. Love in the Time of Global Warming. 2013. 240p. Henry Holt and Co., $16.99 (0805096272). Grades 9-12.
In post-apocalyptic Los Angeles, Penelope (Pen) has lost everything, and everyone, she’s ever cared about. In this Odyssey-esque journey, Pen embarks on a search for her family, finding unexpected adventures and survivors along the way.

*Clark, Kristin Elizabeth. Freakboy. 2013. 448p. Farrar Straus Giroux $18.99 (9780374324728). Grades 7 and up.
Three lives intertwine: Angel, a transwoman who works at an LGBTQ center for teens; Vanessa, a high school girl who’s on the wrestling team; and Brendan, Vanessa’s boyfriend who has just started having dreams that he is actually a she. Brendan feels at home in his female-bodied dreams, but what does that mean for his relationship with Vanessa, and how can Angel help him?

*Dos Santos, Steven. The Culling. 2013. 420p. Flux, $9.99 (9780738735375). Grades 9-12.
In a post-apocalyptic America, the government has absolute control of its people, complete with a barbaric and gruesome tradition known as Recruitment Day. Lucian “Lucky” Sparks thinks his boyfriend, Cassius, will save him from being selected as a Recruit, but when Cassius proves untrustworthy Lucky must fight for his life.

*Egloff, Z. Leap. 2013. 223p. Bywater Books, $14.95. (978-1612940236). Grades 9 and up.
In the summer of 1979, Rowan Marks is just waiting to leave for college. In the meantime, she deals with her disconnected family, her best friend Danny who is in love with her, and stuck up, closed-off Catherine.

*Farizan, Sara. If You Could Be Mine. 2013. 256p. Algonquin Young Readers, $16.99 (9781616202514). Grades 9 and up.
Sahar and Nasrin are two women in love with each other whose lives are complicated by the fact that they live in Iran, where homosexuality is forbidden. When Nasrin’s parents arrange for her to be married to a handsome doctor, Sahar comes up with a risky plan to save their relationship.

*Johnson, Alaya Dawn. The Summer Prince. 2013. 304p. Arthur A. Levine Books, $17.99 (9780545520775). Grades 9 and up.
Set in futuristic Brazil, the people of the city of Palmares Tres have elected a new Summer King, Enki. Everyone is in love with him, including June who knows better then to get tangled up with a man who she knows is destined to die.

*Lam, Laura. Pantomime. 2013. 400p. Strange Chemistry, $9.99 (9781908844378). Grades 9 and up.
Fleeing from her life of nobility, marriage and forced gender, Iphigenia joins the Circus of Magic, facing issues of identity that stretch beyond anyone’s imagination.

Congratulations to everyone who made the Rainbow List!

And for the rest of us, Happy Reading!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Seventh Pleiade - A Gay Teen Prince of Atlantis, A Mystery, and a Romance

The Seventh Pleiade by Andrew J. Peters

Atlantis is besieged by violent storms, tremors, and a barbarian army. For sixteen-year old Aerander, it’s a calamitous backdrop to his Panegyris, where boys are feted for their passage to manhood.

Amid a secret web of romances among the celebrants, Aerander’s cousin Dam goes missing with two boys. With the kingdom in crisis, no one suspects the High Priest Zazamoukh though Aerander uncovers a conspiracy to barter boys for dark spiritual power. Aerander’s proof — an underground vault that disappears in the morning — brings shame on his family and suspicions of lunacy. The only way to regain his honor is to prove what really happened to the missing boys.

Tracking Dam leads Aerander on a terrifying and fantastical journey. He spots a star that hasn’t been seen for centuries. He uncovers a legend about an ancient race of men who hid below the earth. And traveling to an underground world, he learns about matters even more urgent than the missing boys. The world aboveground is changing, and he will have to clear a path for the kingdom’s survival.

Add your review of "The Seventh Pleiade" in comments!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out - nonfiction profiles and photographs of six transgender and gender-neutral teens

Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kuklin

Author and photographer Susan Kuklin met and interviewed six transgender or gender-neutral young adults and used her considerable skills to represent them thoughtfully and respectfully before, during, and after their personal acknowledgment of gender preference. Portraits, family photographs, and candid images grace the pages, augmenting the emotional and physical journey each youth has taken. Each honest discussion and disclosure, whether joyful or heartbreaking, is completely different from the other because of family dynamics, living situations, gender, and the transition these teens make in recognition of their true selves.

Add your review of "Beyond Magenta" in comments!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Barriers To Love: Embracing A Bisexual Identity - A Memoir about coming of age and overcoming the struggle with family, society, Latino culture and self to accept one's bisexual identity

Barriers To Love: Embracing A Bisexual Identity by Marina Peralta

Set in Mexico and California, BARRIERS TO LOVE traces how early sexual abuse in Marina's childhood led to her sexual confusion in adolescence. Jilted by her first boyfriend, comforted by a lesbian girlfriend and controlled by her widowed mother, she married an emotionally detached man, only to find love with a woman later in life.

The author Marina Peralta is a San Diego-based psycho-therapist who specializes in the treatment of young adults, adults, and families dealing with sexual identity issues and abuse. In her memoir Marina employs her own compelling life story to address the myths and facts of bisexual identity and to explore the concept of sexual fluidity.

Add your review of "Barriers To Love" in comments!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Oscar Winner Lupita Nyong'o Speaks About Beauty

This powerful speech about beauty was made a few days before Lupita won the Oscar, as she accepted an award for Best Breakthrough Performance at the seventh annual Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon hosted by Essence magazine.


Friday, March 7, 2014

Here's To You, Zeb Pike - A Gay Teen Novel

Here's To You, Zeb Pike by Johanna Parkhurst

Fact: When Zebulon Pike attempted to climb what is now known as Pikes Peak, he got stuck in waist-deep snow and had to turn back.

That’s the last thing Dusty Porter learns in his Colorado history class before appendicitis ruins his life. It isn’t long before social services figures out that Dusty’s parents are more myth than reality, and he and his siblings are shipped off to live in Vermont with an uncle and aunt they’ve never met.

Dusty’s new life is a struggle. His brother and sister don’t seem to need him anymore, and he can’t stand his aunt and uncle. At school, one hockey player develops a personal vendetta against him, while Emmitt, another hockey player, is making it hard for Dusty to keep pretending he’s straight. Problem is, he’s pretty sure Emmitt’s not gay. Then, just when Dusty thinks things can’t get any worse, his mother reappears, looking for a second chance to be a part of his life.

Somehow Zebulon Pike still got the mountain named after him, so Dusty’s determined to persevere—but at what point in life do you keep climbing, and when do you give up and turn back?

Check out the great guest post Johanna wrote on "LGBT Characters and Their Place in Schools" tomorrow here on the blog!

And add your review of "Here's To You, Zeb Pike" in comments!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

One Foot Onto The Ice - A teacher, a ski instructor, and two 16-year-old lesbian students at a ski resort

One Foot Onto The Ice by Kiki Archer

Do you ever wonder how your old classmates remember you? Especially those who weren’t in your circle?

Susan Quinn, a teacher at St Wilfred’s All-Girls School, and Jenna James, a Club Ski instructor in the French Alps, are about to find out.

As an invisible bond draws the two women closer, will they appreciate each other for who they are now, not who they once were?

“One Foot Onto The Ice,” is a fast-paced romance set in the sunny ski resort of Morzine, where the young cast of students and teachers search for excitement on the slopes, with some finding it a lot more easily than others.

The story also features two lesbian 16 yr old school girls, Priggy Bunton-Chatsworth and Mischa.

Add your review of "One Foot Onto The Ice" in comments!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

LGBT Characters and Their Place In Schools - A Guest Post by Johanna Parkhurst

Johanna's Gay Teen Novel

Johanna Parkhurst

Guess what? My YA book Here’s to You, Zeb Pike is out from Harmony Ink Press. The main characters, Dusty and Emmitt, are pretty excited.

This blog post actually isn’t going to be about Dusty and Emmitt, though. They’re great guys, and I think you’ll like them a lot. But this post is going to be about something Dusty and Emmitt deal with in Here’s to You, Zeb Pike: the belief that no one in the world is like them. And this post is going to be about why, if Dusty and Emmitt had just a better selection of books in their schools, they might not have ended up with that belief.

Don’t tell anyone, but “YA author” is actually my secret identity. I’m also a middle school teacher and curriculum writer.


So I spend a lot of time thinking about what reading materials kids in grades 6-8 should be reading. A LOT. I study the reading material being used in other curriculum maps around the country. I think a lot about the influence the reading material kids see in schools has on their developing psyches, their opinions of the world, and their opinions of themselves.

When I found this book was going to finally be published (and I can’t thank the fine people at Harmony Ink Press enough for that opportunity), I thought a lot about whether or not I should use a pen name. For a variety of reasons. But one of the biggest was this: I knew that if I published a LGBT book under my name, any future school districts I applied to could decide not to hire me because I had published an LGBT book.

I thought a lot about that, but in the end, my husband pretty well summarized why I finally decided I didn’t care: “You wouldn’t want to work for a district that would do that.”

True enough.

I’ve been lucky enough to work for a few schools that have been incredibly supportive of making sure our students have access to all different types of literature. Even LGBT lit. Especially LGBT lit. Almost Perfect by Brian Katcher, Breaking Boxes by A.M. Jenkins, The God Box by Alex Sanchez, Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan. All of these books have either been part of a curriculum or a library in a school I’ve worked for at one time or another.

I very firmly believe that these books and other books like them have to be part of a school’s curriculum and library. There shouldn’t even be a discussion of whether or not they are. Kids’ understanding of what they think about themselves and others is formed just as much by the books that aren’t put in front of them as the books that are. If you never give kids exposure to books featuring LGBT characters, you are inherently sending the message that it is not okay, or normal, to be questioning or lesbian or gay. Whether you meant to send that message or not.

Of course, all this is very easy to say. It’s really easy to say that you, as a teacher, want to provide your students with books that show them insights and ideas from all types of people. It can be a lot harder to do that. Teachers so often have to fight pushback from board members, parents, and administration when they get books with LGBT characters into students’ hands—because there are so many people out there who still do want to send the message that it’s not okay to be questioning, gay, bisexual, or a lesbian. Sometimes well-meaning adults have this idea that kids are too young to be exposed to thinking about things like that; you have to wait until they’re older, they say. The problem with that thinking is that we form ideas and opinions of the world pretty young. So if nobody ever exposes you to LGBT characters before you’re, say, 16, by the time you hit 16, the lack of those characters in your reading life has probably already embedded within you some beliefs that there is something abnormal about people who identify as LGBT.

It doesn’t help that people like to inherently connect sexual identity with sex. I don’t know why people believe that the only way to expose teenagers to LGBT characters in books is to expose them to books with lots of sex in it. It’s just not true. There are so many amazing teen and middle grade novels, and even picture books, that feature LGBT characters without even touching on anything sexual. And if we’re going to listen to the argument that even non-explicit homosexual romance is inappropriate for teenagers, I’d like to point out that almost no school library is making that argument about heterosexual romance. You’ve all heard of Sarah Dessen, right?

Anyhoo, I’ve already lost track of where I am on my soapbox. What was I talking about? That’s right! Why it’s important for LGBT literature to exist in middle school curriculum and schools. Well, for my final argument, I’d like to ask you this: would you ever consider not having a book about a Black, or Jewish, or Asian character in a school because of the characters the book featured? Would you ever say, “Well, I don’t want parents or the board members to be concerned that their students are being exposed to books about Asian characters, so I guess the students in that school shouldn’t read that book.” I certainly hope not. At least not in this day and age.

I’m not trying to downplay the hard conversations and very real-world difficulties teachers open themselves up to when they stock a curriculum or school library with books featuring LGBT characters. I’m just saying that if we don’t have those conversations, if we don’t take those real-world difficulties head on, we do a huge disservice to our students.

Because if you tell students that something shouldn’t exist for them, you tell them that something is somehow wrong or not okay. And that message is not okay.

When I first started writing Here’s to You, Zeb Pike a whole lotta years ago, Rainbow Boys by Alex Sanchez was about the only YA LGBT lit I could find on the local shelves of my bookstore, and I had to hunt for that. The teens I teach now are so much luckier. They have a myriad of books featuring LGBT characters available to them. When I finally got my act together and finished Zeb Pike, I discovered that not only were there publishing companies willing to publish it—there were actually companies dedicated to publishing nothing but LGBT YA lit. Pretty amazing, if you think about it.
So here’s the general point of this blog post: if you’re a student reading this, and your school isn’t a place where LGBT characters are represented in your library or classrooms, say something. It’s worth it. Because maybe you’ve figured out how to get your hands on literature that represents lots of different types of people, but that doesn’t mean all your other classmates have.

And if you’re one of those teachers or librarians who shies away from letting LGBT YA lit into your classrooms or libraries because you’re worried about having to have conversations about religion and sexuality and difficult things like that with parents and administrators, or you just don’t want to rock the boat, try to remember that some hard conversations are really worth having. Remember all the kids who need you to be willing to have those conversations.

Here’s to You, Zeb Pike features two teenagers who don’t really know how to be who they are, and the main reason for that is because nobody else they know is like them. Books are our windows into the worlds of new people and ideas and concepts. We have to give windows into the world of LGBT characters to all our students—gay or straight. That’s how you promote critical thinking and identity exploration. That’s how you promote tolerance and acceptance.

And there you have it: why LGBT characters should be more prevalent in middle school libraries and classrooms. Written by a middle school educator who isn’t using a pen name. Written for two fictional characters who could use a few more characters like them in their school libraries.

by Johanna Parkhurst
M.A. of English Education
Teachers College, Columbia University
Author, Here's To You, Zeb Pike

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Stand With Nigeria's LGBTQ & Allied Community

The online petition to stop the anti-LGBT "terror" in Nigeria

Nigeria just passed a new extreme anti-gay law. It includes:

14 years for anyone in a same-sex marriage or civil union
10 years for anyone who attends a same-sex wedding
10 years for anyone involved with an LGBT organisation
10 years for anyone who shows affection for someone of the same sex

Since the law was signed, many people have been arrested, including more than a dozen arrested and arraigned in Bauchi. The Nigerian LGBT community and their straight allies are living in fear.

We can't stay silent as this atrocity continues – sign now to get leaders in Nigeria to help stop this anti-LGBT terror. Help put an end to the hate, and join me by signing this petition!


We call on you to:
Stop all cases of arrests and persecution of people based on perceived or real sexual orientation.
Investigate and prosecute cases of incitement to violence against LGBT people
Ensure access to justice for victims of mob justice and arbitrary arrests.
This Friday March 7, 2014, "incredibly brave Nigerians will deliver this petition to officials in their country. Will your name be on it to show you’re standing with them?"

It's happening on Friday at the same time as protests against Nigeria's outrageous new anti-gay law take place in Amsterdam, Johannesburg, London, New York, Stockholm, Washington DC, and many more

Let's stand up with and for the Nigerian LGBTQ and Allied Community!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Shaina Harrison On Why Kids Pick Up Guns

I read this article in the September 30, 2013 issue of New Yorker magazine, "Red Hood Postcard: Community Guns" by Ian Frazier, and it's stayed with me for months.

The article quotes Shaina Harrison, a 26-year-old woman whose job is helping prevent gun violence among kids in New York City.

"If I ask a room of kids at a high school in Crown Heights if they could get a gun if they wanted to, every hand goes up. These kids can get a gun more easily than a MetroCard. There are guns nobody owns, guns you can borrow - community guns."

"The reason kids pick up guns is that they are powerless. I try to let them understand how they can have power. We draw maps of their neighborhoods and figure out who their representatives are. The first time I ask who represents them in the government, they always shout, 'Obama!' I try to show them there are dozens and dozens of other people between them and him."

"People sometimes ask them what they want to be when they grow up. Don't ask that! Ask what they want to be right now! I want to help them find that out - how they can have some direction and some power, without it coming from a gun."

I thought this was really a call to action - how can we empower teens (and how can kids empower themselves) so they don't turn to guns.

How can every kid have "some direction and some power, without it coming from a gun?"

A great question, that can lead to some great GSA discussions.