Friday, December 18, 2015

...And That's A Wrap! (As They Say In Hollywood) See You In 2016

It's the final post of 2015!

I'll be back starting Monday January 4, 2016 with lots more great books, interviews, resources, and diversity discussion-prompts for LGBTQ Teens and their allies.

To tide you over till then, here are ten awesome moments from 2015 to enjoy, either again or for the first time:

1. A great short video on privilege and diversity: Sometimes You're A Caterpillar, Sometimes You're A Snail

2. The Agents Looking for Diversity interviews - a dozen so far, with more to come in 2016!

3. Sam Smith thanking his ex-boyfriend at the Grammy Awards

4. The "Writing Queer Characters" series of posts, with lots of guest expert advice!

5. June 26, 2015 - My Marriage Is LEGAL everywhere in the USA! (And so are everyone else's gay and lesbian marriages!)

6. Girl Scouts is #ForEVERYGirl - a great story about standing up to prejudice and being rewarded for that!

7.  A High School Junior peacefully counter-protests two homophobes... and starts a movement!

8. The Gender Unicorn (a great tool to help think about, discuss, and understand gender.)

9. Some awesome personal news, My SCBWI Member of the Year Award and My New Job as Vice President of Digital, Communications and Community Engagement at Little Pickle Press.

10. This very gay and fun "Blank Space" music video by the group Well Strung that's a mash-up of Taylor Swift and Johann Sebastian Bach!

And one more, a bonus video that's inspiring... This high schooler's project to record people being told they're beautiful!




You're beautiful!

Thanks for being part of my--our--community here at "I'm Here. I'm Queer. What The Hell Do I Read?"

Happy Holidays!
Lee

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

College Guide For Current and Prospective LGBT Students - a web resource

This College Guide For Current and Prospective LGBT Students seems like a good place to start, with a lot of good links (especially their scholarship section. Besides the Point Foundation, these were all new to me.)



If it seems useful to you, check it out.

Monday, December 14, 2015

The Red Sheet - A Bully Wakes Up One Day A Different Person... With A Crush On The Guy He Used To Bully



The Red Sheet by Mia Kerick

One October morning, high school junior Bryan Dennison wakes up a different person—helpful, generous, and chivalrous—a person whose new admirable qualities he doesn’t recognize. Stranger still is the urge to tie a red sheet around his neck like a cape.

Bryan soon realizes this compulsion to wear a red cape is accompanied by more unusual behavior. He can’t hold back from retrieving kittens from tall trees, helping little old ladies cross busy streets, and defending innocence anywhere he finds it.

Shockingly, at school, he realizes he used to be a bully. He’s attracted to the former victim of his bullying, Scott Beckett, though he has no memory of Scott from before “the change.” Where he’d been lazy in academics, overly aggressive in sports, and socially insecure, he’s a new person. And although he can recall behaving egotistically, he cannot remember his motivations.

Everyone, from his mother to his teachers to his “superjock” former pals, is shocked by his dramatic transformation. However, Scott Beckett is not impressed by Bryan’s newfound virtue. And convincing Scott he’s genuinely changed and improved, hopefully gaining Scott’s trust and maybe even his love, becomes Bryan’s obsession.

Add your review of "The Red Sheet" in comments!

Friday, December 11, 2015

The Kitsune Trilogy - A YA fantasy where the two male leads crush on each other and eventually figure out their feelings are mutual



The Fox's Mask (Book One of the Kitsune Trilogy) by Anna Frost

In feudal Japan, magic is dying. As a demon hunter, Akakiba finds this problematic. The evil he’s been trained to destroy is disappearing and, along with it, the shape-shifting abilities of the clan he left behind. With his only companion, a determined young human named Yuki, Akakiba traverses the country slaying demons and performing odd jobs.

But when an army of demon possessed humans masses to exterminate his clan, Akakiba must put aside old feuds and protect his family–all while hiding an important secret from Yuki. Will they find a way to defeat the demon possessed before it’s too late? With magic dwindling, will it matter either way?

The Fox's Quest (Book Two of the Kitsune Trilogy)


Akakiba’s clan is on the verge of extinction but all hope is not lost. They’ve found a mysterious object that seems to be draining magic from the world. If they can destroy this object, they might recover what has been lost and return strength to the clan.

The problem is, they don’t know who created this object or what those mysterious individuals might do to get it back.


The Fox's God (Book Three of the Kitsune Trilogy)

In the cold north, a cult attempts to wake an old god. Akakiba, Yuki, and their friends form an alliance with the Emperor’s men to stop this cult, but both sides have reasons not to trust the other. There may be betrayal in the end, but of a kind no one had foreseen.

Add your review of any or all of the books in the Kitsune Trilogy in comments!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Undone - Jem's gay best friend's suicide (after being outed by a video that goes viral) drives Jem to find whoever is responsible... and make them pay


Undone by Cat Clarke

Jem Halliday is in love with her gay best friend, Kai, who kills himself after being outed in a highly private moment. All she has left is a series of letters he’s left her: one a month, each encouraging her to come out of her shell. But Jem has a different plan. Sure she’ll be more outgoing—whatever it takes to infiltrate the group of popular teens who released the video that made Kai commit suicide. And then she’ll bring them down.

Add your review of "Undone" in comments!

Monday, December 7, 2015

Maria Vicente (P.S. Literary): Agent Looking For Diversity

AGENTS AND EDITORS
NEED TO ADVERTISE THEIR INTEREST IN DIVERSITY

That's the idea. And this series is an ongoing effort to do just that.

For now, we're focusing on agents, and today's post features agent Maria Vicente of P.S. Literary Agency.

Agent Maria Vicente

Here's Maria's bio:

Maria Vicente is an associate literary agent at P.S. Literary Agency, providing support to her clients through all stages of the writing and publication process. Maria is dedicated to managing authors’ literary brands for the duration of their careers.
Her reading preferences vary across categories and genres, which is reflected in her client list. She is actively looking for literary fiction, young adult, middle grade, illustrated picture books, and nonfiction projects in the pop culture, design, and lifestyle categories. She has affinities for literary prose, strong character development, original storytelling formats, and anything geeky. Maria’s website, MariaVicente.com, includes articles about publishing and writing for current and potential clients. You can find more information about the categories Maria represents, as well as an up-to-date wish list, here.


And our interview:

Lee: Hi Maria!

Maria: Oh, hello!

Lee: Thanks so much for agreeing to talk about your interest in Diversity in Children's and Teen Literature!

Maria: Of course! Thank you for asking me to participate in this series. I’m really looking forward to this discussion.

Lee: There's been growing discussion about how the 5,000 or so traditionally published books a year don't reflect the actual diversity of our world, including the #WeNeedDiverseBooks movement and the stunningly low numbers of representation revealed in "Children's Books by and about People of Color Published in the United States," put out by the CCBC (The Cooperative Children's Book Center.

To start us off, of the submissions you get, let's say in the past year, how many of those projects included some kind of diversity of characters or theme?

Maria: Very little, I’m afraid. At least that I’m aware of. Most of the queries I receive don’t specify the backgrounds of the characters. However, the trend is changing, slowly but surely, and I’m sure it’s because of initiatives like #WeNeedDiverseBooks. It’s nice to read that a character in a manuscript is from a diverse background (of any sort), but I understand that sometimes those details don’t fit into the query letter.

As for the amount of diversity in requested material, well, that’s a bit higher than the query inbox. It could be because I gravitate towards the queries that do mention why a story has a diverse perspective, but I’d say approximately half of my requested material feature diverse characters or themes. So diversity is definitely there in the stories, but the query letters aren’t always reflective of that diversity.

Lee: Let's unpack that a bit: Are you seeing many stories featuring protagonists of color?

Maria: Not many that make this information obvious. Mentioning physical characteristics is tricky, especially in queries and opening pages. It’s difficult to discuss a character’s background in a way that doesn’t feel like an information dump. A character’s background is so important in any story, and a lot of times (beginning) writers have trouble getting that information across to the reader in a natural way, so it’s often left out of the story completely.

Lee: How about LGBTQ characters, and please break that down - are you seeing lesbian characters? gay? bi? trans*? questioning? queer or gender non-conforming?

Maria: These are more common, but I’d still like to see more. I read more queries with lesbian characters than anything else. Trans* has been more common lately, as well as gender non-conforming. I’d particularly like to see more bi or queer characters. Many of the queries for LGBTQ characters are “issue” stories, and it would be great to see more children’s manuscripts with these diverse characters that don’t necessarily focus on sexual identity as a main plot point.

Lee: How about characters with disabilities?

Maria: Very, very few. Which is quite unfortunate.

Lee: Are you seeing other types of diversity in the works submitted? And please share any specific categories that spring to mind.

Maria: I’ve seen an increase in diverse settings for children’s books, which is fantastic. Not every story needs to be set in the USA. Younger books featuring characters with autism are also quite common in the slush pile.

Lee: How about the creators? Are you seeing under-represented writers and illustrators submitting to you?

Maria: To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure. When people talk about diverse books, it’s often brought up that agents need to represent more diverse authors. I agree. But it’s also difficult for agents to know if a submission is coming from an under-represented writer.

I don’t ask writers to identify themselves in any way. I don’t know where an author lives, or what an author’s background is like, unless it is included in their bio (either in a query letter or on a website). I usually don’t know what a writer looks like until after I sign them and they send me a professional photo. I am truly making decisions based solely on the query letters and the manuscripts I read. It’s all in the story.

I try to make clear, in as many places as possible, that I am willing and ready to represent diverse creators. I can only hope that they feel welcome to send me fantastic projects!

Lee: There's a lot of discussion about who has the 'right' to tell the story of an under-represented type of character. What's your take?

Maria: I think that all writers are stepping into someone else’s shoes when they write a character. Regardless of the character’s background, it is a make believe person that is composed of many different parts (assuming, of course, that we are talking about fiction). It’s important to be aware of biases, to do a tremendous amount of research, and to have a firm sense of the end goal. Do I think a writer needs to be gay to write a gay character? No, I don’t… but I also don’t think every representation of gay characters should be written by straight writers (for example). We need diverse creators writing diverse stories. We need multiple stories about the same topic, the same race, the same sexuality, the same background. Limiting ourselves and the industry will not improve the quality of books.

Lee: When you're submitting projects to editors, do you think stories with under-represented characters take more 'selling' on your part?

Maria: Not at all. I think most editors are looking for under-represented characters. Those are the submissions that get requested the fastest and receive the most interest.

Lee: I often feel the sense of ‘otherness’ is transferable. That from my own experiences being marginalized (for being Gay, being ill as a teen, being Jewish, being an Atheist, etc…) I feel tremendous empathy for people who are marginalized for other kinds of ‘otherness’ as well.
Can you share what’s driving your desire to see more diversity in Children’s and Teen books?

Maria: I think my drive to see more diversity in children’s literature all goes back to that fear we feel as children, especially (for me) in middle school and high school. So many of us are afraid to be who we are, to stand up for what we believe in. It took me so many years to accept certain aspects of my own identity… and there are still some things that I struggle. I don’t think that fear ever goes away. I don’t think the desire to feel like we belong ever disappears. That’s why it’s so important to let young readers know that they are not alone, that there are other people out there in the world who know what they are going through and understand what it’s like to be labeled as “different” from those who do not understand.

Lee: Tell us about some books that highlighted or included diversity that you loved and that inspired you (maybe even ones you wish you represented).

Maria: When it comes to diversity, I’m often inspired by media outside (and along with) books. Growing up, diverse characters on TV shows were more prevalent than in the books I read (another reason why I think diversifying children’s books is so important). Even now, I’m noticing more diverse representation on television, and even the music industry, than in the books that cross my desk.

That being said, here are some classic and newer books that have had a lasting impact:

Better Nate Than Ever by Tim Federle
Born Confused by Tanuja Desai Hidier
The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis
George by Alex Gino
Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress by Christina Baldacchino (author) & Isabelle Malenfant (illustrator)
Ms. Marvel by G. Willow Wilson (writer) & Adrian Alphona (artist)
One In Every Crowd by Ivan E. Coyote
Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed
Violet by Tania Duprey Stehlik (author) & Vanja Vuleta Jovanovic (illustrator)

Lee: Okay, here’s your wish list moment. What are you looking for? Put out the call...

Maria: I am mainly looking for debut middle grade and young adult writers. I am interested in every genre under the sun, with a strong love for horror, magical realism, and contemporary. I’m a big fantasy/science fiction fan, but it needs to have a fresh twist that I haven’t read somewhere else before. I am interested in characters with diverse backgrounds, especially when “being diverse” isn’t the focal point of the story. I want diverse characters that are well-developed and have a strong sense of identity paired with a complex, quick-paced plot. As for specific wish list items, I’d like to see more racially diverse characters in any category and more bisexual or asexual characters in YA manuscripts.

Lee: And for writers and/or illustrators reading this who feel a resonance with what you’ve shared and who want to submit to you, how should they go about that?

Maria: You can send me a query by emailing query@psliterary.com. The representation page on my website has a frequently updated wish list, in case you want to read more about what I’m looking for: http://mariavicente.com/representation

Lee: Getting the world of Children’s literature to better reflect the diversity of our world -- the world kids today are growing up in -- is so important. Thank you so much for working to make things better!

Thanks, Maria! Look for another AGENT LOOKING FOR DIVERSITY interview on the first Monday of next month. Until then,

Illustrate and Write On!
Lee

Friday, December 4, 2015

Husky - A middle grade novel about changes and figuring out who you are before anyone else puts a label on you



Husky by Justin Sayre
It's the sticky end of summer and Davis' clothes don't fit him the way they used to, his best girlfriends are hanging out with cool, popular boys, and his mother is dating someone new. Davis is forced to learn some of life's most important lessons from his grandmother and the world around him about love, acceptance, and change. Most importantly, Davis has yet to realize that he is standing in front of a closet door that he will someday come out of.

At once a story about learning how to be your truest self, a love letter to Brooklyn and opera, and the fear and hardship of growing up, HUSKY leaves Davis wondering, can he change the adjective people use to describe him? And can he handle his new adjective?

My husband loved this book. I did, too. It felt true, and painful, and funny,  and most of all important to listen to a voice not often heard in our world... 

Add your review of "Husky" in comments!

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Riding The Rainbow - Two Fifth Grade Girls, One With Two Moms, The Other With Two Dads, Deal With Bullying, A Kidnapping, And A Moment Of Truth



Riding The Rainbow by Genta Sebastian

Plump, clumsy Lily is miserable in fifth grade where bullies torment her on the playground and in class because she has two mothers. Across the room Clara sits still as a statue, never volunteering or raising her hand, answering only in whispers with her head down to avoid curious eyes, keeping her family’s secret that she has two fathers.

One girl with two out-loud-and proud moms, another with two in-the-closet dads. What could go wrong, right?

This book won a 2015 "Goldie" Award in the young adult category from the Golden Crown Literary Society. Add your review of "Riding The Rainbow" in comments!

Monday, November 30, 2015

Two Weeks With The Queen - A Middle Grade Story Of An Australian Boy (whose brother is dying of cancer) and His Friendship with a Gay Man (whose partner is dying of AIDS)



Two Weeks With The Queen by Morris Gleitzman

'I need to see the Queen about my sick brother.' Colin Mudford is on a quest. His brother Luke has cancer and the doctors in Australia don't seem to be able to cure him. Sent to London to stay with relatives, Colin is desperate to do something to help Luke. He wants to find the best the doctor in the world. Where better to start than by going to the top? Colin is determined to ask the Queen for her advice.

After he doesn't get far with that, Colin meets Ted, a gay man whose partner is dying of AIDS. That friendship - and the challenges they both face - help Colin grow up.

Add your review of "Two Weeks With The Queen" in comments!

Friday, November 27, 2015

Us Three - Three Teen Boys Fall In Love, Each With The Other and All Three Together


Us Three by Mia Kerick

In his junior year at a public high school, sweet, bright Casey Minton’s biggest worry isn’t being gay. Keeping from being too badly bullied by his so-called friends, a group of girls called the Queen Bees, is more pressing. Nate De Marco has no friends, his tough home life having taken its toll on his reputation, but he’s determined to get through high school. Zander Zane’s story is different: he’s popular, a jock. Zander knows he’s gay, but fellow students don’t, and he’d like to keep it that way.

No one expects much when these three are grouped together for a class project, yet in the process the boys discover each other’s talents and traits, and a new bond forms. But what if Nate, Zander, and Casey fall in love—each with the other and all three together? Not only gay but also a threesome, for them high school becomes infinitely more complicated and maybe even dangerous. To survive and keep their love alive, they must find their individual strengths and courage and stand together, honest and united. If they can do that, they might prevail against the Queen Bees and a student body frightened into silence—and even against their own crippling fears.

Add your review of "Us Three" in comments!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Coming Out For Animals – A Fascinating Video About the Overlap Between LGBTQ and Animal Rights

I was vegan for a long time, and now as a (mostly) vegetarian, and as a gay man, I found this under 5 minute video, Coming Out For Animals, especially fascinating.



And maybe, with Thanksgiving coming up in the USA, especially thought- and discussion-sparking!

What do you think?

You can find out more about the organization that put this video together, Our Hen House, here.



Monday, November 23, 2015

These Things Happen - 16-year-old Wesley Moves In With His Dad and His Dad's Partner... And then Wesley's best friend comes out



These Things Happen by Richard Kramer

The story starts when WESLEY BOWMAN, 16, sharp and funny and defiantly individual, moves downtown from his book editor mother’s home on the Upper East Side home to live with his father and his partner for the fall term of school; Wesley, becoming a man, feels the time has come for him to more closely know (his words here) the “man from whom I did, actually, spring.” Kenny, who came out after his marriage to Wesley’s mom ended, is a much-honored gay-rights lawyer, a regular on Rachel Maddow, Charlie Rose, a frequent contributor to the Op-ed page of the New York Times.

But Wesley, when he moves in, finds his father distant and inaccessible; he has much more luck connecting with his father’s partner, George, a former actor/dancer who now runs a theater district restaurant. George is present, genuinely interested, fully at ease with himself; all the things Kenny is not. He and Wesley become like father and son, really, and not because George is in any way trying to supplant Kenny. It’s just that these things happen.

Then everything changes. When Wesley’s closest friend surprises him and everyone else when, after being elected class president, he comes out at the end of his acceptance speech. the two boys find themselves at the center of an act of violent, homophobic bullying (even though Wesley is straight). Within the family, tolerant facades crumble as George, suddenly, becomes suspect. Wesley’s mom values and cares for him, and has worked to have a relationship with him, as she suspects this will assure the presence of Kenny in Wesley’s life. But, now, with Wesley in the hospital being held for observation (“When did I,” she wonders, “turn into someone whose kid is held for observation?”) isn’t it her duty to wonder and worry about what might have been going on when her back was so progressively turned? Did she fail to keep her son safe? Does she, indeed, know him? Does she know George, so delightful and pleasing, an author of agreeable evenings? And, more worryingly, does this accomplished, insightful, deeply curious woman really, in the end, know herself?

Add your review of "These Things Happen" in comments!

Friday, November 20, 2015

Jacob's New Dress - A picture book about a gender non-conforming little boy that I wish had been read to me when I was a little kid!



Jacob's New Dress by Sarah and Ian Hoffman, illustrated by Chris Case

Jacob loves playing dress-up, when he can be anything he wants to be. And the story starts out with him wearing the pink dress in the dress-up corner, pretending to be a princess.

Some kids at school say he can't wear "girl" clothes, but Jacob really wants to wear a dress to school. He asks his parents, and then asks again, and eventually, he and his mom make him a dress.

He's confronted by the boy who says he shouldn't wear dresses, and stands up for himself.

All in all, it's a really sweet story (with charming illustrations) about being authentic, even if that makes other people uncomfortable. I really like how Jacob doesn't waver – he knows what he wants, and he's consistent. It's really Jacob's parents who have the journey of coming around from hesitantly supportive to encouragingly supportive, enabling Jacob to have his moment (and, we expect, future) of authenticity. He's a boy in a dress, a gender non-conforming kid, and that's just fine...

I do wish this had been read to me when I was a little kid. That message of authenticity would have resonated then, as it does now.

Add your review of "Jacob's New Dress" in comments!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The Reappearing Act: Coming Out As Gay On a College Basketball Team Led By Born-Again Christians – A Memoir By Kate Fagan


The Reappearing Act: Coming Out As Gay On A College Basketball Team Led By Born-Again Christians by Kate Fagan

It's hard enough coming out, but playing basketball for a nationally ranked school and trying to figure out your sexual identity in the closeted and paranoid world of big-time college sports--that's a challenge.

Kate Fagan's love for basketball and for her religious teammates at the University of Colorado was tested by the gut-wrenching realization that she could no longer ignore the feelings of otherness inside her. In trying to blend in, Kate had created a hilariously incongruous world for herself in Boulder. Her best friends were part of Colorado's Fellowship of Christian Athletes, where they ran weekly Bible studies and attended an Evangelical Free Church. For nearly a year, Kate joined them and learned all she could about Christianity--even holding their hands as they prayed for others "living a sinful lifestyle." Each time the issue of homosexuality arose, she felt as if a neon sign appeared over her head, with a giant arrow pointed downward. During these prayer sessions, she would often keep her eyes open, looking around the circle at the closed eyelids of her friends, listening to the earnestness of their words.

Kate didn't have a vocabulary for discussing who she really was and what she felt when she was younger; all she knew was that she had a secret. In "The Reappearing Act," she brings the reader along for the ride as she slowly accepts her new reality and takes the first steps toward embracing her true self.

Add your review of "The Reappearing Act" in comments!

Monday, November 16, 2015

The Screaming Divas - An All-Grrl Rock Band in 1980s California with estranged friends, lesbian crushes and big dreams


The Screaming Divas by Suzanne Kamata

At sixteen, Trudy Baxter is tired of her debutante mom, her deadbeat dad, and her standing reservation at the juvenile detention center. Changing her name to Trudy Sin, she cranks up her major chops as a singer and starts a band, gathering around other girls ill at ease in their own lives. Cassie Haywood, would-have-been beauty queen, was scarred in an accident in which her alcoholic mom was killed. But she can still sing and play her guitar, even though she seeks way too much relief from the pain in her body and her heart through drugs, and way too much relief from loneliness through casual sex. Still, it's Cassie who hears former child prodigy Harumi Yokoyama playing in a punk band at a party, and enlists her, outraging Harumi's overbearing first-generation Japanese parents. The fourth member is Esther Shealy, who joins as a drummer in order to be close to Cassie--the long-time object of her unrequited love--and Harumi, her estranged childhood friend. Together, they are Screaming Divas, and they're quickly swept up as a local sensation. Then, just as they are about to achieve their rock-girl dreams, a tragedy strikes.

Add your review of "Screaming Divas" in comments!

Friday, November 13, 2015

Wollstone - A Gay Boarding School Story That's Also A Contemporary Fairy Tale Fantasy



Wollstone by Hayden Thorne


The moment Emil Gogean sets foot inside Wollstone Academy’s fairy tale-like campus, he realizes his freshman year in high school is bound to be a very strange one. The school itself, a uniquely romanticized boarding school for boys, boasts remarkable elements that appear to be deliberate -- as though a hidden power has chosen woodland details, a chapel ruin, and school masters who seem to hearken back to a long-gone age, with a clear purpose in mind.

When strange things begin to happen to Emil, an unnerving warning from his late grandmother returns to haunt him. A warning about Emil attracting the attention of the king of the dead.

Strange faces in wood patterns and mullioned windows. The apparition of a boy among the trees. The unfathomable feeling of sadness permeating the idyllic environment. Emil gradually learns that Wollstone is more than just a school, that the answers to a three-hundred-year-old mystery surrounding a tragic romance lie in the ruined stones of a small chapel and in Nature itself. And that Emil, whose appearance in school has set certain wheels in motion, will have to place himself at the mercy of three mysterious students if he wishes to learn the truth about Wollstone, the boy lost in the woods, and himself.

Add your review of "Wollstone" in comments!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Her Name In The Sky – First Friendship, Then Love? With a Girl? That's not what 17-year-old Hannah planned!



Her Name In The Sky by Kelly Quindlen

Seventeen-year-old Hannah wants to spend her senior year of high school going to football games and Mardi Gras parties. She wants to drive along the oak-lined streets of Louisiana's Garden District and lie on the hot sand of Florida's beaches. She wants to spend every night making memories with her tight-knit group of friends. The last thing she wants is to fall in love with a girl--especially when that girl is her best friend, Baker. Hannah knows she should like Wally, the kind, earnest boy who asks her to prom. She should cheer on her friend Clay when he asks Baker to be his girlfriend. She should follow the rules of her conservative community--the rules that have been ingrained in her since she was a child. But Hannah longs to be with Baker, who cooks macaroni and cheese with Hannah late at night, who believes in the magic of books as much as Hannah does, and who challenges Hannah to be the best version of herself. And Baker might want to be with Hannah, too--if both girls can embrace that world-shaking, wondrous possibility.

Thanks to blog reader Dana for the recommendation! This book was self-published by the author. Add your review of "Her Name In The Sky" in comments!

Monday, November 9, 2015

Bill Konigsberg Guest Post: "The Lessons I Learned From the Trevor Project Awareness Tour"

This past September, I embarked upon a 5,100-mile driving tour of the South and Midwest. I stopped at 22 locations in 17 states to talk to LGBTQ youth about suicide, depression, and coming out.

Bill and young people at the Nashville Oasis Center


It was a life-changing trip. I met so many people who have forever changed me as a person, and as a writer. Those changes have shown up immediately in my life, and they’ll be seen in my writing as soon as my next book, HONESTLY BEN, which will come out about a year from now.

Following are the major lessons I learned, as well as a world-premiere sneak peek into one way these lessons are manifesting in my current writing.

1. IT’S ALL ABOUT THE T!
I knew that the current generation of teens were exploring gender in ways that my generation never did, but I don’t know that I realized just how much that was dwarfing all the other letters in the LGBTQ acronym. At least in terms of the visits I made to community groups along my route, I would estimate that 70 percent of the young people I met consider themselves to be somewhere on the trans spectrum.

I’m fascinated by this! I had so many questions, and the teens I met were happy to answer them. The big thing for me was that I came in with a binary notion of gender. My understanding was that “trans” meant that someone believes that they are not of the gender to which they were born. This is a terribly incomplete understanding of trans. Most of the teens I met considered themselves gender fluid, with some sense that sometimes they felt more male, and sometimes more female, and sometimes an entirely different gender. I met kids who were asexual, and pansexual, and polyromantic, and genderqueer. I think when I was growing up, these were not really considerations for my generation. I am so proud of those young people who are exploring their authenticity in these new ways, and I do think it’s up to those of us who write LGBTQ YA fiction to catch up.

2. I’M OLD!
Along those lines, I am SO OLD! I’ve never felt older than I did on this trip. I am 44, which by most standards is not actually that old, but I began to understand the gulf between the time when I went to school, and the current day. A few times when I spoke to groups that consisted of mostly trans and genderqueer teens, I was keenly aware that to them, my discussion of coming out in the 1980s would have been like someone coming to my high school and talking about coming out in the 1950s, pre-Stonewall. I would have found it interesting, but not particularly useful to me in my current situation. I definitely had the sense sometimes that kids were looking at me thinking, “when will this old, cisgender gay dude stop talking?”

Oh well. I am who I am, and I know that the teens I met know my heart was in the right place. And of course I did meet many teens who were clearly very glad to hear me speak. No matter how much better things get overall for LGBTQ teens, there are still so many painful stories. Which leads me to:

3. PROGRESS IS A MACRO THING
What I saw, over and over, was a world which is IN GENERAL far more accepting and celebrating of teens who are on the LGBTQ spectrum, but can still be extremely cruel on a micro level. That’s something of which those of us who are involved in this movement need to be very aware. I met countless young people who expressed to me, either in group settings or privately, that they weren’t sure that they’d make it through this challenging time. Being different than one’s family of origin, and being in a sexual or gender minority in a school setting remains extremely challenging for many people. Those who think coming out stories are passé are completely wrong. We still need to write these stories, because these stories are still terribly important to young people. We just need to update them. And of course we also need to write stories in which young people are LGBTQ but aren’t focusing on the coming out process. We need to do both.

4. TOBY IS GENDER FLUID
Which brings me to my final point. And I haven’t said this to anyone yet, so this would be a world premiere: I’m finishing up the sequel to my popular novel OPENLY STRAIGHT, and I am incorporating much of what I’ve learned into this book. Toby, as it turns out, is gender fluid. Going to a conservative all-boys school in Massachusetts, that’s going to be a struggle for them. But as those of you who have read the first book can attest, Toby is nothing if not authentic, all of the time. He’s not going to let anyone stop Toby from being Toby!

This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I’m so glad I took it. Traveling around and meeting kids throughout the South and Midwest gave me a chance to see just how similar we all are. Whether we’re 17 and trans and living in Little Rock, Arkansas, or 44 and cis and living in Phoenix, Arizona, we’re all in this together. We all need help sometimes, and we all struggle with shame and we all have moments when our hearts are entirely open. That’s the most important thing for me to remember when I’m writing for teens. No matter our age or our label, we are all one.


Bill Konigsberg is the award-winning author of three Young Adult novels: Out of the Pocket, Openly Straight, and The Porcupine of Truth. He coordinates the Your Novel Year writing program at The Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing at Arizona State University, and he lives in Chandler, Arizona, with his husband, Chuck, and their two Australian Labradoodles, Mabel and Buford. For more information, check out billkonigsberg.com.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Fag – Aaron, a closeted high schooler, deals with homophobia online and in the real world



Fag by Krissy Bells
Aaron Garrett is many things in life: he is a son, a friend, a student, and caring boyfriend to his lovely girlfriend Leigh Ann. In these roles, he is kind, hardworking, smart, loving, dedicated, and considerate. At Jefferson High School, he is a leader, a football star, and well-respected by his peers. Aaron’s life is perfectly on track, he is pursuing a college scholarship and hopeful for the future, except for just one thing: Aaron Garrett is gay. When a former child star from Aaron’s small Southern town saturates the national media after making homophobic comments, Aaron’s life is turned upside down as supporters rally around the sentiments. Social media attention begins to swell nationally and locally until it begins to eat away at every part of Aaron’s existence.

Add your review of "Fag" in comments!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Playing A Part - A Young Gay Man Grows Up In His Parents' Puppet Theater... In Homophobic Russia



Playing A Part by Daria Wilke, translated by Marian Schwartz

For as long as Grisha can remember, the Moscow puppet theater has been his favorite place in the world, his home away from home. The dressing rooms and workshops, the gorgeous marble lobby, the secret passages backstage—he knows them like the back of his hand, and each time the curtain rises and the stage comes alive, it feels magical.

But life outside the theater is a different story. The boys in Grisha's class bully him mercilessly, and his own grandfather says hateful things about how Grisha's not "macho" enough. And to make things worse, Sam, Grisha's favorite actor and mentor, is moving away: He's leaving the country to escape the extreme homophobia he faces in Russia. Normally, Grisha would turn to his best friend, Sashok, for support, but she's dealing with problems of her own as she faces a potentially life-threatening heart condition.

Grisha's world is crumbling. He needs to find the strength to stand up to bullies and be there for his friends—but how?

It's interesting to note that this book, published by Arthur A. Levine Books (Scholastic) is cited as the first young adult novel from Russia to be translated into English. Here's the original cover of the novel in Russian:




My thanks to Avery Udagawa for the heads-up on this one! There's also a great interview here at the wonderful Cynsations blog with Marian Schwartz, the translator.

Add your review of "Playing A Part" in comments!

Monday, November 2, 2015

Jim McCarthy (Dystel & Goderich Literary Management): Agent Looking For Diversity

AGENTS AND EDITORS
NEED TO ADVERTISE THEIR INTEREST IN DIVERSITY

That's the idea. And this series is an effort to do just that.

For now, we're focusing on agents, and today's post features agent Jim McCarthy of Dystel & Goderich Literary Management.

Agent Jim McCarthy
Here's Jim's bio:

Jim McCarthy is Vice President and literary agent at Dystel & Goderich Literary Management in New York, NY. He has been with the agency for 16 years, initially starting as an intern way back in the ‘90s. He represents a wide range of fiction, adult and young adult, commercial and literary. He is also seeking narrative nonfiction, particularly memoir, history, and pop culture. His clients include New York Times bestsellers Richelle Mead, Victoria Laurie, Juliet Blackwell, Morgan Rhodes, and Suzanne Young.

And our interview:

Lee: Hi Jim!

Jim: Hi, Lee!

Lee: Thanks so much for agreeing to talk about your interest in Diversity in Children's and Teen Literature!

Jim: Happy to be here!

Lee: There's been growing discussion about how the 5,000 or so traditionally published books a year don't reflect the actual diversity of our world, including the #WeNeedDiverseBooks movement and the stunningly low numbers of representation revealed in "Children's Books by and about People of Color Published in the United States," put out by the CCBC (The Cooperative Children's Book Center.)

To start us off, of the submissions you get, let's say in the past year, how many of those projects included some kind of diversity of characters or theme?

Jim: I don’t have exact counts, but I’d estimate 10-15% and say that for sure it’s less than I’d like to see.

Lee: Let's unpack that a bit: Are you seeing many stories featuring protagonists of color?

Jim: Many? No. More? Yes. Several years ago, I added language to my bio stating that I was seeking “underrepresented voices.” While I have seen an increase, the percentage of queries I receive about protagonists of color, it doesn’t match up with actual racial and ethnic breakdowns nationwide.

When I do see stories about kids of color, I’m more likely to see black or Asian characters than Latino or Middle Eastern. I’d love to see a broader array of voices in my inbox if people want to send them to me!

Lee: How about LGBTQ characters, and please break that down - are you seeing lesbian characters? gay? bi? trans*? questioning? queer or gender non-conforming?

Jim: I’ve seen a real surge in the amount of queer content. Some of that may be because I'm openly gay— I'm sure some people come to me because they connect with that personally or with certain books I've previously represented. I also think that cultural inclusion is helping, as well as the deliberate push for diversity in literature.

Breaking down my queries, I’m seeing more queer, bi, and gay females. Fewer gay males, a few more bi males. I'm encouraged by the increase in questioning, queer, and gender non-conforming characters. So far, I haven't really seen more asexual or intersex characters, which is disappointing. I am seeing a huge surge in transgender characters.

Lee: How about characters with disabilities?

Jim: This is a group whose visibility seems to have benefitted least from the diverse books push, at least in my inbox. I’d love to see more of these voices. I’d point to books I’ve represented like COURTING GRETA by Ramsey Hootman or THE ELEMENTALS by Saundra Mitchell for beautifully drawn characters who are disabled.

Lee: Are you seeing other types of diversity in the works submitted? - And please share any specific categories that spring to mind.

Jim: Diversity is such a catch-all word, so it’s hard to say. One thing I’ll note is that I’ve seen more books outside of specific faith-based publishing lately where characters explore their religion (or lack thereof). I also have a new manuscript I’ll be submitting in the Fall that really tackles issues of body image in a fascinating way while also telling a broader story.

Lee: How about the creators? Are you seeing under-represented writers and illustrators submitting to you?

Jim: What’s unfortunate to me is that I’m seeing more underrepresented characters than authors.

Lee: There's a lot of discussion about who has the 'right' to tell the story of an under-represented type of character. What's your take?

Jim: Most broadly, I believe that people need to be able to write across all kinds of lines. People can and should write about characters who don’t look or feel like them. If they didn't, that would lead to the world’s least interesting literature.

Unfortunately, along with genuinely diverse queries on the rise, I'm also seeing a sharp increase in the number of awkwardly-handled token characters who kind of hang around in the periphery until they’re called upon to be saviors.

There is so much responsibility taken when writing, and you better damn well do your research. And that’s not, “Oh, I had my one bisexual friend read it, and he said it was okay.” It’s reading and discussing and learning and challenging yourself to actually understand a group that you aren’t a part of. AND it’s about making sure that character isn’t being exploited.

You don’t get to use a black character just to show that a white character is open-minded. You can’t write a character of a religious background different than yours just to “disprove” their beliefs.

Lee: Here, here! Well said!

When you're submitting projects to editors, do you think stories with under-represented characters take more 'selling' on your part?

Jim: Less so than ever before. Years ago, I represented a novel about a black transgender teen living in poverty and trying to survive through sex work. It was a brutal and beautiful novel that I never managed to place. Pitching it felt like throwing myself into a brick wall again and again.

Occasionally, I’d get little nibbles of interest, but they went away as soon as someone tried to clear their editorial board. The closest I came was with an editor who asked me whether the author “shared the same experiences as the main character.” Because that might be more marketable.

“Is she asking if I grew up as a transgender hooker?” my client asked me. “I…um. I think she is.” He hadn’t. The editor passed.

I can’t say that I would be able to sell that novel today, but a decade on, I can say that the responses I got would have been infinitely more sensitive, appreciative, and understanding. And yeah…it would have been an easier sell. Things are getting better, yes.

I think that publishers are allowing themselves to publish broader content which means agents don’t have to worry about having a phone call where they are told that “X group doesn’t buy books,” or “Y group doesn’t buy books about X group.” Or, “It’s really good, but…I just don’t know who the reader is.”

They aren’t all the way there, but there are slow gestures in the right direction.

Lee: I often feel the sense of ‘otherness’ is transferable. That from my own experiences being marginalized (for being Gay, being ill as a teen, being Jewish, being an Atheist, etc…) I feel tremendous empathy for people who are marginalized for other kinds of ‘otherness’ as well.
Can you share what’s driving your desire to see more diversity in Children’s and Teen books?

Jim: I’m interested in stories, and I’m interested in people. It’s a really big world, and I read to understand it a little bit better. That means reading about people who live places I’ve never been, have identities I’ll never share, and respond to the world in ways I don’t.

I was the nerdy, fat, gay kid in Catholic school, so sure I’ve had some experience feeling “other.” At the same time, I’m a white man in America. I’m not going to try to pretend like I’m not extremely privileged.

I can’t claim that I understand what it’s like to be a member of most oppressed populations, so I read. I read to get closer to that understanding—I’ll never live it, but I can read the words of people who have. And that, to me, is profoundly valuable. Because understanding breeds sympathy breeds healing. And I think we need as much healing and understanding as we can get.

Lee: Tell us about some books that highlighted or included diversity that you loved and that inspired you (maybe even ones you wish you represented). What’s a Picture Book favorite?

Jim: Here’s where I confess that I know next to nothing about picture books.

Lee: Middle Grade?

Jim: Is it possible for anyone to answer this question and not mention BROWN GIRL DREAMING? Truly one of the most exquisite books in the past few years. WONDER is a stunning book. BETTER NATE THAN EVER is a favorite.

Lee: Young Adult?

Jim: I adore Sabaa Tahir’s AN EMBER IN ASHES. And Marie Lu’s LEGEND. These are diverse books, but they’re not books about diversity. They’re in that teen fantasy space that I so love and tell exceptional stories.

Lee: Okay, here’s your wish list moment. What are you looking for? Put out the call...

Jim: Oh gosh. I just want great stories. I want things that make me laugh or cry. I want to see romance and adventure and fantasy. I’m open to pretty much all middle grade and young adult.

I can say that I’d love to see books about people from a broader array of economic backgrounds, folks who live in other countries, novels set in states that aren’t coastal…truly, any experiences out there that are specific and distinctive interest me.

I also am always, always, always looking for stories set in sharply defined communities—that can mean a rural Amish community or a group of LARPers in San Diego. I’m fascinated by strong bonds within a community and the support they offer as well as the friction they cause.

I want all of those things, reflected through every lens. Is that vague enough? Send me anything amazing!

Lee: Nice. Just looked up LARPers and yeah, I'd love to read that book, too!

And for writers and/or illustrators reading this who feel a resonance with what you’ve shared and who want to submit to you, how should they go about that?

Jim: All my info is at www.dystel.com, and I’m always open to submissions!

Lee: Getting the world of Children’s literature to better reflect the diversity of our world -- the world kids today are growing up in -- is so important. Thank you so much for working to make things better!

Thanks, Jim! Look for another AGENT LOOKING FOR DIVERSITY interview of the first Monday of next month. Until then,

Illustrate and Write On!
Lee


Friday, October 30, 2015

The Elected Series - In A Future America, A Girl Pretends To Be A Man To Become President (With A Girl-Girl-Guy Love Triangle!)



Elected by Rori Shay

It’s the year 2185, and in two weeks, Aloy will turn eighteen and take her father’s place as president of the country. But to do so, she must masquerade as a boy to avoid violating the Eco-Accords, four treaties designed to bring the world back from the brink of environmental extinction. As she struggles to lead amidst a brimming political battle, Aloy maintains her cover by marrying a woman, meanwhile battling feelings for the boy who knows her secret. When assassination attempts add to the turmoil, Aloy doesn’t know whom to trust.

She understood leadership required sacrifice. She just didn’t realize the sacrifice might be her life.


Suspected

In the year 2185 Earth is rebuilding after climate change created a global eco-crisis. Countries maintain complete isolation so there is no warfare over scarce resources. One Elected family is chosen to lead each country for 100 years to ensure stability. Women aren’t allowed to take office and must reproduce at all costs. Technology use of any kind is banned to preserve what’s left of the environment.

And yet, I’m my country’s Elected. I’ve just sanctioned technology use to ready us for war. I’m about to cross the border to spy on our neighbor. And…I’m a girl.

Shhhh…

There's also a prequel story, The Pendant, written from the perspective of Aloy's mother in the anthology Athena's Daughters Volume 2.

Add your review of any or all of the stories in "The Elected Series" in comments!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Some Assembly Required: The Not So Secret Life Of A Transgender Teen - a memoir



Some Assembly Required: The Not So Secret Life Of A Transgender Teen by Arin Andrews

Seventeen-year-old Arin Andrews shares all the hilarious, painful, and poignant details of undergoing gender reassignment as a high school student in this winning first-of-its-kind memoir. Now with a reading group guide and an all-new afterword from the author
In this revolutionary first-of-its-kind memoir, Arin Andrews details the journey that led him to make the life-transforming decision to undergo gender reassignment as a high school junior. In his captivatingly witty, honest voice, Arin reveals the challenges he faced as a boy in a girl's body, the humiliation and anger he felt after getting kicked out of his private school, and all the changes--both mental and physical--he experienced once his transition began.
"Some Assembly Required" is a true coming-of-age story about knocking down obstacles and embracing family, friendship, and first love. But more than that, it is a reminder that self-acceptance does not come ready-made with a manual and spare parts. Rather, some assembly is always required.

Add your review of "Some Assembly Required" in comments!

Monday, October 26, 2015

The Pebble Champion - a gay teen comes of age in the face of loss, guilt and figuring himself out


The Pebble Champion by Alan David Pritchard

Haunted by the death of his mother and the loss of a childhood friendship, 15-year-old Chris moves to the coast to begin a new life with his estranged father.

There, alone on the beach, he deals with his sadness and guilt by entering an imagined world where he competes to become The Pebble Champion, skimming stones farther than anyone else across the surface of the sea.

With each pebble thrown, and with each new encounter, Chris gradually learns how to let go of the burdens of the past, how to hold on to what really matters, and how to embrace his bewildering desires.

Add your review of "The Pebble Champion" in comments!

Friday, October 23, 2015

The Paths Of Marriage - 3 generations of Indian and Indian-American women struggle with a granddaughter's coming out and keeping their family from coming apart.



The Paths of Marriage by Mala Kumar

Lakshmi, a bright student who grew up in poverty, marries and immigrates to the United States from India to provide a better life for herself and her family. Clinging to her cultural realities, she forces her American daughter, Pooja, into an arranged marriage, creating a rift of resentment. Pooja's daughter, Deepa, is an out lesbian to everyone but her family. The woman Deepa loves presents an ultimatum—come out to Pooja or break up—and Deepa is forced to confront her greatest fear.
From the harsh slums of Chennai to the bustle of New York City, it's a cathartic generational collision to try to come together as a family.

It's also worth checking out this article by the author where she explains her own coming out as an Indian-American "brown, gay girl." The article made me nearly cry - twice! Her mother's response to her coming out, and her father's eventual understanding that only came about from reading Mala's book – this book.

Add your review of "The Paths of Marriage" in comments!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Rethinking Normal: A Memoir In Transition - a transgender teen memoir



Rethinking Normal: A Memoir In Transition by Katie Rain Hill

Nineteen-year-old Katie Rain Hill shares her personal journey of undergoing gender reassignment. Now with a reading group guide
Katie Rain Hill realized very young that a serious mistake had been made; she was a girl who had been born in the body of a boy. Suffocating under her peers' bullying and the mounting pressure to be "normal," Katie tried to take her life at the age of eight years old. After several other failed attempts, she finally understood that "Katie"--the girl trapped within her--was determined to live.
In this first-person account, Katie reflects on her pain-filled childhood and the events leading up to the life-changing decision to undergo gender reassignment as a teenager. She reveals the unique challenges she faced while unlearning how to be a boy and shares what it was like to navigate the dating world--and experience heartbreak for the first time--in a body that matched her gender identity.

Add your review of "Rethinking Normal" in comments!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Smorgasbord - Humans discover that Vampires & Zombies are delicious (and a gay Werewolf couple who protect the main characters!)


Smorgasbord by Jagjiwan Sohal

When Anna Lopez’s zombie attack video goes viral, no one could believe that the high school cheerleader had taken a bite out of the undead monster – and liked it! Now nothing will ever be the same for supernatural beings…because humans have discovered they taste freakin’ DELICIOUS!

And when a zombie boy gets in the crosshairs of a gang of hungry-human hunters, Julie, a young vampire loner, jumps in for the rescue. But now Julie’s got more than she bargained because taking care of a rambunctious undead creature who only knows one word (“brains”) is NOT easy. And when Julie and her zombie pal stumble upon on a crazed soccer mom, they find themselves on the run from a trigger-happy family who want nothing more than to grill them up for a neighborhood barbecue bash!

What's queer about it? Two integral gay characters, a tough werewolf couple who help and protect the lead characters from their foes!

Add your review of "Smorgasbord" in comments!

Friday, October 16, 2015

Edge - Short Stories by M.E. Kerr that include a lesbian teen, a homophobic dad, and a society where sex isn't special (but ideas are)



Edge by M.E. Kerr

Three stories from the collection include LGBTQ characters/themes:

“The Fire At Far and Away”
- Gil’s dad constantly makes negative comments about Paul and Robert, a couple who spends their summers in Gil's town. Though it bothers him, he never speaks up and when Gil starts working as a housekeeper for them, Gil fears what slurs his dad will start saying to him.

‘We Might As Well All Be Strangers”
-After coming out to her Holocaust-survivor grandmother and mother, Alison deals with backlash from her mother, who is having trouble coming to terms with Alison's sexuality. As a victim of prejudice, Alison's grandmother is more accepting.

“Do You Want My Opinion?”
- John lives in a society where everyone belongs to each other — you are free to touch anyone you chose, but the sharing of opinions is looked down upon. Sex is not seen as something special to share between two people in love; rather it is the sharing of ideas that you wait for the right person for.

Add your review of "Edge" or any of the short stories in the collection in comments!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

OUT for Safe Schools - a very cool program that started in Los Angeles and is now going to nine other school districts in the U.S.A.



I love the sound of this program!

Since the introduction of the OUT for Safe Schools initiative, thousands of teachers and staff members have been wearing rainbow badges to identify themselves as LGBTQ allies and protectors of LGBTQ students. Now, nine other school districts throughout the country – in New York, Chicago, Boston, San Francisco, San Diego, Duval County (Florida), San Francisco and Washington, D.C. – have requested the program, along with more than 80,000 badges.

The program encourages educators, administrators and other school district employees to “come out” and be visible allies for LGBT students in an effort to make the schools safer, more welcoming places.

Hurray!

Remember, there's no such thing as a closeted ally.

Let's put that to a hashtag, shall we?

#ThereIsNoSuchThingAsAClosetedAlly

Stand Proud!


Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Outlander Leander - A Science Fiction/Fantasy series that includes LGBTQ characters (and treats them the same as everyone else!)


Outlander Leander: Vol. 1, Flute of the Wind Queen by Eisah

Leander is an energetic young man who wants to become a treasure hunter. When his dad is deployed he sees it as an opportunity to go on his first adventure; which unfortunately leads him straight into enemy territory. All ambition and no skill or experience, he stumbles his way around enemy camps to find the famous relic the Wind Queen left behind.


Outlander Leander: Vol. 2, Coronation Necklace

Frustrated by the work Ellora has been giving him, Leander is ready to quit when she reveals she knows exactly where the stolen necklace of the late king is. Unfortunately, it's in the hands of black marketers, and Leander quickly learns how violent they can get. A precarious situation forces him to continue pursuing them as he tries to evade both murderers and soldiers.


Outlander Leander: Vol 3, The General's Bust

Ellora has found the location of the remains of an ancient Naggian statue. The only problem? It's in Rhodaren, a country that Nagdecht rarely interacts with because of their location.
The Rhodarens aren't known to be violent like Geuranians are and Leander believes that the hardest part of his trip will be traversing through Geuran in order to get there. However, Rhodarens aren't what he thought they would be, and they have their own motives and goals.
Will Leander make it back? If the Rhodarens don't kill him the weather might.


Add your review of any or all of the self-published books in the "Outlander Leander" series in comments!

Monday, October 12, 2015

The Futon Years (The New Russel Middlebrook Trilogy) - Russel is gay, out and in his 20s, trying to figure life out

So the first two books in this new trilogy are out, and I'm pretty excited about it:




The Thing I Didn't Know I Didn't Know by Brent Hartinger

Russel Middlebrook is twenty-three years old, gay, and living in trendy Seattle, but life isn’t keeping up with the hype. Most of his friends have a direction in life—either ruthlessly pursuing their careers or passionately embracing their own aimlessness. But Russel is stuck in place. All he knows is that crappy jobs, horrible dates, and pointless hook-ups just aren’t cutting it anymore.

What’s the secret? What does everyone else know that he doesn’t?

Enter Kevin, Russel’s perfect high school boyfriend. Could rekindling an old flame be the thing Russel needs to get his life back on track? Or maybe the answer lies with a new friend, an eccentric screenwriter named Vernie Rose, who seems plenty wise. Or what the hell? Maybe Russel will find some answers by joining his best friend Gunnar’s crazy search for the legendary Bigfoot!

One way or another, Russel is determined to learn the all-important secret to life, even if it’s a thing he doesn’t even know he doesn’t know.



Barefoot In The City Of Broken Dreams

Twenty-four year-old Russel Middebrook and his boyfriend have moved to Los Angeles so Russel can try to make it as a screenwriter.

Almost right away, in a forgotten old house off of Sunset Boulevard, Russel meets Isaac Brander, a once-famous film producer who is convinced he can turn Russel’s screenplay into a movie.

Russel knows that success can’t possibly come this easy. After all, most of Russel’s Los Angeles friends are so desperate to make it that it’s downright scary. His ex-boyfriend, Otto, is trying everything to become an actor, and Daniel, the sexy neighbor, doesn’t even need a casting couch to get naked.

So what’s the catch with Mr. Brander? Could it be that movies about Hollywood don’t tell the whole truth? But what does that mean for Russel’s soul?
*  *  *

I really liked the second part of the dedication of Book 1 in this series, where Brent writes:

...And for everyone in the twenties
Spoiler alert! Life all works out in the end

Note that the author says this is a series "for adults." Add your review of "The Thing I Didn't Know I didn't Know" and/or "Barefoot In The City Of Broken Dreams" in comments!


Saturday, October 10, 2015

Resources If You Were At My #CASC15 Session "Interventions for LGBTQ Youth" (and even if you weren't!)

I want to thank my co-presenter at this weekend's California Association of School Counselors 2015 Conference, Palisades Charter High School Counselor Jill Barker, and the more than 60 school counselors from all over California who attended and participated with so much engagement and good energy!

Again, my apologies for not having enough handouts to go around, but the reason for the problem (more counselors than we expected showing up who wanted to learn how to better help and support the LGBTQ youth in their schools) was wonderful!

As to the two handouts, 

here's a link to the Gender Unicorn.

For the Shakespeare and Sappho handout, just pop me a quick email at leewind (at) roadrunner (dot) com and I'll send you that pdf. (Or, leave your email address in the comments section, below.)

The resources Jill, myself and your fellow counselors shared:

The article by Mitali Perkins discussing how books can be mirrors and doors is here.

And here's the wonderful piece by Lisa Egan that I read the first part of, I'm Not A "Person With A Disability": I'm a Disabled Person, that discusses the social model of disability.

The American Library Association's Rainbow List website, listing the best books each year for kids and teens with LGBTQ characters and themes is here.

And the handful of books I brought to illustrate the power of books to spark conversations and be those mirrors and doors were:

Board Book:


Mommy, Mama, and Me
by Lesléa Newman, illustrated by Carol Thompson
(An essential, simple board book - there's also a Daddy, Papa and Me one.)

Picture Books:


And Tango Makes Three
by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell, illustrated by Henry Cole
(This is the book that's been in the top 10 of the most challenged books in American for years and years!)



This Day In June
by Gayle E. Pitman, illustrated by Kristyna Litten
(A Pride parade book with an extensive readers guide, won the ALA's 2015 Stonewall Book Awards – Mike Morgan and Larry Romans Children’s and Young Adult Literature Award!)



Snutt the Ift 
by Helen Ward
This is the Intergalactic, Gender-Free Love Story, and it's the one published by Little Pickle Press, where I now work!

Middle Grade Books:


Drama
by Raina Telgemeier
(A graphic novel, super-sweet)


Better Nate Than Ever
by Tim Federle
(Funny and brave and VERY Broadway)

Young Adult (older-skewing)


Tricks
by Ellen Hopkins
Tough-hitting novel in verse, brilliant.


I'll Give You The Sun
by Jandy Nelson
Gorgeous writing and twins (one gay, one not) struggling to deal with grief and life and... they'll stay with you long after you've read it!


Organizations mentioned that offer additional great resources and opportunities to engage with young people about LGBTQ equality to help shift the culture at your school:

GLSEN - The Gay Lesbian & Straight Education Network

GSA Network - The Gay-Straight Alliance Network (with a lot of resources and advice on starting a GSA at your school)

PFLAG - Parents, Families and Friends and Allies United with LGBTQ People to move equality forward!

Trans Student Educational Resources

Genderfork

No Name-Calling Week

National Coming Out Day - October 11

Ally Week 

Day of Silence

Harvey Milk Day here in California

The Trevor Project and their TrevorSpace online community for young people. They also have a crisis intervention and suicide prevention hotline for LGBTQ Youth: 866-488-7386

GSA Monday posts here at this blog with conversation prompts (including some curated youtube videos that are really thought-provoking and/or just amazing!)

LGBTQ Pride Month is June

October is LGBTQ History Month

While compiling this list, I realized there were three organizations that didn't get mentioned but that are well-worth checking out:

The Human Rights Campaign,

Gender Spectrum

and

Trans Youth Family Allies.


There it is! Glad you stopped by, and if you have any further questions, email me or leave a comment.

Thanks again!
Lee


Friday, October 9, 2015

Playing By The Book – Preacher's Son Jake is 17, from Alabama, and in New York City for the Summer. Cue the handsome Jewish guy that turns Jake's head (and life) around...



Playing By The Book by S. Chris Shirley

Seventeen-year-old high school newspaper editor Jake Powell, fresh from Alabama, lands in New York City to attend Columbia University's prestigious summer journalism program. For Jake, it's a dream come true, but his father, a fundamentalist Christian preacher, smells trouble. And his father is rarely wrong. Jake navigates new and unfamiliar ways "up North,” starting with his feelings for a handsome Jewish classmate named Sam. What Jake could keep hidden back home is now pushed to the surface in the Big Apple. Standing by his side are a gorgeous brunette with a Park Avenue attitude and the designer bags to match, a high school friend who has watched Jake grow up and isn't sure she's ready to let him go, and an outrageously flamboyant aunt who's determined to help Jake find the courage to accept love and avoid the pain that she has experienced.

Add your review of "Playing By The Book" in comments!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The Boy's Own Manual to Being a Proper Jew - 17-year-old Yossi is coming to terms with being gay and growing up in a Jewish Orthodox community at the same time



The Boy's Own Manual to Being a Proper Jew by Eli Glasman

Yossi, at seventeen, feels as though his homosexuality makes him less of a Jew. Living as he does in Melbourne’s Orthodox Jewish community, he has a lot to hide. When non-religious rebel Josh turns up at school, Yossi is asked to look after him, and while Yossi educates Josh on the ancient traditions of their race, Josh does some educating of his own. Through their relationship, Yossi learns to see the laws of Judaism in a very new light.

But when he and Josh are caught kissing in the bathhouse, Yossi’s life takes on a dramatic new turn, and he can ignore his new reality no longer.

Add your review of "The Boy's Own Manual to Being a Proper Jew" in comments!

Monday, October 5, 2015

Jen Rofé (Andrea Brown Literary): Agent Looking For Diversity

AGENTS AND EDITORS NEED TO ADVERTISE THEIR INTEREST IN DIVERSITY


That's the idea. And this series is an effort to do just that.

For now, we’re focusing on agents, and today's post features agent Jen Rofé of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency.


Agent Jen Rofé


Here's Jennifer's short bio:

Jennifer Rofé has been an agent with the Andrea Brown Literary Agency for nine years. She represents picture book through young adult with a special love for middle grade and author-illustrators.

And here's our interview:

Lee: Hi Jen!

Jennifer: Hi, Lee!

Lee: Thanks so much for agreeing to talk about your interest in Diversity in Children's and Teen Literature!

Jennifer: Thank you for your continued efforts to bring diversity in children's literature to the forefront of conversation.

Lee: There's been growing discussion about how the 5,000 or so traditionally published books a year don't reflect the actual diversity of our world, including the #WeNeedDiverseBooks movement and the stunningly low numbers of representation revealed in "Children's Books by and about People of Color Published in the United States," put out by the CCBC (The Cooperative Children's Book Center.

To start us off, of the submissions you get, let's say in the past year, how many of those projects included some kind of diversity of characters or theme?

Jennifer: The numbers in the CCBC report are indeed low, and also depressing. The conversation to be had overwhelms, but I am encouraged that we are having the conversation and that concerted efforts are being made by the industry to change these numbers.

As for your question, I receive many queries that include some kind of diversity, but "many" is likely still below 15%. To have a clearer picture, though, we also need to consider how many queries I receive for picture book texts featuring characters who could be illustrated as diverse. Then there are the queries I receive for picture books texts featuring animals. If you eliminate those queries from the calculation, then the statistic is higher.

Lee: Let's unpack that a bit more: Are you seeing many stories featuring protagonists of color?

Jennifer: Many? No. More than I used to, yes.

Lee: How about LGBTQ characters, and please break that down - are you seeing lesbian characters? gay? bi? trans*? questioning? queer or gender non-conforming?

Jennifer: I see some but not many queries with LGBTQ characters or storylines. I've seen more trans characters recently. However, I mostly work in middle grade and picture book where sexuality and gender identity isn't covered to the same extent as in YA. I anticipate -- and hope! -- that my colleagues who focus more intently on YA are having a different experience.

Lee: How about characters with disabilities?

Jennifer: I often receive queries featuring characters with disabilities — physical and/or emotional — but they are so often "issue" books and not mainstream stories featuring a character with a disability and his/her journey.

Lee: Are you seeing other types of diversity in the works submitted? - And please share any specific categories that spring to mind.

Jennifer: I see the most diversity in queries for historical fiction middle grade, especially as many of these stories deal with race relations and tensions during those periods.

Something else I'm seeing more of, now that there is greater focus on diversity in children's literature, is what I consider forced diversity -- where it's clear a writer has made a character a different race in order to have wider appeal, but the representation of the race is superficial, incomplete, inaccurate. Hopefully over time diverse characters and themes will be integrated into all kinds of stories in a natural way.

Lee: How about the creators? Are you seeing under-represented writers and illustrators submitting to you?

Jennifer: Certainly, but writers may not point out their race or ethnicity in a query, nor are they expected to do so. There may be more than I realize or fewer than I hope.

Lee: There's a lot of discussion about who has the 'right' to tell the story of an under-represented type of character. What's your take?

Jennifer: This is a challenging question. But no matter what, it is important — crucial, even — to accurately and sensitively portray stories. I have clients who, when they are writing a character outside of their experience, will share their work with a trusted colleague of that experience to be sure that the depiction is authentic and avoids stereotypes.

Lee: When you're submitting projects to editors, do you think stories with under-represented characters take more 'selling' on your part?

Jennifer: In my recent experience, no.

But earlier in my career, I did have a few experiences of pitching mainstream manuscripts featuring diverse protagonists and race was as much an issue in the stories as you being tall and me being short matters to this interview. 

Lee: Not much! What happened?

Jennifer: These books went on to sell, but there were other interested editors who liked the manuscripts but who longed to see race play a bigger role in the plots. I personally have seen fewer revision requests of this direction and more support for mainstream commercial stories featuring characters of diverse backgrounds.

Lee: I do think that's a sign of progress!

I often feel the sense of ‘otherness’ is transferable. That from my own experiences being marginalized (for being Gay, being ill as a teen, being Jewish, being an Atheist, etc…) I feel tremendous empathy for people who are marginalized for other kinds of ‘otherness’ as well.

Can you share what’s driving your desire to see more diversity in Children’s and Teen books?

Jennifer: My mother is a Cuban-Jew who escaped the country with her family when she was 12, and my father is an Eastern-European Jew who was born outside of a displaced persons camp his parents lived in after they were liberated from the concentration camps. I grew up in a family rich with history and tradition. I also grew up in Los Angeles, where I went to public school with children of all races, ethnicities, religions and socioeconomic backgrounds; where I could (and still do) eat the foods and shop the markets of various cultures and ethnicities; where I can direct you to synagogues, churches, Buddhist temples, mosques. I have been surrounded by diversity and "otherness" my entire life — it is a part of my fabric. Which is probably why I went on to minor in Social and Ethnic Relations with a focus on multicultural literature, and have been seeking out and selling diverse children's literature since I began working as an agent nine years ago.

Lee: Tell us about some books that highlighted or included diversity that you loved and that inspired you (maybe even ones you wish you represented).

Jennifer: A few books that immediately come to mind: THE HOUSE ON MANGO STREET by Sandra Cisneros; THE KNOWN WORLD by Edward P. Jones; THE WOMAN WARRIOR by Maxine Hong Kingston; THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHTTIME by Mark Haddon; HARD LOVE by Ellen Wittlinger.

Also, I have a slew of diverse books on my list, including the hilarious middle grade HOW LAMAR'S BAD PRANK WON A BUBBA-SIZED TROPHY by Crystal Allen and the 2014 Pura Belpré winner YAQUI DELGADO WANTS TO KICK YOUR ASS, and I have more forthcoming, including

Mango, Abuela, and Me, a picture book by Meg Medina about a girl learning to communicate with her abuela (grandma) through the help of a parrot named Mango. (Candlewick)

The Magnificent Mya Tibbs: Spirit Week Showdown, the first in a middle grade series by Crystal Allen, which is about a young African-American girl who is excited to spend Spirit Week partnered up with her megapopular best friend, but then she is paired with the biggest bully in school.... (HarperCollins)

Moving Target by Christina Diaz Gonzalez, which is the action-packed start to a duology about a Cuban-American girl studying abroad in Rome, where she discovers her secret ancient bloodline, and now the fate of the world rests in her hands. (Scholastic)

Lee: Okay, here’s your wish list moment. What are you looking for? Put out the call...

Jennifer: I am always looking for illustrators and author-illustrators; middle grade of all genres; and big-world YA or cringe-worthy YA romance. Also, I recently traveled to Brazil and was taken by the favelas. I would love a story set in a favela, something like CITY OF GOD, but maybe with less violence and more hope. And I am always, always looking for the book version of my favorite movie, DIRTY DANCING.

Lee: And for writers and/or illustrators reading this who feel a resonance with what you’ve shared and who want to submit to you, how should they go about that?

Jennifer: Please see the submission guidelines at www.andreabrownlit.com.

Lee: Anything I didn’t ask that you’d like to add?

Jennifer: The direction children's literature is heading is exciting. I'm proud that the industry is listening and that they are making the effort. I hope next up is reaching out to the multicultural communities and inspiring children and young adults to write from their perspective and to consider jobs in editorial.

Also, I hope that Hollywood gets on board with us. Every great thing we do, they follow, so....

Lee: Getting the world of Children’s literature to better reflect the diversity of our world -- the world kids today are growing up in -- is so important. Thank you so much for working to make things better!

Jennifer: Thank you, Lee.


Thanks, Jennifer! Look for another AGENT LOOKING FOR DIVERSITY interview on the first Monday of next month. Until then,

Illustrate and Write On!
Lee