Wednesday, November 17, 2010

YALSA Celebrates Diversity! A Guest Post By Lauren Bjorkman

The national YALSA Conference — Diversity, Literature, Teens: Beyond Good Intentions — last weekend launched me into the Stratosphere of Happiness. I had so much fun! Over 350 librarians came to share their passion for getting diverse books into the hands of teen readers.

On the first morning, Michael Cart and Christine Jenkins gave a “history lesson” on teen fic with GLBT content, highlighting books published from 1969 to 2010. Both of them are experts on the subject. I could tell by their extraordinarily long CVs.

Seriously, this pair knows their gay teen lit! The mound of books they brought with them (hundreds, I think) wowed my socks off. I especially enjoyed the covers from the books written in the 1970’s. Check this one out!

Michael and Christine book-talked dozens of titles each. The earlier books were tragedies, and usually ended with the gay character killed in a car wreck. Or truck wreck. Or motorcycle wreck. Seriously!

Luckily things got better in the 80’s, when some of the books ended on a hopeful note, and a few were funny — particularly books by M.E. Kerr. Still, the majority of GLBT teen lit consisted of sad stories and “problem” novels.

In the 2000’s there are many breakthroughs — LGBT books for the retail market, ones with multi-cultural characters, humor, happy endings, awards, and more books for younger readers. Viva Gaytopia!

In the afternoon, I was part of a panel about moving forward in LGBT teen lit with Megan Frazer (Secrets of Truth and Beauty), Kirstin Cronn-Mills (The Sky Always Hears Me), and Malinda Lo (Ash). We talked on serious topics — the fluidity of sexuality, labeling, coming out, heteronormativity, and settings without homophobia — and still managed to make 50+ librarians laugh out loud.

Megan's book

Kirstin's book

Malinda's Book

Lauren's Book

Friday night, we did a casual Q&A at Alamosa Books, an Albuquerque store devoted entirely to books for young readers and teens.

Saturday, I went to "The New Gay Teen: Moving Beyond the Issue Book," where authors read from their latest works. P.G. Kain (The Social Experiments of Dorie Dilts) had us in hysterics, as did Madeleine George (Looks). I’m very susceptible to funny books, so I can’t wait to read theirs!

I enjoyed every minute of the conference. Besides attending panels and meeting caring librarians, I drank margaritas with other authors, ate fab New Mexican food, and autographed 50 copies of my book, including one to a lovely librarian from Shiprock, New Mexico!

Shiprock (Wow! But where’s the library?)


Lauren Bjorkman is the author of My Invented Life, one of the great books featured right here on this blog!

Thanks, Lauren, for sharing with us your experience at the National Conference of the Young Adult Library Services Association (of the American Library Association.) While I wish I could have been there, your report gave us all a taste of what was served up... and it sounds amazing!

My thanks as well to Lauren for talking about my Hunger Mountain-published article, GLBTQ Teen Coming Out Stories: Move Beyond Them, or Keep 'Em Coming? An Imaginary Yang and Yin Dialog By One Writer of Two Minds" during her panel presentation. Thanks as well to Malinda Lo for including my article with the other wonderful links gathered from the panel. Great stuff there, and I'm honored to be included.



ivanova said...

Sounds like so much fun! Who knew librarians had such good times? I especially love the cover of "In The Tent!"

I am a HUGE fan of P.G. Kain and Madeleine George. I am glad to see them mentioned on the same page as kid-literary giants like M.E. Kerr and Malinda Lo. That is the company where they belong! P.G. Kain's Dorie Dilts books are really funny, while Looks by Madeleine George will make you grab a Kleenex.

Anonymous said...

Great to see Lauren here! She didn't mention how good her own book is, so I'm saying it. It's funny, too!