Friday, August 30, 2019

Miike Snow's Genghis Khan Music Video - A Queer James Bond Fantasia That You've Gotta Watch!

Every so often there's a piece of popular culture that makes me ridiculously happy - going back and repopulating my teenage obsessions with gay characters, gay adventures, gay romance... and there's a power in that. A healing. And a joy.

I had it reading Carry On by Rainbow Rowell, which gave me a gay Harry Potter story to love and call my own.

And I had it watching this amazing music video by the group Miike Snow, Genghis Khan.

I hope you'll enjoy it as much as I did! 

It's also inspiring that these are both so successful - Carry On is a huge bestseller, and as of writing this, the Genghis Khan video has had more than 39 million views!

The light in me recognizes and acknowledges the light in you,

ps - Shout out to my friend Kelly who shared this with me!

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali - A Teen Girl Struggles Keep Both Her Conservative Muslim Parents and Her Girlfriend In Her Life

The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali by Sabina Khan

Seventeen-year-old Rukhsana Ali has always been fascinated by the universe around her and the laws of physics that keep everything in order. But her life at home isn't so absolute.

Unable to come out to her conservative Muslim parents, she keeps that part of her identity hidden. And that means keeping her girlfriend, Ariana, a secret from them too. Luckily, only a few more months stand between her carefully monitored life at home and a fresh start at Caltech in the fall. But when Rukhsana's mom catches her and Ariana together, her future begins to collapse around her.

Devastated and confused, Rukhsana's parents whisk her off to stay with their extended family in Bangladesh where, along with the loving arms of her grandmother and cousins, she is met with a world of arranged marriages, religious tradition, and intolerance. Fortunately, Rukhsana finds allies along the way and, through reading her grandmother's old diary, finds the courage to take control of her future and fight for her love.

Add your review of "The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali" in comments!

Monday, August 26, 2019

Queer: A Graphic History - a Nonfiction Graphic Novel-Length Work that Explores Queer Theory and How to Start Seeing Things "Queerly"!

Queer: A Graphic History by Meg-John Barker, illustrated by Julia Scheele

"Activist-academic Meg John Barker and cartoonist Julia Scheele illuminate the histories of queer thought and LGBTQ+ action in this groundbreaking non-fiction graphic novel. A kaleidoscope of characters from the diverse worlds of pop-culture, film, activism and academia guide us on a journey through the ideas, people and events that have shaped 'queer theory'.

From identity politics and gender roles to privilege and exclusion, Queer explores how we came to view sex, gender and sexuality in the ways that we do; how these ideas get tangled up with our culture and our understanding of biology, psychology and sexology; and how these views have been disputed and challenged.\

Along the way we look at key landmarks which shift our perspective of what's 'normal', such as Alfred Kinsey's view of sexuality as a spectrum between heterosexuality and homosexuality, Judith Butler's view of gendered behavior as a performance, the play Wicked, which reinterprets characters from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, or moments in Casino Royale when we're invited to view James Bond with the kind of desiring gaze usually directed at female bodies in mainstream media."

Add your review of "Queer: A Graphic History" in comments!

Friday, August 23, 2019

Julián is a Mermaid - A Gorgeous Picture Book I Wish Had Been Read To Me When I Was a Little Kid

Julián is a Mermaid by Jessica Love

While riding the subway home from the pool with his abuela one day, Julián notices three women spectacularly dressed up. Their hair billows in brilliant hues, their dresses end in fishtails, and their joy fills the train car. When Julián gets home, daydreaming of the magic he’s seen, all he can think about is dressing up just like the ladies in his own fabulous mermaid costume: a butter-yellow curtain for his tail, the fronds of a potted fern for his headdress. But what will Abuela think about the mess he makes — and even more importantly, what will she think about how Julián sees himself?

What's so great is that this is not about gender. It's about love. And acceptance.

The illustrations are perfect.

A moment of wonder when Julián sees the women dressed up as mermaids

Abuela's reaction is perfect.

Julián's childhood innocence, love of mermaids, fantasy of being a mermaid, and steps taken to be a mermaid for the afternoon are so sweet and perfectly conveyed.

The sense of celebration.

Of community.

Of family.

Of love.

This is a beautiful picturebook about being yourself, and loving children who are themselves--uniquely, wonderfully themselves--when they're a little kid, and when they're a mermaid. Always. No exceptions. No gender boundaries required.

I love this picturebook, and absolutely wish it had been read to me when I was a little kid. Cheers to Jessica!

Winner of a 2019 Stonewall Book Award, add your review of "Julián is a Mermaid" in comments!

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Kings, Queens, and In-Betweens - In this "Judy Blume meets RuPaul's Drag Race" teen novel, Nima Discovers the Magic of Drag and of Being (And Loving) Your Truest Self

Kings, Queens, and In-Betweens by Tanya Boteju

Perpetually awkward Nima Kumara-Clark is bored with her insular community of Bridgeton, in love with her straight girlfriend, and trying to move past her mother’s unexpected departure. After a bewildering encounter at a local festival, Nima finds herself suddenly immersed in the drag scene on the other side of town.

Macho drag kings, magical queens, new love interests, and surprising allies propel Nima both painfully and hilariously closer to a self she never knew she could be—one that can confidently express and accept love. But she’ll have to learn to accept lost love to get there.

Add your review of "Kings, Queens, and In-Betweens" in comments!

Monday, August 19, 2019

Jack (Not Jackie) - A Picture Book About a Trans Child and the Family Who Accepts Them That I Wish Had Been Read To Me When I Was a Little Kid

Jack (Not Jackie) by Erica Silverman, Illustrated by Holly Hatam

Susan thinks her little sister Jackie has the best giggle! She can't wait for Jackie to get older so they can do all sorts of things like play forest fairies and be explorers together. But as Jackie grows, she doesn't want to play those games. She wants to play with mud and be a super bug! Jackie also doesn't like dresses or her long hair, and she would rather be called Jack.

The heart of this story are these pivot moments, where Jack starts to assert their identity and his big sister and parents notice.

There's the playground scene, where the little boy calls the main character "Jack" for the first time.

There's the shopping-for-clothes scene, where their mother says, "We wear what feels right."

There's the haircut scene, where the big sister reacts as Jack asks for more and more of their hair to be cut:

"Stop, Mama, stop!" I shout. "Now Jackie looks like a boy."

Jackie says, "I am a boy!"

Mama is quiet. Finally she says, "Well, Jackie's been trying to tell us that for a long time."

And, maybe most moving of all, the scene where the big sister draws two pictures: One of Jackie, and the other of Jack. She stares at the portraits she created.

"Jackie. Jack. The same big, round eyes. My sister. My brother. It's okay, either way. And little by little, my heart starts to feel bubbly again."

Booklist is right. Jack (Not Jackie) "belongs in every library."

Cheers to the author, illustrator, and the partnership between GLAAD and Bonnier Publishing USA that donates a portion of the book's sales "to accelerate LGBTQ acceptance."

Add your review of "Jack (Not Jackie)" in comments!

Friday, August 16, 2019

Bloom - A Graphic Novel About Young Gay Love, and Baking, and Hard Choices, and Growing Up

Bloom by Kevin Panetta, illustrated by Savanna Ganucheau

Now that high school is over, Ari is dying to move to the big city with his ultra-hip band—if he can just persuade his dad to let him quit his job at their struggling family bakery. Though he loved working there as a kid, Ari cannot fathom a life wasting away over rising dough and hot ovens. But while interviewing candidates for his replacement, Ari meets Hector, an easygoing guy who loves baking as much as Ari wants to escape it. As they become closer over batches of bread, love is ready to bloom . . . that is, if Ari doesn’t ruin everything.

Thanks to Arthur Levine for the heads-up on this one. Add your review of "Bloom" in comments!

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Top Ten - A Bi Teen Girl and Her Guy Best Friend Count Down The Top Ten Moments of Their Friendship (Maybe More Than Friendship?) On The Night of Their High School Graduation

Top Ten by Katie Cotugno

Ryan McCullough and Gabby Hart are the unlikeliest of best friends. Prickly, anxious Gabby would rather do literally anything than go to a party. Ultra-popular Ryan is a hockey star who can get any girl he wants–and frequently does. But somehow their relationship just works; from dorky Monopoly nights to rowdy house parties to the top ten lists they make about everything under the sun.

Now, on the night of high school graduation, everything is suddenly changing—in their lives, and in their relationship. As they try to figure out what they mean to each other and where to go from here, they make a final top ten list: this time, counting down the top ten moments of their friendship.

What's Queer about it? Gabby is bi, and has an ex-girlfriend, Shay.

Add your review of "Top Ten" in comments!

Monday, August 12, 2019

Queer Kid Lit Inspiration from #LA19SCBWI

I love the SCBWI Summer Conference, and while I wasn't able to attend the whole event this year (a day-job conflict that I will make every effort to avoid happening again!) I did have some amazing moments.

The two that resonate the most strongly were from the same session, the LGBTQ and Allies Social I hosted on Friday night.

In the course of the discussion, I shared that one of my challenges as a creator of work for children and teens that includes LGBTQ characters and themes are the voices that tell me to make things less gay. Part of that I'm sure is internalized homophobia from my childhood. But part is external, the voices of well-meaning folks who want to see me succeed and think the way to do that is to have my work be not quite so... well, Queer. To pull back. To not stand out so much. And I hear it. Quite a bit.

I shared with the group that what I really need is a community of people who tell me the opposite. That my dream is to have a creative community that tells me, "Make it Gayer, Lee!" A creative community that urges me to take risks. To tell the stories I so deeply need to tell, and to push myself to make them as Queer as possible.

Bruce Coville was there, and in a conversation about defining success, we discussed his including a positive gay role model in The Skull of Truth. Which, I said, was really brave of him as it was such a breakthrough (it was published in 1997.)

And Bruce said, "I wasn't brave, I was cranky." He wasn't seeing positive representations of gay people in middle grade books. And so he decided to do something about it himself. He told us about losing a few school visits over it, but ultimately, "Saying what you want to say is way more important." Bruce said that sometimes, success can be defined in terms of "What barrier can I push?"

And then, at the end of the evening's session, illustrator Mara Williams showed me what she'd been working on in her sketchbook:

Thank you, Mara. And thank you, Bruce!

I'll get back to work pushing those barriers. And I'll make it gayer.

The light in me recognizes and acknowledges the light in you,

Friday, August 9, 2019

It's #LA19SCBWI - The 2019 SCBWI Summer Conference!

Starting today, it's one of my favorite times of the year - The SCBWI Summer Conference here in Los Angeles, California!

I'm only going to be able to attend today, due to a work conflict for my IBPA job (I'll be flying to another conference Saturday) so while I won't be part of SCBWI Team Blog this time round, I'm going to enjoy my one full day here!

Three highlights:

The opening keynote by M.T. Anderson! He's brilliant, and it was his editing notes on my 8th revision of Queer as a Five-Dollar Billduring a week-long Highlights Foundation workshop, that took my debut novel up to a whole new level.

The Author Panel, "Creating Books That Matter" with Adib Khorram, Lesléa Newman, Elizabeth Partridge, Lilliam Rivera, and Renée Watson, moderated by Linda Sue Park! Lesléa is a legend and pioneer of LGBTQ inclusion in picture books (her "Heather Has Two Mommies" changed so much) and she interviewed me as a bonus track at the end of the Queer as a Five-Dollar Bill audiobook - it was such a fan-boy moment for me!

The Tribe-Within-a-Tribe "LGBTQAI Social" I'm hosting tonight (Friday August 9, 2019 from 7:30pm-9pm in Platinum C) - we gather, we share, we ask questions, we support, and we know we're not alone in wanting to make sure at LGBTQ lives and loves are represented in Children's Literature and Illustration!

There's so much more - the morning and afternoon breakout sessions, the other keynotes, the portfolio showcase - but the thing I'm most excited about is the people. The community. My other—and overlapping—community of people just as passionate about creating wonderful content for children and tweens and teens as I am.

I can't wait!

If you'll be there and you see me, please say hi!

The light in me recognizes and acknowledges the light in you,

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

"Queer as a Five-Dollar Bill" Gets a Wonderful Editorial Review in Publishers Weekly!

This review is awesome:


“a smart coming-of-age story... a timely discussion about challenging long-held myths about history… profound and honest.” —Publishers Weekly (BookLife)
Read the full review here.

Getting such a positive editorial review for my debut novel from Publishers Weekly is a wonderful moment. So happy to share it with you.

The light in me recognizes and acknowledges the light in you,

Monday, August 5, 2019

2.7 million page loads... and counting!

It's fun to mark these milestones (hundred thousand stones?) with you all!

This blog just blew by 2.7 million page loads (it's at 2,714,043 as I write this.)

Thank you for being my community (from over 100 countries all over the world!), and for finding value in what I'm sharing. I do it from the heart, and to know it resonates means so much.

The light in me recognizes and acknowledges the light in you,

P.S. - if you're not yet signed up for my occasional newsletters, you can do so at the top left of this blog. Thanks!

Friday, August 2, 2019

The Pros of Cons - Three Teen Girls (A Fanfic Writer, a Drummer, and an Amateur Taxidermist) Meet at a Convention Center...

The Pros of Cons By Alison Cherry, Lindsay Ribar, Michelle Schusterman

Drummer Phoebe Byrd prides herself on being one of the guys, and she's ready to prove it by kicking all their butts in the snare solo competition at the Indoor Percussion Association Convention.

Writer Vanessa Montoya-O'Callaghan has been looking forward to the WTFcon for months. Not just because of the panels and fanfiction readings but because WTFcon is where she'll finally meet Soleil, her internet girlfriend, for the first time.

Taxidermy assistant Callie Buchannan might be good at scooping brains out of deer skulls, but that doesn't mean it's her passion. Since her parents' divorce, her taxidermist father only cares about his work, and assisting him at the World Taxidermy and Fish-Carving Championships is the only way Callie knows to connect with him.

When a crazy mix-up in the hotel lobby brings the three girls together, they form an unlikely friendship against a chaotic background of cosplay, competition, and carcasses!

Add your review of "The Pros of Cons" in comments!