Category: LGBTQ+

Vengeance Road

Set in the Wild West in 1877, inspired by the legend of the Lost Dutchman Gold Mine, a rich gold mine hidden in the Superstition Mountains in Arizona, this suspense and action-filled novel follows Kate Thompson who sets out on a pursuit to seek vengeance for her father’s death. On her mission to search for her father’s murderers, she disguises herself as a boy named Nate and along the way, meets new friends throughout her journey.

I have never read a western book before and being that I grew up watching Old Western movies, I’m not sure what took me so long, but after reading this novel I’m happy I started. This book was out of the ordinary from other YA novels I’m used to reading and had many twists and turns that kept me from putting the book down! Vengeance Road is the perfect mix of suspense, humor, mystery, and romance, and I’d recommend this book to anyone looking for an adventure.

-Christina


Star-Crossed

Star-Crossed by Barbara Dee is a heartfelt and uplifting novel about Mattie, a bookworm and star student whose had a crush on one of her fellow classmates Elijah for about a year. Her friends Lucy and Tessa know she had a crush on him for the longest, but one day at a party, Mattie meets the new girl, Gemma, and starts to develop an interest in her. As time passes, her crush for Gemma grows, as well as her confusion considering she was just crushing on Elijah. When Mattie’s English teacher announces who will be casted in Romeo and Juliet, Mattie is delighted to hear that she will be taking over the role of Romeo since the other student casted broke his arm; and Gemma will be playing Juliet. Despite her nervousness and not wanting others to find out, the play was still a success.

I enjoyed reading this book because it was like none I’ve ever read before. It was an adorable and sweet story on life, friendships, and family dynamics. I loved how normal and totally fine everyone was with her having a crush on a girl. Her sister and friends were very supportive and reminded her there’s nothing to be afraid of. Overall, it’s clear she learns to stay true and honest with herself. I believe this is a great book every middle-school library should have.

-Christina


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Introducing Teddy: A Gentle Story About Gender and Friendship

Introducing Teddy book cover art

There are very few books, specifically picture books, that explain transgender people to young children. There are even fewer that do so delicately and skillfully. Introducing Teddy: A Gentle Story About Gender and Friendship by Jessica Walton boldly takes the reins to explain transgender people to younger audiences in an easy-to-understand and age appropriate manner. The illustrations, by Dougal MacPherson, add tremendous depth to the story. We see the anguish on Tilly the Teddy Bear’s face as she struggles to tell her best friend that she is not a boy teddy, but a girl teddy. The anxiety and sadness are palpable on Tilly’s face and any reader of any age can see the importance of this decision and its impact on her life. The illustrations translate to real life as countless youth make the difficult decision to come out every day.

Children are incredibly perceptive, and they will immediately pick up upon the acceptance and friendship that Errol extends to his teddy bear. His compassion is shown in both the text and the illustrations. Errol is mindful of how his friend is feeling and comes out in full support of Tilly’s true identity. Introducing Teddy teaches children how to empathize and the importance of being there for your friends. These lessons in kindness and consideration are incredibly important, especially as the world continues to grow more diverse.

-Devi


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Intersectional YA

collage - Intersectional YA book covers

In 2014, I attended a bookstore event for Shannon Hale—a children’s and young adult author—where she was promoting her newest book, Dangerous. Dangerous tells the story of Maisie Danger Brown, a biracial teenager born with a congenital limb difference who gains superpowers at an ultra-secretive, highly-exclusive space camp. At the event, Shannon Hale described a criticism she’d received from an early reader: “A homeschooled, biracial Paraguayan American girl with one hand who wants to be an astronaut? That’s too specific. Teens won’t be able to relate to her.” As if teenagers who are both biracial and disabled don’t exist in the real world. As if white, able-bodied teens could wrap their minds around superpowers bestowed by alien technology, but not a character whose identity deviated too far from their own experience.

Intersectionality is a term coined by activist and legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989, while discussing issues of feminism and race. Merriam-Webster defines it as “the complex, cumulative way in which the effects of multiple forms of discrimination (such as racism, sexism, and classism) combine, overlap, or intersect especially in the experiences of marginalized individuals or groups.” Young adult books featuring characters who live in the intersections of race, gender, sexuality, and disability have become more common in the five years since Dangerous was published, but as with most issues related to diversity in young adult and children’s literature, there is still plenty of room for improvement and growth.

The following books feature teenage characters who belong to more than one marginalized group:

-Emma

Aitor Has Two Moms (Aitor Tiene Dos Mamas)

Aitor Has Two Moms book cover art

“Aitor Has Two Moms” is a great children’s book. I read it a while back because it truly piqued my interest. The fact that it is a Spanish book that outwardly speaks on homosexuality is quite groundbreaking. These kinds of books are not very common. Most children-targeted media normally tries to stay in a neutral and non-controversial state. This is especially true for more conservative countries like Spain. I truly appreciate this book because it steps outside boundaries and defies the norm. Additionally, I especially love that it is a book dedicated and targeted to children. I love the idea of exposing children to diversity from a younger age. I believe that if we begin to expose our children from a younger age to such topics, they will grow to be a more open-minded and accepting generation. The book gives great insight into the real struggles of what it is like to grow up with two moms rather than the stereotypically-assumed mom and dad. It was especially interesting to understand how living in a small town factors into how the child’s experience will turn out to be. The book is thought-provoking, even as an adult reader and I can only imagine how much it could positively affect the perspective of a child. This book is also a great resource to a child who has two moms; it is relatable to them and it can give them support when they are going through a bad time. 

-Carolina


Want to read the analysis for Aitor Has To Moms? Click here to check it out.

The Letter Q: A Queer Writers’ Notes to Their Younger Selves

The Letter Q book cover art

The Letter Q: A Queer Writers’ Notes to Their Younger Selves is a captivating life changing read. In this book, we have an endless stream of queer writers explore what advice they would give a younger version of themselves. We get to see deep into the lives of what it was like to be different from a young age. Through stories of hardships and self-discovery, The Letter Q gives hope for a better future where one is not only happy with oneself but with those around them. This book brought me to tears multiple times by the vulnerability and transparency of the authors. Each author had separate battles—from mental illnesses to rejection—from their family. As a reader, we get to see hurt be transformed to art and the beauty of self-growth. Reading this book will make you feel like you are time traveling in the past and leave you self-reflecting on your own life. Offering advice from all walks of life, it gives insight to the authors’ secrets and comfort in diversity. Everyone’s journey is unique to themselves regardless of what they identify as. This book is a reminder to young queer teenagers that they are greater than the sum of their experiences.

-Angie


Want to read the analysis for The Letter Q: A Queer Writers’ Notes to Their Younger Selves? Click here to check it out.

Punkzilla

I’ve had the opportunity to read many of the books that are currently in the DIVerse Families database; one that has stood out to me was Punkzilla by Adam Rapp. This book is about a 14-year-old boy named Jamie, but also known as Punkzilla who is fleeing away from military school to reach his brother who is dying from cancer. The plot was definitely a roller coaster with all kinds of twists and turns adding to the narrative. I enjoyed reading this book because it showed me a new perspective on diversity and gave me clarity on how important the DIVerse Families database was. I feel like representation is very important; seeing yourself represented feels really good and motivating. Growing up, I’ve always gravitated towards books that represented me in some kind of way because I wanted to relate to the storyline. But lately, these past few months I’ve realized that just because a character doesn’t look like me or didn’t grow up in the same background as me, doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy the book and learn something new. Diversity isn’t just about seeing yourself in media but seeing everyone else as well. Seeing and understanding that people come from all walks of life, and just because they are different from you doesn’t mean their story should go unheard. I enjoyed reading Punkzilla because it was a breath of fresh air from what I’ve always been used to reading in the past. This coming-of-age story touched on multiple topics of diversity from Family Relationships, to LGBT+ topics, to even Disability and Health, and much more. I learned about problems and issues I didn’t even know existed, and for that, I’m very grateful for getting the chance to read this book. I highly recommend for everyone to go check out the book, whether you identify with the character or not, come join Jamie on his adventure to reaching his brother.

-Christina


Want to read the analysis for Punkzilla? Click here to check it out.

Brooklyn, Burning

Brooklyn, Burning book cover art

I picked up this book because I’m from Brooklyn myself and something about the cover picked at my interest. Throughout the book, the main character’s gender/sexual identity is somewhat hidden. Kid’s parents kicked him out after they found out about his sexuality and he resorts to living on the streets. He finds a guy who offers him a place to stay and he’s perfect to Kid, even with his heroin addiction. Kid loves everything about him and seems to be the only one that understands him really. Fast forward to the summer, Kid is still living on the streets, he’s found a bar whose owner looks out for him sometimes and he has a new love interest: Scout. Scout is an extremely talented singer who also plays guitar to perfection. Kid describes Scout’s music almost lovingly. Kid goes through ups and downs during that time, figuring out whether moving back home should be an option, being banned from the bar because of his age (no worries the owner sets him up with his own little place in the cellar/behind the bar) and most importantly the police accusing him of burning down a warehouse that the kids on the street used to live in. My favorite thing about Kid is his approach to life. Almost everything in this kid’s life falls apart but he still manages to remain calm, funny, and so sweet. Throughout the book, I was amazed at how easily he moved through life despite every bad thing that’s happened to him. Luckily, he finds Scout, falls in love with him and the music, gives him a place to stay and goes as far as organizing a concert for him. Throughout the book, Felix’s faith is shrouded in mystery. Whenever anyone mentions him, there’s a sadness/nostalgia that comes with it. The book is great overall and towards the middle we find out the sad news that Felix killed himself by overdosing on heroin in the very bar Kid still goes to every day. Although I expected a tragedy, it still hit hard, but Kid moved on thanks to his own strength but also through his wonderful support system. I teared up many times while reading this book, but I truly didn’t put it down until I was done.

-Sybile


Want to see the analysis for Brooklyn, Burning? Click here to check it out.

Gay in America

Gay in America book cover art

During my year and a half working on the DIVerse Families collection, I have read many incredible works showcasing diversity. One in particular that has made a lasting impact on me is a photography book called, Gay in America, with photographs taken by Scott Pasfield. This book encompasses a series of portraits and stories of 140 gay men across all 50 states. The photography book depicts gay men of different races, lifestyles, and careers. By doing so, it shatters the stereotypes that usually surround what being a gay man means and shows them in their reality. One of the most striking things about this book is it’s cover. The cover shows a man named Dan Choi, a former army lieutenant and LGBTQ activist, standing in his military uniform. I’m glad Scott put him on the cover to represent this book because in American society today, there is such terrible discrimination of LGBTQ military service members. This stemming from the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell Act from 25 years ago, later repealed, to the transgender ban that is now in effect. This book is real, honest, and doesn’t sugarcoat the ups and downs of what being gay in America means for these men. The series of portraits and stories gave me a realistic view of the lives of gay men in our country, and I hope by others reading this book, it will do the same for them.

-Bailey


Want to see the analysis for Gay in America? Click here to check it out.

Finlater

Finlater book cover art

Finlater is a book about a boy on the wrong side of the tracks. Reading this book, I found many similarities between Cliffy, the main character, and I. He is a sweet, smart, sensitive, and wonderfully honest boy who, despite his circumstances and his lack of a father figure growing up, still sees the bright side of life while using his gifts to advance himself (he skips a grade in school and is the spelling bee champion). He is himself despite his environment and he manages to find humor in most, if not all, his misfortunes. Cliffy is intelligent, thoughtful, well-spoken, and open to trying new things. In racially tense Cincinnati in 1969, he finds himself becoming close to this Jewish boy at school and they affectionately refer to each other as “soul brothers.” As they learn more about each other, Cliffy falls for Noah and vice versa. Through the troubled times at home—Noah’s dad struggling with mental illness and Cliffy’s dad reappearing in his life many years too late without anything to show for it—the two boys still found a way to blossom into their sexuality. Not once did either think less of himself for how they were feeling for each other and Noah, being a little more experienced, eases Cliffy into this new world and watching them fall deeper and deeper for each other is the most beautiful thing. Cliffy’s love for Noah is innocent, full, and honest and Noah loves him back just the same. This book is written by someone who obviously understands his characters well. Each one is well written and perfectly put in perspective. At first, I was wary of the tone and some of the language used in the book, but then I found out that the author himself was black and gay. The author did an awesome job depicting the realness and grittiness of Cliffy’s environment while also sugarcoating it in just the right amount of comedy and lightheartedness. I cried and laughed with Cliffy all the way up until the end.

-Sybile


Want to see the analysis for Finlater? Click here to check it out.