Last year I promised to keep an eye on ALA’s Stonewall Awards, and now I’m making good on that. As I noted last January, the books thus far honored in the Children’s and Young Adult category had been focused almost exclusively on gay white boys — a disappointment, given the growing diversity in LGBTQ literature for young people.
The balance of the 2012 Stonewalls is a decided improvement. Taking the top award was Putting Makeup on the Fat Boy, by Bil Wright, features an Hispanic gay male protagonist, and the author is himself African-American.
Taking honors were Money Boy, by Paul Yee, about a gay, Asian-Canadian young man; Pink, by Lili Wilkinson, about a lesbian-identified white girl questioning her sexuality once again; a + e 4ever, by I. Merey, a graphic novel (!) about a girl and a boy experiencing the fluidity of gender and sexuality; and with or without you, by Brian Farrey, which does feature white gay protagonists.
So, yes: a much broader representation of ethnicity, gender, and orientation. I still feel like lesbian/queer girl lit was underrepresented, but what I’m going to take issue with now is the prevalence of all-lowercase book titles — two out of five, really? Just kidding. Sort of.
I like to see how the Stonewall Awards overlap with the annual Rainbow List, which is chosen by ALA’s GLBT Round Table. The Rainbow List is a more or less comprehensive list of LGBTQ books published for children and young adults, and they star ten titles as being the most distinguished.
This year, the honored titles were I Am J, by Cris Beam; Beauty Queens, by Libba Bray; Brooklyn, Burning, by Steve Brezenoff; Sister Mischief, by Laura Goode; Huntress, by Malinda Lo; Shine, by Lauren Myracle; Donovan’s Big Day, by Leslea Newman; She Loves You, She Loves You Not, by Julie Anne Peters; Gemini Bites, by Patrick Ryan; and Putting Makeup on the Fat Boy, by Bil Wright.
That’s one overlapping title. One. (Note to self: read that book, already!) This is how committees work, folks, and why we should not get overly bent out of shape when good books slip through a crack. Hopefully they’ll get caught in another and find the love they deserve.
As last year, I find the Rainbow List to be very nicely balanced. I Am J and Beauty Queens feature trans characters; Beauty Queens, Sister Mischief, Huntress, Donovan’s Big Day, and She Loves You, She Loves You Not feature queer girl characters. White characters dominate, though the books do include queer Hispanic and Asian characters, plus the main character of Sister Mischief is Jewish. (And I haven’t read all the books, so it’s likely I’m missing details here.)
Looking at both lists, I’m pleasantly surprised: there actually was a pretty good crop of LGBTQ books for kids and teens last year. Did they make up a minute percentage of all the kids’ and YA books published? Heck yeah. But all I have to do is go back in time to high school, and I’m impressed once again by how far things have come.
Of course, I’m interested to know what the 2013 lists will look like. Already, The Miseducation of Cameron Post, by emily danforth (seriously: capitals, folks!), is garnering starred reviews, and I imagine it’ll walk away with some awards. Then there’s my book, Starting from Here, due out in the fall. Our fellow debut authors Elissa J. Hoole and E. M. Kokie will also be adding to the canon with Kiss the Morning Star and Personal Effects, respectively. Julie Anne Peters has a new one coming out this spring.
And you better believe I’ll have my eyes peeled for more. Let me know if you’ve got a hot tip!