Friday, 10 May 2013

Discussion (also, help?): LGBT Books

I think every reader has experienced--or will at some point--that frustration when you can't find the right book for you.

You read book after book but you just can't find that one book that, even if the story isn't exactly your story, still feels The character feels things that you have felt, they experience things that you have experienced--and when you find that book, it just clicks with you and it's kind of like that feeling you get when you meet someone and they just get you in a way that most other people don't.

When you read that book, it's like the author rummaged around in your head for a while then wrote down things you've felt that you couldn't find words for and you just have that moment of, "Yes, that's it. That's exactly how I feel."

Every reader deserves to have books like that in their life. So maybe you can help me find that book for someone.

On our book blog tumblr earlier, we got a message from someone who is trying to find That Book and since I couldn't think of one that fits what he is looking for, I decided to ask you guys if you can think of any recommendations.

Basically, he's looking for a book where the main character is gay. In his words, "A boy whose life doesn’t revolve around the fact that he’s gay, but yes, who just to happens to be gay." and you can find a more detailed version of what he's looking for on his tumblr in this post and this one.

What he's searching for? That's one of the main reasons I can't think of any books for him. I don't read much LGBT fiction, and it's not because I don't want to, it's because none of the books are what I'm looking for (closest that comes to mind is Will Grayson,Will Grayson by John Green by David Levithan).

So many YA LGBT books still come across as Issue Books. The ones that get shoved into the same category as teens dealing with eating disorders or self harm or that sort of thing, and they all focus on the Coming to Terms With Your Sexuality/Coming Out stage in the characters life.

And that's fine, that's great, and maybe some of them are wonderful. It is something that should be written about. But trying to find books that are written after that point, and the character is gay and they're not questioning it, they're not in denial, not dealing with the whole coming out thing and they're content with who they are as far as their sexuality and gender identity goes? Trying to find books like that is is like trying to find a needle in a haystack (at least for me).

There are teens out there who are struggling with their sexuality, and it's good that there is books out there that explore that, but shouldn't there also be more out there for the ones who aren't at that stage and just want a book that represents who they are now too? Or, even for the ones still struggling, shouldn't there be books out there that can show where they can be once they figure things out? 

If someone wants to read a LGBT romance, for example, then why can't it just be about two people falling in love; just a romance. Why does the whole falling in love thing have to seem like an afterthought with the fact that they're both male/both female stealing all the limelight?

I've also found that girl/girl seems to be easier to find than boy/boy, but maybe I'm just not searching hard enough.

I was trying to find books that have LGBT characters, and these are the ones I could find that seem to have a gay protagonist that doesn't sound like the focus is on coming out or all about sexuality related angst. But, I haven't read any of them so I don't know for sure if they're any good or like the summary makes them sound:
And that's all I got...there will be more out there, it's just a pain trying to finding them (I think I read over the synopses of about 30 books and only found those two that didn't include coming out, or struggling to come to terms with being gay, or mention of a gay guy dating a girl).

Anyway, it's 4:30am and I have not slept, but before I shut up, some questions for you (the first obviously being the most important one):
1. Can you recommend any LGBT books (preferably with a male main character) that are good and might be what this guy is looking for?

2. Have you read any of the books I listed? If yes, did you like them?

3. Just something I'm curious about: what do you think of the approach most YA books seem to take with the LGBT subject matter (i.e. putting a lot of focus on the issues, writing characters who are Gay Characters instead of characters who are gay)?


  1. "you read that book, it's like the author rummaged around in your head for a while then wrote down things you've felt that you couldn't find words for and you just have that moment of, "Yes, that's it. That's exactly how I feel." - I LOVE those 'Me' books!!

    And I love LOVE LGBT novels!! Well, I have yet to read a girlxgirl one, but I read boyxboy all the time.
    My favorite is probably Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe and I also loved Outtakes of a Walking Mistake. Ari and Dante is more lyrical/magical while Outtakes is more likely to make you snort with laughter (and maybe cry too a little), and I'd definitely recommend both.
    Others I loved: Where You Are, Know Not Why, Teenage Rewrite and Suicide Watch.
    Also, feel free to check out my GBLT reviews here:

    But I'm afraid most of these books are issue books, at least to some seems to be the "curse" of the LGBT genre....
    But if he doesn't mind reading dystopia there is The Culling where the main character is gay and it's a non-issue.

    1. I will definitely check out your reviews (and those two books now, they sounded good from the summaries so I'm glad you thought they lived up to that). :)

      I wouldn't mind reading issue books where the main character is LGBT, I just don't want the main issue to be rooted in the LGBT thing--like, LGBT teens can have parents who are going through a divorce, or fall outs with their friends, or experience break-ups or loss of loved ones or eating disorders but it's hard to find books that represent that.

      With straight characters, I've seen pretty much every issue covered (even books about brother/sister incest exist out there) but if the character is LGBT then that is treated like it's The Issue in their lives.

  2. I love queer lit, but you're right, that most of them are about coming out rather than a character who just happens to be gay. I think it's starting to change, but the "issue book" still dominates.

    Aristotle and Dante Discover the Universe IS a fantastic book, but it's still on the "discovering" end of the spectrum. Two boys who don't quite fit in become great friends. One is out, and interested in the other, but that boy doesn't identify as gay. Then, at the end, he's like "you're right, I'm totally in love with you." It's very much about identity and masculinity in Chicano culture and is set in the 1980s.

    I agree that The Culling is a "just happen to be gay" dystopia, and I love that it exists, but I didn't find it to be an exceptional book.

    Another one he might enjoy is Brooklyn, Burning by Steve's more ambiguous about gender and sexuality and has some of the appeal factors he mentioned.

    Hope that helps!

  3. Outttakes is awesome!

  4. We are releasing a new book shortly at Pen Name Publishing, "The Before Now and After Then," that fits the description. We think you'll enjoy!



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