30th October 2013 - Joanne Stapley
In 2009 Joanne Stapley from our Charing Cross Road branch created the acclaimed YA and fantasy blog Once Upon a Bookcase; in 2013 she was asked to speak at the London International Book Fair, where the blog was featured as a media partner.
Her month-long focus on teen LGBTQ titles earlier this year featured reviews and giveaways, author interviews, and guest posts from authors, fellow bloggers, academics, editors and literary inclusion campaigners. Here Joanne shares somes of the titles she discovered that month.
In July, I held LGBTQ YA Month on Once Upon a Bookcase to look at how authors write about QUILTBAG (Queer/Questioning, Undecided, Intersex, Lesbian, Transgender/Transsexual, Bisexual, Allied/Asexual, Gay/Genderqueer) identifying teens. I could gush in detail about why Don't Let Me Go by J H Trumble is absolutely amazing, how Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan is so uplifting, or how unbelievable the dystopian world of Coda by Emma Trevayne is - but as few LGBTQ YA books there are, they focus mainly on lesbian, gay and bisexual characters; there are much fewer on intersexed, transgendered, genderqueer and asexual teens. So, instead, I'm going to share with you a few of my favourites of those books.
Every Day by David Levithan is a story about a teenager who wakes up each day in the body of someone else. A has never had his own body. He lives the life of someone else every day, trying his best not to be too disruptive, living it as he thinks they would. A lives in both male and female bodies, and has no problem with this. A is genderfluid, meaning he has no fixed gender - he is neither male nor female. To him, he is both and neither at the same time. At times he's felt more like a boy and others more like a girl. Given the life A leads, Every Day is a brilliant book to help the reader understand genderfluidity. Through him, we come to understand what it means to be genderfluid, and how those who identify as genderfluid feel. Every Day is about so much more than just genderfluidity, though, and is at its heart a love story. It's the most incredible book I have ever read!
Annabel by Kathleen Winter is the story of Wayne, an intersex teen - born with both male and female sex organs. His parents decide to have Wayne operated on as a baby so that he's 'male', and is brought up as a boy, never finding out about how he was born until much later. The story focuses mostly on Wayne's teenage years; he never feels he can completely be himself. There are certain things he feels he can't do or talk about around his father, Treadway, because Treadway is seeing female traits no 'normal' boy should have. Yet Wayne's mother, Jacinta, and family friend Thomasina nurture his female side, with Thomasina calling Wayne 'Annabel' when they're alone. But as he gets older, there are medical issues and drugs Wayne has to take, and his life gets more complicated. Annabel is such a beautiful, thought-provoking story that made me think strongly about the nature versus nurture argument. What's on the outside doesn't always control what's on the inside.
a + e 4ever by Ilike Merey is a graphic novel about the friendship between Ash and Eu. Ash is an androgynous boy with a beautiful feminine face. Eu is a very tall girl with a partly shaved head and an attitude. Both are outcasts, but find friends in each other. Though primarily being about their friendship, a + e 4ever also looks at sexuality and looks at genderqueer topics. Ash's androgynous face causes him to be bullied. Not only does he look like a girl, but a beautiful girl, and the book opens with some of his fellow male students wanting to find out for sure whether Ash is male or female. It's horrific, and affects who Ash is. Eu is the first person to treat him with any kindness, and it's because of her that he's able to figure out who exactly he is. In this case, the inside can't control what's outside.
With Luna by Julie Anne Peters, Luna is a transgendered female - a girl born with a boy's body. Narrated by her sister Regan, this is the story of Luna becoming herself. Normally, it's Liam by day, Luna by night, where she comes into her sister's room and dresses up in girl's clothes and puts on make-up and is allowed to just be her. But this is no longer enough for Luna, she can't keep forcing herself away when the sun's up. Luna wants to go out in public, as a girl, in girl's clothes, going shopping with her sister, like a girl. This is Luna's coming out story, and it's absolutely wonderful.
Quicksilver by R J Anderson is a sci-fi sequel to Ultraviolet, and its main character happens to be asexual. It's not about asexuality, but Tori's asexuality - having no sexual desire whatsoever - is discussed. It comes up when it's clear that a friend of hers is attracted to her, and she has to have the discussion. Quicksilver brilliantly explains asexuality, shows us Tori's confusion over her disinterest, but without making a huge deal out of it. Such an awesome book!