Monday, May 7, 2012

LGBTQ Individuals in Young Adult Literature

It's finally summer! I am so happy to be finished, and happy to finally catch up on reading I've wanted to do all year. Before we can start on the new stuff, there's some books that I read at the end of the year that we need to catch up on. For my final paper in Children's Lit, I read three books, analyzing how the portrayal of LGBTQ characters in young adult literature has changed from the first publication of a book with a gay character in the 1960s to today. I was interested to find out while these portrayals have improved greatly since the 60s, there are still improvements that need to be made.


The three books that I read for this paper were I'll Get There. It Better be Worth the Trip by John Donovan, Bad Boy by Diana Wieler, and Putting Makeup on the Fat Boy by Bil Wright. I'll Get There was published in 1969, and is considered the first young adult book published with a gay character. It follows the story of Davy, a thirteen-year-old boy who is forced to live with his alcoholic mother after his grandmother passes away. He moves to New York, where he doesn't have many friends, until he meets Altschuler. The two become close friends, and eventually develop a romantic relationship. It is definitely a good look at how society viewed LGBTQ individuals at the time.


Bad Boy was published in 1989, and follows the story of A.J. and Tully, two friends who finally make the triple-A hockey team after trying out for years. A.J. doesn't think anything could go wrong, until he finds out that Tully is gay. This sends A.J. into confusion, while Tully struggles with the fact that he is gay. This book also shows how society viewed LGBTQ individuals at the time, showing that while society has become more progressive (since Tully is eventually accepted, unlike Altschuler), there is still a long way to go, because Tully is still afraid of how he will be treated in the greater society, outside of friends and family.


Putting Makeup on the Fat Boy is definitely the most progressive of the three books, since it was published in 2011. It follows the story of Carlos, who just wants to become a well-known makeup artist. But little does he know how cut-throat the business is. In this novel, Carlos is generally accepted because of his sexuality, which is assumed right from the beginning of the story. It isn't a coming out story, like I'll Get There or Bad Boy. This shows society's progression, that these individuals are becoming more accepted, because in the novels, characters are allowed to be openly gay.

While the three novels show the upward progression of LGBTQ rights in the United States, because each gay character in the three novels, Davy, Tully, and Carlos, are each allowed to show a little more of their sexuality and are each a littler more accepted at time wears on, I found there are still areas that need to be improved on. The first I found was while more and more book publishers are publishing books with these kinds of characters, there are some publishers that are not. Reading this article may surprise you in that two authors were told to "straighten" a gay character that was in their novel before it could be published. Another area that LGBTQ literature needs to improve on is including more than just white, male, gay characters. Most of the literature in this area focuses on these kinds of individuals, and this area of literature needs to include more female and diverse LGBTQ characters in its midst. This has gotten better over the years, but is still something that could be improved on. I think, as LGBTQ individuals continue to gain more rights in the United States, this trend in literature will follow.

Well, I could probably go on and on about this topic (since I did write a 12 page paper about it), but I should probably stop there. I've got other books to read! I'm currently reading two books (I know, breaking my own rule. But I'm borrowing a book from someone, so I think that makes it okay) Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin, and Froi of the Exiles by Melina Marchetta. So until next time, happy reading! :)

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