Books for Pride Month at CPL

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) Pride Month is celebrated each year in the month of June to honor the 1969 Stonewall Uprising in Manhattan. The Stonewall Uprising was a tipping point for the Gay Liberation Movement in the United States. Today, celebrations include pride parades, picnics, parties, workshops, symposia and concerts, and LGBTQ Pride Month events attract millions of participants around the world. Memorials are held during this month for those members of the community who have been lost to hate crimes or HIV/AIDS. The purpose of the commemorative month is to recognize the impact that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals have had on history locally, nationally, and internationally.

The library has an opportunity to be an advocate for library patrons in a number of ways, including the collections they offer. In celebration of Pride Month, we’re  highlighting four outstanding YA novels with LGTBQ themes, characters, and ideas.

First up is, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz. The story follows Aristotle, an angry teen with a brother in prison.. and Dante, a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship—the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be. Aristotle and Dante is relatable to all ages, and a breath of fresh air to the YA genre. Everyone can remember being a teen, and this book is fantastic, no matter your age, or experience.

Next up is Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli, the same author of Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda. Leah is an anomaly in her friend group: the only child of a young, single mom and her life is decidedly less privileged. She loves to draw but is too self-conscious to show it. And even though her mom knows she’s bisexual, she hasn’t mustered the courage to tell her friends—not even her openly gay BFF, Simon. So Leah really doesn’t know what to do when her rock-solid friend group starts to fracture in unexpected ways. With prom and college on the horizon, tensions are running high. It’s hard for Leah to strike the right note while the people she loves are fighting—especially when she realizes she might love one of them more than she ever intended. Albertalli’s voice as a writer shines strong, and her characters are beautifully written well-rounded characters.

If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo is a book about loving yourself, and being loved for who you truly are. Meredith Russo was born, raised, and lives in Tennessee. She started living as her true self in late 2013 and never looked back. If I Was Your Girl was partially inspired by her experiences as a trans woman. Like Amanda, Meredith is a gigantic nerd who spends a lot of her time obsessing over video games and Star Wars. Amanda is the main character in the book, and a new girl at school. Like everyone, all she wants is to make friends and fit in. But Amanda is holding back. Even from Grant, the guy she’s falling in love with. Amanda has a secret. At her old school, she used to be called Andrew. And secrets always have a way of getting out. If I Was Your Girl is important, eye-opening, thought-provoking and emotional, and a book needed in this day and age. 

Our fourth book, Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender is a brand new release, focusing on the story of Felix Love. Felix has never been in love—and, yes, he’s painfully aware of the irony. He desperately wants to know what it’s like and why it seems so easy for everyone but him to find someone.  As he navigates his complicated feelings, Felix begins a journey of questioning and self-discovery that helps redefine his most important relationship: how he feels about himself.  A quote from the book sums it up perfectly, stating ““I’m not flaunting anything. I’m just existing. This is me. I can’t hide myself. I can’t disappear. And even if I could, I don’t want to. I have the same right to be here. I have the same right to exist.”

 

Why We Need Diverse Books

screen-shot-2017-02-06-at-5-07-57-pmIn your wanderings around the internet, you may have seen references to “diverse books”, maybe even noticed the hashtag #weneeddiversebooks. What, exactly, is this all about, and how did it become a “thing”? In a Twitter exchange in 2014, YA authors Ellen Oh and Malinda Lo discussed their frustration with the lack of diversity in children’s and YA literature. Several other authors, bloggers, and others in the book industry joined the conversation, and a movement was born.
 *
 This is not a new subject. In Nobel Prize- and Pulitzer Prize-winning American jacket-aspxnovelist Toni Morrisson’s debut novel, The Bluest Eye (published in 1970), the character of Pecola Breedlove prays every day that she will wake up with white skin, blue eyes, and blonde hair, despite the fact that she is an African-American girl. She reads “Dick and Jane” books, plays with white-skinned dolls, etc., and gets the subliminal message that white is normal, better, best. Percola didn’t see herself reflected in the books she read, which lead to her assumption that she was less-than.
*
Why has diversity in literature (in particular, children’s lit) become such a cause? It has long been established that the world of fiction is a lot whiter than the real 20141021193246-wndb_infographic_squareworld. Today, so many kids and teens learn about the world through the media they consume: books, movies, magazines, etc.  As our country gets more and more diverse, shouldn’t our reading material follow suit? And it’s not only children of color,  physical challenges, or atypical family situations that benefit from diverse books. It’s a well know fact that fiction reading increases empathy in the reader, and reading about primarily white characters and culture can contribute to “otherness” and preconceived notions that turn into prejudice. How much better to foster empathy and understanding early in all children with diverse books.
*
Where to begin? Here are some books recommended by WNDB to get you started. Let’s make 2017 a diverse reading year!
Young  Adult Books:
screen-shot-2017-02-06-at-4-46-46-pmX : a Novel by Ilyasah Shabazz with Kekla Magoon
The Weight of Feathers by Anna-Marie McLemore
Killer of Enemies by Joseph Bruchac
Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older
Middle Grade Books:
screen-shot-2017-02-06-at-4-55-56-pmBlackbird Fly by Erin Entrada Kelly
The Red Pencil  by Andrea Davis Pinkney
The Way Home Looks Now by Wendy Wan-Long Shang
Picture Books:
screen-shot-2017-02-06-at-4-56-52-pmBeautiful Moon by Tonya Bolden
The Twins’ Blanket by Hyewon Yum
Tutus Aren’t My Style by by Linda Skeers
Red: a Crayon’s Story by Michael Hall