I just released my debut novel, The Dark Wife, which comes out of the closet immediately when I tell you what it’s about: a YA, lesbian retelling of the Persephone/Hades myth. When sharing my happiness for the book release, I get the shifting from foot to foot, the nervous tapping of the fingers together, and–if they’re brave–the person will ask me the following question:
“Can straight people read it?”
To which I respond, yes, straight people absolutely need to read it. Not just my book, or maybe not even my book–but straight people need to read gay books.
When you see the gay rights struggle on the news, it’s often easy to relegate the GLBT to a small counter culture that’s not immediately relevant to you, or even important. People have admitted to me before that they never cared about gay rights, or even thought about gay issues, because they didn’t know anyone who was gay.
That’s not true for everyone, but it’s an important trend to notice. They didn’t care because they didn’t know. And not everyone is going to know a gay person, and last I checked, we’re not heading out on a campaign with a slogan of “A GAY IN EVERY HOUSE.” (If we are, why am I always the last to know about these things? ;D)
That’s where books come in.
A book is something that becomes personally important. Within a story, the main character (usually, hopefully) becomes someone you identify with, love, struggle with every moment they struggle.
The simple truth is: how will you know what being gay is like if you never read a gay story? How will you know what we feel, what we think, how we love and live? How are we ever going to get the rights we need, the rights we’re denied, if people think we’re completely alien to everything they understand? If you read a gay story, and you are not gay, for a few days you step into the story’s space, and you learn what it means to love someone the world might think you shouldn’t be with, how love can be so beautiful no matter who loves who, how our hearts are just the same as yours.
Books lead to culture which leads to people. Literature, at its very essence, is something that can change an entire culture. In the YA community, especially, people become deeply impassioned about books, fall in love with books. Gay, YA books have the potential to bring about an entire movement of acceptance and love. Nothing could be better.
Slowly, but surely, every day it gets better for gay teens, it gets better for gay adults, it gets better, but the world is not going to change completely unless we are heard and understood. A book, a simple, beautiful book, is the most subversive thing on the planet, because–between front and back cover–you could begin to love someone who is gay, someone you never thought about before, but someone you will now never forget. Gay rights will, in that moment, become something personal to you.
The world needs straight people to read gay stories.
Sarah Diemer is the author of The Dark Wife, released today. She blogs at muserising.com and is offering a free, pay what you can version of The Dark Wife online here. Be sure to check out her book & the gorgeous book trailer!