Recently, fellow author and friend, Brigid Kemmerer and I were discussing how we’ve both gotten some reviews on our books that included something along the lines of: “I hadn’t realized there was gay material in this book. I wish I had been warned.”
Warned. Okay. Right-o.
Nevermind everything else in the book that should be a lot more astonishing. There are people who are unhappy because two people of the same gender locked lips.
This was particularly puzzling when it happened to me with HUSHED. When review copies went out, the blurb went along with it. The blurb for HUSHED is pretty straight-forward about what you can expect. A same-sex relationship, murder, abuse, and very dark themes. Overall, not a book you’d give to your ten year old.
A few reviewers wrote back to my editor stating, “I didn’t realize this was a male/male book! I’m not interested in reading it.” This was baffling considering they had the blurb to begin with. No complaints about the hetero sexual content, or the violence and blood and the moral grayness of Archer, the main character. Because his love interest was a guy…that suddenly made the book unreadable.
Don’t get me wrong. While, ideally, everyone in all the world would be a-okay with homosexual relationships presented in our books, television, movies, etc., that isn’t how it is. I understand this as being a (very sad) fact of life. I understand certain people do not have an interest in reading a book with a homosexual character, especially a main protagonist.
What I will loudly protest, however, is slapping a book with a very low rating and bitching about it simply because it had something you, personally, did not like as a topic, likely without even finishing the book. Oh, this has a rape scene? Automatic one star. This has an abusive relationship? One star, I can’t stand that. Gay protagonist? Ugh! One star, I’m not reading this crap.
I mean, really, what?? That’s like going to see a comedy and then complaining that there were too many jokes! It’s one thing to complain about how something was executed, but that isn’t what these people are doing.
I know as a YA and NA author of LGBT fiction, these are just the kinds of hurdles we all face. It’s not a perfect world, and not everyone is as accepting as we’d like them to be, even within the book industry. I will forever appreciate those who step out of their comfort zones to read my books, and I know they exist. I’ve had numerous reviews saying they had never read a gay protagonist in a book before HUSHED, and that they truly enjoyed it and will read more in the future. This statement makes me so ridiculously happy.
The point of this post being: chin up! Writing—or even reviewing, reading, whatever—gay fiction, especially of the YA variety, is not an easy path to travel. But it’s so immensely worth it. A few months back, I received an email from someone who is gay, and lives in a country where that is very much not okay, and they told me they’ve considered suicide at times and that reading SUICIDE WATCH really helped them and touched a chord with how they felt. To think that something I wrote was capable of having that effect on someone was truly amazing.
That, my friends, is a huge perk to doing what I do. And despite the hate and judgment I sometimes get, I wouldn’t trade it for anything.