Molly Beth Griffin
I didn’t start writing my first novel assuming that it would actually be read by anyone but me and my graduate school advisor, and maybe the memory of my teenage self. It was an experiment in longer-form fiction taken on by a self-defined picture book writer. But the project took flight, and after years of hard work, *Silhouette of a Sparrow *hit shelves in hardcover in 2012 and then again in paperback in 2013.
Which was terrifying.
Aside from the usual trepidation of a debut novelist, I had some added fears. Why? Because although the book, to me, is a beautiful and wholesome love story about a girl transforming into the woman she wants to be, I knew that to some it could be considered baser reading material for teens than pornography. It has gay people in it. Gay people! And, you know, a little bit of sex.
And what I think is a unique and wonderful asset of the book—the fact that it is a love story and not an “issue book”—I knew might cause even more problems in the big world. People might actually pick it up not knowing that it has gay people in it! They might think it’s historical fiction, a coming-of-age novel, nature writing, and so forth, and then be shocked and appalled by its “hidden agenda.” Or something. They might even have the gall to ban it. Kissing is dangerous! Can’t let teens read about that!
But as nervous as I was about all that, I was also thrilled by it. It has always irked me that novels about queer people are almost always coming-out stories, where the actual romance takes a back seat. Thankfully there are some new ones that break this mold (my very favorites being *Brooklyn, Burning *by Steve Brezenoff, and *Every Day *by David Levithan), but *Silhouette of a Sparrow* is still in the minority. It seems obvious to me: gay teens sometimes just want to read books about other gay teens that *aren’t about being gay*. And straight teens need to see gay teens for what they are—people, with all kinds of complex issues related to and unrelated to being gay. These characters’ stories are worth reading about in their own right, by all kinds of people.
I haven’t been aware of any outright censorship of my book, so far. I’m sure that some gate-keepers have restricted access to it in quiet ways, by choosing not to include it on summer reading lists or face it out on the library shelf. But its “content” has probably inspired some adults to actively put it into the hands of a teenager—the right teenager—and then have a conversation with them about it. Some gate-keepers are swinging the gate wide open, and to them I am grateful. I never exactly intended to write for this audience, but now I’m eager to connect with them. Taking my cue from today’s queer teens and allies, I’m setting my fears aside and joining the conversation.
Molly Beth Griffin is a graduate of Hamline University’s MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults and a writing teacher at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis. Her first picture book, *Loon Baby, *came out with Houghton Mifflin in 2011, and her first YA novel, *Silhouette of a Sparrow*, was published by Milkweed Editions in 2012. *Silhouette of a Sparrow *won the Milkweed Prize for Children’s Literature and was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award, the Minnesota Book Award, and ForeWord’s Book of the Year. It was featured on ALA’s Rainbow List and the Amelia Bloomer list of feminist literature. Her next book is a picture book called *Rhoda’s Rock Hunt*, which comes out with the Minnesota Historical Society Press in October. Although her writing reaches across all age groups and genres, it all demonstrates her passion for exploring young people’s changing relationship to the natural world. www.mollybethgriffin.com