As a librarian and a blogger, I want to be able to purchase, read and promote excellent books. The first step is finding those books. That would seem easy enough, but I also want to make sure that I’m finding a wide range of quality stories providing windows and mirrors for readers. This is where it gets more complicated. We read through a lens of our own experiences and that certainly affects what we see or don’t see as we read.
I’m on a journey as a reviewer, librarian, and obviously a human being. I make mistakes – lots of mistakes, but I want to learn from them and move forward. Last year, Malinda Lo wrote an illuminating essay entitled Diversity Perceptions in Book Reviews. In the essay, Lo pointed out “not all reviews discuss diversity in a skillful way.” This essay was a reminder to read and review carefully – particularly when reading outside my own life experiences. One of the ways to become better at reading and reviewing critically is to educate myself. As a person who is not LGBTQIA, there are many things I don’t know and haven’t experienced. One solution is to find helpful resources for increasing my knowledge.
Here are some of the best resources I’ve found along the way:
Dahlia Adler’s list of LGBTQIAP+ Books By and About People who Identify as LGBTQIAP+
Lauren Barack’s article in School Library Journal “LGBTQ and You: How to Support Your Students”
GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network)
Malinda Lo’s Guide to LGBT YA
Angie Manfredi’s guest post on The Gay YA “How to Make Your Library a Safe Space for Queer Teens”
Here are some suggestions if you are interested in learning more too:
- Read lots of LGBTQIA books. I’ve done that to a certain extent in the past, but this year to push myself, I’m also participating in the LGBTQIA Reading Challenge hosted by Pretty Deadly Reviews. Some of the resources above include fantastic reading lists.
- There are many LGBTQIA people on Twitter and other social media (see Dahlia’s list). Seek out reviews to see what LGBTQIA readers think about books with LGBTQIA characters. Almost Perfect was a book that gave me pause. Well, it flat out made me angry multiple times as I imagined a transgender youth reading some of the text. I searched out some reviews and also found this informative essay on Gay YA “The “Acceptance” Narrative in Trans YA.”
- Make local connections. Is there a local Pride Center or something like that in your community? Are there GSAs in the local schools or universities? They will likely have many resources available.
Want to promote LGBTQIA books?
- Purchase them. Money speaks to publishers. To encourage the publication of more LGBTQIA materials, we need to buy them.
- After buying them (or requesting your library to do so), promote them. Even short reviews can help get the word out. If you work in a library, be sure to display the books. Buying them isn’t enough. They have to be visible so patrons know they exist. LGBTQIA books can be in thematic displays or booklists of many types. If the topic is science fiction, you could include Lizard Radio by Pat Schmatz, Proxy by Alex London, Adaptation by Malinda Lo and More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera.
I work in an elementary level library so I obviously don’t have YA there, but am definitely buying, displaying and booktalking LGBTQIA materials like George by Alex Gino, Better Nate Than Ever by Tim Federle, I Am Jazz by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings, and This Day in June by Gayle E. Pitman among others. Some librarians may be concerned about parent or community objections to these materials, but students need these materials to be available. Getting into an intellectual freedom dispute may be uncomfortable for adults, but students having access to these materials is essential, so for me there’s no question as to whether I will provide them or not.
Earlier I called this a journey. It’s not always easy, but it’s totally worth the work. I want my students and readers of my blog posts to have access to amazing titles of all types and be able to find those windows and mirrors they need and want.
Crystal Brunelle is a Teacher Librarian at Northern Hills Elementary School in Onalaska, WI and co-founder of the YA blog Rich in Color. She also has a personal book blog, Reading Through Life and may be found on Twitter @librarygrl2.