LGBTQIA+ Young Adult Literature


Introducing: #BooksToTeens

We’re thrilled to announce our new campaign: #BooksToTeens!

#BooksToTeens is a new initiative to help get more LGBTQIA+ books into the hands of teens that need them. We’ll feature a new crowdfunding project every other week on GayYA’s Twitter. Most of the projects will be donorschoose.org fundraisers, but we may branch out into Kickstarters for queer anthologies, or other similar crowdfunding pushes. Anything that will eventually help get more LGBTQIA+ books to teens! We’ll use the hashtag #BooksToTeens to promote them.

A good portion of what we do at GayYA can be boiled down to one goal: get more LGBTQIA+ YA books into the hands of the teens that need them. Since GayYA launched in 2011, publishing has made huge progress. There have been so many amazing LGBTQIA+ YA titles published over the last couple of years, books with positive and affirming representation. Yet, a cursory search on YA book tags on Tumblr shows LGBTQIA+ teens still desperately searching for books that prominently feature teens like them. That should not be the case anymore, given the hundreds of amazing titles available. For some reason, there’s a missing bridge between the books and the teens. While a multi-pronged approach is needed to resolve this issue, helping to fund these classrooms and libraries is a measurable step that we can take toward fixing it. All teens should have the opportunity to see themselves in the books that they read. For every classroom we help fund, every library we get books to, there are teens who will gain access to that opportunity; to see themselves in stories.

#BooksToTeens is inspired by the work of rockstar librarian Angie Manifredi. Several months ago, she began spearheading a push on Twitter to fund Donor’s Choose campaigns to help support classrooms that needed funding for books. Throughout the chaos of the election, it was a relief to help boost and donate to those classrooms. It felt like a measurable amount of good that we were putting out into the world.

Our first #BooksToTeens project is LGBTQ+ Library For Our School, a student-led fundraiser. They’re hoping to raise $523 in order to create a LGBTQ+ library section at their school. Let’s help them reach that!

As this is an ongoing project, we are open to fundraiser suggestions, whether it’s your project, a friend’s, or something you just stumbled across. Please email vee@gayya.org with your suggestions.

By | June 12th, 2017|Categories: Archive, Updates and Announcements|Comments Off on Introducing: #BooksToTeens

“An Anchor to Guide Them”: On the Importance of LGBTQIA+ Media

Pride Month Blogathon: Day 4 – Introduction to Pride Month Blogathon

by Kiana Nguyen 

I kissed my first girlfriend in 2011 when I was 18, and it was the first kiss that held my entire heart. I was excited, I was anxious, I was so happy to finally have them in my arms I felt close to bursting. I was so scared of finally feeling real that I wanted to run.

Kissing Casey*, who later came out as genderqueer and trans, was an experience so unreal and so right, I felt starved for the joy that rushed through me. Just minutes earlier I was running through the shoulder to shoulder crowd at NYC Pride, trying to locate the person who’d been stealing my wits for weeks on Tumblr. I’d fallen hard and quick for them, relishing the feeling of being liked back. Of being liked as a girl who was finally discovering that she wasn’t broken or lacking for not having a boyfriend or liking boys.

I did like someone and I liked Drew. I liked talking about my crush to friends in terms that fit, with pronouns that weren’t “he, him, and his.” Even if they didn’t always understand, even as I heard whispers of ‘I told you so” behind my back. I felt seen, I felt heard, and most of all I felt like myself.

When I think about why I write YA, and why I focus on queer characters, I think about Tegan and Sara (yes, that band of lesbian sisters that all gay ladies in their mid-twenties and above are obsessed with or at least know of). I was introduced to them by a friend during a particularly dismal math class. The Canadian band wasn’t my first dalliance with lesbians or queer people in the media – I grew up during the time of The L Word, after all, but for one, I saw myself in the quirky sisters. Tegan and Sara were warm and approachable, funny and down to earth. They were the first queer women that I saw parts of myself in, and I was so deeply in love with Sara that I made Tumblr to follow fan blogs, music, shows, etc.

I found my first queer spaces and made my first queer friends. I soon discovered media with gay ladies (I wasn’t incredibly intersectional at this point in my life, but also queer media is overwhelmingly cisgender and white) in relationships. IN LOVE! I quickly became obsessed with the U.K. show SKINS because of Emily and Lily, whose romance was slow and sweet and stumbling and raw. Really, thank God for Tumblr because there are so many queer people hungering for representation in media that once a television show, movie, or book drops with an inkling of queerness it will appear on your dash like a gift. Just make sure to cultivate a community of LGBTQIA+ angels! Tumblr gave us a platform to be free. Allowed us to be messy queer babies, finding out exactly who we were, exactly who we liked, exactly who we wanted to become in the safety of each others’ love and friendship. There are so many people I know from Tumblr who eventually felt safe enough to come out as trans, as asexual, as gay, etc, etc. Even if we couldn’t be out and proud in the streets of our cities, we could be in our safe space of the internet.

I think about that space and how it led me to kissing Casey* at Pride, where we were surrounded by people who loved like us, were like us, believed like us that there were better days ahead for our community. For so many of us, Pride events are the only times we can be who we are. In New York City, it’s also one of the only times queer communal spaces aren’t overwhelmingly white.

Surviving as a young gay teen (I didn’t know I was bisexual then), and a biracial one at that, was one of the loneliest things I had to do. I had little to no role models or stories to look to and hold on to during my darkest times. I didn’t even know that QPOC (Queer people of color)  was a thing! That’s why my advocacy for this community is so focused on creating and lifting up queer stories, especially those of queer people of color. I want to create characters and stories that will do for a younger teen what Tegan and Sara did for me. It’s so important to me to build an inclusive YA market and community, where gay, bi, trans, queer and Black, Asian, and Native, are more than a tossed-aside mention of a side character. I want YA protagonists that are like so many of the queer people I’ve come to know and love, like so many of the real life people that exist – so that a safe community can be made for all queer teens, whether that’s in a pocket of the internet or a book club.

So that young teens can have an anchor to guide them to the moment they can love themselves and be loved back as freely as they deserve.



Kiana Nguyen is a biracial bisexual who loves alliterated phrases. She is a YA writer who doubles as an intern and social media coordinator at Donald Maass Literary Agency. When she’s not devouring avocados, she dedicates her time to making YA fiction queerer and blacker for current and future teens. You can find her wildly off-color tweets @kianangu.

By | June 10th, 2017|Categories: Archive, Guest Blogs, Readers on Reading, Writers on Writing|Tags: , , |Comments Off on “An Anchor to Guide Them”: On the Importance of LGBTQIA+ Media

You Do Not Have to Be Good

Pride Month Blogathon: Day 3 – Introduction to Pride Month Blogathon

by Rebecca Podos

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

Wild Geese by Mary Oliver


Whenever I read this poem, my very favorite, it feels like release. From self-blame, from self-imposed atonement, from the impossible trap of trying to be “good,” whatever that abstract concept means to you.

For teenaged me, “good” meant “normal.” Normal was defined by the information I had access to, the stories I pored through searching for girls just like me, who kept an anxious and exacting math of something as unquantifiable as their own sexuality. Girls who lay awake at night, awarding themselves points for their attraction to Freddie Prinze Jr., while subtracting points for Michelle Rodriguez in Girlfight. For a large part of my life, I couldn’t find girls like me.

My hometown—a former mill town, home of the world’s first condensed milk factory, and birthplace of a famous and famously incompetent abolitionist—wasn’t ultra-conservative or close-minded, though it did go red in the last election. I was just growing up in the end of one millennium, and the beginning of another. We didn’t learn about queer history in classrooms (though we did watch a rippled VHS of “And the Band Played On” in art class.) In our one year of high school Sex Ed, we didn’t discuss queer sex or the gender spectrum, focusing instead on passionless cartoon drawings of ovaries and the epididymis.

Nobody led a moment of silence for Matthew Shepard.

Honestly, the most zealous discussion of queer subjects I can remember was a lunchroom debate over Leonardo DiCaprio, and whether or not this picture of him wearing a girl’s headband in TigerBeat meant he was secretly gay.

When I first started to wonder about sexuality, I guess I could’ve struck out and found the information for myself. We had internet—I’m not that old—but mostly, it was characterized by the crackling of our fickle dial-up, and the slow torture of the Neopets website downloading cubic centimeter by cubic centimeter, long enough that you would go to the kitchen for a Capri Sun and a pack of DunkARoos while you waited. But I would’ve had to know what questions to ask the internet, or where to ask them. It never occurred to me to Ask Jeeves, “what is a bisexual?!” and wait while the all-important answers loaded agonizingly, pixel by pixel, as I dunked my Roos.

And if there were books starring queer characters in my small school library—maybe there were a few “very special episode” style novels featuring one L or G character, though never BTQIAP+—I had no clue how to find them. We sure weren’t assigned such books for school reading, and there were no gorgeously decorated Pride Month displays. Not in our classrooms, or our small public library, or the Borders which was briefly open, but closed before the teen section became A Thing (side note: my hometown has a population of 35,000, but hasn’t had a single bookstore in years.)

Now, the landscape of YA literature has changed, and I’m so grateful. It’s been wonderful to witness the influx of LGBTQIAP+ books, from the advance guard of highly emotional coming out stories, to novels that span genres and feature young characters all across the queer spectrum, some of whom are lonely, soft, and despairing, and some of whom are and always have been totally fine with their sexuality and gender identity. Thanks to blogs like GayYA, We Need Diverse Books, Bisexual Books, and so many more (never mind the invaluable Twitter recs) these stories are more discoverable than ever. Even though I didn’t find them until my mid-twenties, when I was writing and representing YA, I owe so much to books like these.31556136

Self-acceptance also came with my own small contribution to the genre, while I was drafting Like Water. In Vanni, my main character, I wanted to write a teenager whose world isn’t upended or even troubled by the realization of her bisexuality. It’s simply expanded. There’s no angst attached to her discovery. Too busy falling in love and Googling “Bi things to do in Albuquerque,” she’s not particularly concerned about coming out, or its repercussions. Vanni’s far from the first queer character of this mold, but even so, there was a moment when I wondered, remembering my own search for identity, is this realistic? Can the process really be so painless?

To which I thought, fuck it, why can’t it be?

Reading and writing queer YA has helped me grow comfortable with myself, and with the teenager I was. The relationships I hid out of guilt growing up, and those I denied myself altogether. It’s helped me come to terms with my regrets—not for the life I’m living, because I love my marriage, my career, my friendships, and I consider myself extremely lucky. I only regret the time I wasted when I was younger, floundering around without a reflection, measuring myself against who I thought I should be, how I was supposed to feel, who I was meant to be attracted to, and whether or not I was “good.”

But as glad as I am that these stories are available to today’s teens, to you all, still this message persists in 2017: that you’re not normal, that because of who you love, because of the sex you want to have or don’t want to have, because of the gender or genders you know yourself to be, you have no place in this world. This message persists in the rhetoric of the last election season. It’s delivered by politicians who twist violent anti-LGBTQIAP+ tragedies like the Pulse shooting toward their own Islamophobic ends, while shoring up their power by leading crusades against transgender children in public school bathrooms. They work to erode our civil rights, state by state, because supposedly, it infringes upon the rights of the ignorant and the hateful and the frightened to discriminate against us. Our 45th president proposes to gut funding for HIV/AIDS prevention, reverses Obama-era protections and anti-discrimination ordinances, and surrounds himself with homophobic allies who spread this message to their bases so that he doesn’t have to, at least in so many words.

Maybe times have changed, and the internet has changed, and YA literature has changed, but the message being broadcast by the loudest and most inescapable of hateful voices remains as ever: utter bullshit.

Listen up, queer kids. I don’t know your stories yet. I don’t know about your particular loneliness, but I know with all my heart that you are not alone—there is a whole community waiting for you, with its own rich history, even if you haven’t learned it yet. And I know that the world, with its prairies and deep trees, its mountains and rivers, is so much bigger than small minds would have you believe, and that you do not have to be “good” to earn a place in it.

It already belongs to you.



Rebecca Podos is the author of THE MYSTERY OF HOLLOW PLACES, with her second YA novel, LIKE WATER, an LGBTQ contemporary, coming 10/17/17. By day, she works as a YA and MG agent at the Rees Literary Agency in Boston.



By | June 9th, 2017|Categories: Archive, Author Guest Blog, Guest Blogs, New Releases, Writers on Writing|Tags: , |Comments Off on You Do Not Have to Be Good

Interview: Tehlor Kay Mejia, author of When We Set the Dark On Fire

Pride Month Blogathon: Day 2 – Introduction to Pride Month Blogathon

unnamedIntroductions are always a bit awkward but alas, they’re kind of necessary. Lets just start with the basics shall we?

My full name is Camila Rodriguez Laureano and I’m a 20 year old bookworm living in the tiny island in the Caribbean known as Puerto Rico. My favorite genres are fantasy (urban, high, you get the drift), New Adult, Adult Historical Fiction and the occasional Contemporary novel. Most people know me as Cam on social media and I’m an active diversity advocate in all of my platforms. I think that just about covers the need-to-know basics.

Find Cam on Twitter | Instagram | Blog 

Cam: Hi Tehlor! I just wanted to say thanks again for asking me to host this interview (even if I’m a bit of a nervous mess) before we get started. I witnessed the day you announced your debut novel When We Set the Dark on Fire on twitter and there was plenty of celebration going around. What’s it like knowing your book will be out in the wild soon?

Tehlor: Hey Cam! Thank you for agreeing to host! You have excellent taste in books, so I’m honored!

Anyway, yes, my announcement day was bananas in the best possible way. There were tears involved, I’ll confess. Knowing that I’m going to have a book in the world still feels completely surreal, honestly. I’m working hard on revisions with Claudia Gabel, my editor at Katherine Tegen, and it’s been incredible so far, but I sometimes remember this is going to be a real book and it makes all those years of wondering whether it would ever happen worth it.

C: Tell us a little bit about your inspiration for your book! I know it’s set in the middle of a revolution which I admit is quite fitting considering the political climate. What drove you to write this story?

T: Yes, there’s a revolution brewing in Medio at the start of the book, which Dani eventually gets pulled into. I’d say I was definitely inspired what’s going on in our world right now. There are parallels in the book to our society’s treatment of people of color, and the harsh divide between people with privilege of various types and people without. In Dani’s world, these tensions have come to a head, and though she’s sitting in the complicated middle of the privilege spectrum, she has to really address her own privilege and the station she’s been allowed to reach despite her background. This forces her to make some really tough choices about who she wants to be as both sides start to dig in her heels, and she sees what the privileged world she belongs to is really capable of.

I was driven to dive into some of these concepts by my own activism, and have been so inspired by the real world teens I’ve seen out there fighting this fight. So many people say YA isn’t serious, or diminish what the teens who read it are interested and capable of accomplishing. I’ve seen something so different in my time with this community. I’ve seen that teen girls (especially teens of color, especially queer teens, especially teens all over the intersectional map) have the passion and drive and revolutionary spirit to take over the world. So this is a book for them, and for all the work I hope we’ll be doing together to create change.

Add WHEN WE SET THE DARK ON FIRE to your Goodreads TBR!


C: What are some fun facts you can tell us about the protagonist Dani Vargas? What can we expect from this new heroine?

T: Dani has been such a fun character to write. She’s super ambitious and driven by nature, but so far she’s been forced to apply that ambition to meet the expectations of others – the maestras at her school, her parents, her new high-society family, etc. When she starts becoming aware of the politics of the world around her, though, she channels her drive into some pretty dangerous, challenging stuff – not the least of which is falling in love with a girl she definitely shouldn’t be.

Things Dani likes: Alphabetized books, storms, the view from a good rooftop, caterpillars (don’t ask, it’s Carmen’s fault), and winning at any and everything.

Things Dani does not like: Government checkpoints, clutter, the feeling of falling, being distracted by someone’s lips and/or hair while she’s trying to plot dangerous missions, too many questions.

C: I have to ask…why YA? What is it about this genre that spoke to you more than others in the market?

T: As I mentioned before, I’m endlessly inspired by the power of teen girls. There’s a determination and fierceness in the face of being constantly overlooked and underestimated that’s so incredible. It goes double for teens of color, queer teens, and queer teens of color, who still have so little accurate or respectful representation, even in a genre that’s supposed to be written for them. It’s no secret that a lot of people look down on YA, even within the literature community, calling it a “guilty pleasure” or just dismissing it outright. But I think a dismissal of YA is a pretty thinly veiled dismissal of the power of teens – especially teen girls – and I’m super proud and grateful to join the ranks of awesome authors helping change that narrative, as well as writing for the marginalized teens who absolutely deserve to see themselves in it.

C: I know you do Tarot readings! Will we be seeing some of that magia in When We Set the Dark on Fire?

T: Yes! Without giving too much away, there’s a secret communication system within a resistance group that uses one of my favorite tarot decks and its meanings to send secret messages. Tarot is such a big part of my spiritual practice, and a cultural thing that’s been such a joy to share with some of my Latina friends. I couldn’t imagine not including it.

C: I’ve been snooping around your Patreon page and I see that you also write poetry. Do you plan on someday publishing your poetry? Or is that more of a personal form of expression?

T: Poetry was my first writing love. Right now, I’m having a blast sharing bits and pieces with the people I’m lucky enough to have supporting my Patreon, but it’s totally a dream of mine to publish a book of poems someday. For now, I content myself with reading A LOT of it. Poetry is the language of the resistance, in my humble opinion. It’s always been this beautiful way for people outside the mainstream to speak in a secret language to one other, and it definitely feeds me creatively in a way nothing else does.

C: What are your expectations for this book? Are you afraid of how people will react to your story or are you more excited than anything that it’s finally gonna be out there?

T: I honestly try not to think about it too much, or I feel like I’ll freeze. I will say that there’s a troubling tendency to expect any book by a marginalized creator to reflect their entire community’s experience, and that is something that makes me a little nervous. Despite being a fantasy, this is a Latinx story. It’s a f/f love story. And those identities have very real connotations in our society. While it’s ownvoices in both aspects, neither Latinx folks nor queer folks are a monolith, and my truth on both counts will necessarily differ from someone else’s – even if they share my identity. I just hope people remember that these communities deserve all kinds of representation. From all corners of these identities. From across the spectrum of privilege and between every intersection. Mine is one of those stories, but to truly reflect the entire experience, we need hundreds of stories, thousands, an infinite number of them.

C: Well Tehlor, I wish you all of the success in the world. A lot of people admire you so much due to your activism online and I’m sure that’ll translate wonderfully in your book. I’ll make sure to preorder my copy as soon as I’m able!

T: Thank you SO much for your insightful questions, Cam, and for your support and enthusiasm. I can’t wait to hear what you think of the book!

unnamed (1)Tehlor Kay Mejia is a YA author and poet at home in the wild woods and alpine meadows of Southern Oregon. When she’s not writing, you can find her plucking at her guitar, stealing rosemary sprigs from overgrown gardens, or trying to make the perfect vegan tamale. Her work will appear in the upcoming ALL OUT and TOIL & TROUBLE anthologies from Harlequin Teen, and her debut novel, WHEN WE SET THE DARK ON FIRE, is slated for Winter 2019 from Katherine Tegan / HarperCollins. Until then you can hang out with her on twitter (@tehlorkay) where she talks representation, Latinx issues, and generally uses too many exclamation points.


By | June 8th, 2017|Categories: Author Interview, New Releases|Tags: , , |Comments Off on Interview: Tehlor Kay Mejia, author of When We Set the Dark On Fire

Interview with the Writers of Serial Box’s GEEK ACTUALLY

Geek Actually Cover
I’ve loved serial fiction for a long time; particularly fanfiction—and now podcasts. There’s something so thrilling and maddening about being hooked on a series and having to wait for the next installment to come out. So when The Gay YA was approached about covering Serial Box’s new series Geek Actually, a diverse, geeky Sex and the City, we jumped at the chance. Serial Box is doing wonderfully innovative new things with serial fiction, and we absolutely can’t wait to see where they take this series.
We sat down with two of the writers, Cecelia Tan and Rachel Stuhler, to discuss the process of writing collaborative fiction.
What was it like working on a collaborative series? How does it differ from writing straight fiction?
It was a lot more fun than any of us expected. The characters are the sum of all of our talents and experiences, and collaborating helped us bring so much more to the table. That said, continuity was a real challenge at first. We worked on our own episodes in blocks of four, so we were writing in isolation. We then needed to come back together and streamline, taking out repetition and adding in pieces that were missing. We’ve really grown to enjoy each other and the support you don’t get when working on a solo project.
How do you think fandom and geek culture is evolving?
RS: Geek culture has always been inclusive, but I feel we’re entering a wonderful new, expanded era of diversity, where we can hear and tell stories from so many different viewpoints. And as geek moves further into the mainstream, more and more people find they identify with our ideals and ideas. We’re getting bigger, better, and stronger every year, and closer than ever to having our imagination lives be as diverse as the world we live in.
What advice would you give for geek girls who may not know where they fit in in a largely white-cis-male dominated industry?
RS: I’m not being dismissive in any way, but I would say, don’t worry about what the men are doing. I grew up in a family of only women, and it never occurred to me that, as a woman, I was “restricted” from any job or interest. This isn’t to say sexism isn’t there – it absolutely is, and I was shocked when I first entered the entertainment industry and ran up against it. But because I didn’t expect resistance, I moved forward in my life and career without being concerned about it.
And the truth is, every white male cisgender story or game may not be for you. That’s okay. It’s a great big world of geek and I swear, your tribe is in there somewhere. And if you feel your story is missing, tell it yourself!
It’s so thrilling to have a queer, diverse Sex in the City-esque series for readers. Was it as fun to work on as it is to read? 
RS: It was a ton of fun to work on! Geek Actually gives voice to so many struggles we’ve faced in our own lives, things that we haven’t necessarily had the room to discuss in our individual work. These women speak with the words of the four of us, our friends, our family. It was freeing to open up and let it all out.
Geek Actually E1 WTFWhich character do you identify with most?
RS: For me, it’s a tie between Christina and Michelle. Christina because I spent a lot of years working on film sets; many of her everyday experiences mirror my own. But in terms of ambition, I’m more Michelle. I can be pretty high strung when it comes to work (and I hate that!) and I am a bit of a perfectionist.
The truth is, we all saw a little bit of ourselves in each of these characters. They aren’t one-to-one representations of the writers, but an amalgam of who we are – and frankly, who we’d like to be.
Cecelia Tan: For me it’s Michelle some of the time: if I’d kept my day job in book publishing instead of quitting to become a full-time writer in the 90s, that’d be me. Instead, I followed more of Aditi’s path, where my characters are my kids. But when I really let myself nerd out, deep in my heart I’m Elli. All I want to do is put on my cosplay and debate the lack of queer representation in Harry Potter. For example.
You can start reading Geek Actually today at Serial Box! We’re so thrilled for this series and for more diverse representation.
Rachel Stuhler was a writer on Hallmark Channel’s “McBride” series and has written on a dozen more movies for television, including Lifetime’s popular Kristin’s Christmas Past and the TV adaptation of Janette Oke’s Love Takes Wing. In 2015, her first novel, Absolutely True Lies, was released by Touchstone. Follow her on Twitter @rachelstuhler.
Cecilia Tan has written many books including the award-winning Slow Surrender, Daron’s Guitar Chronicles, and The Prince’s Boy. Her upcoming urban fantasy series with Tor Books launches in August 2017 with the first book, Initiates of the Blood. Tan has edited over 50 anthologies of erotica. Her short fiction has appeared in Ms. Magazine, Asimov’s Science Fiction magazine, and Best American Erotica, among others. Follow her on Twitter @ceciliatan. 
By | June 7th, 2017|Categories: Archive|Comments Off on Interview with the Writers of Serial Box’s GEEK ACTUALLY