Wednesday, March 23, 2011

PR Special Edition (27 Part 1): Nora Olsen Guest Post

 Poisoned Rationality Special Edition

Welcome to another Poisoned Rationality Special Edition!  Today we have Nora Olsen author of The End: Five Queer Kids Save the World and I'll be splitting this Guest Post up into two days.  Today Nora talks about some of the original teen LGBTQ books, as well as some newer trends in LGBTQ teen fiction today.

Synopsis:  When World War Three breaks out, seventeen-year-old Julia is on a school trip to Amsterdam, while fourteen-year-old Marly is trapped in a prison for delinquent girls. They both discover magical amulets, and try their best to save themselves and those around them. But it looks like their best will not be enough, as nuclear war threatens the survival of the human race. On her journey home to New York, Julia is joined by three other queer teens and the mysterious and alluring Ginger; lipstick lesbian Vikki; and five-thousand-year-old Skilly, who has an amulet that grants him eternal life. When Julia and Marly meet, they are immediately attracted to each other. But romance has to take a back seat as the five friends learn the true powers of the amulets. Can they travel through time to save the world from total destruction?

Gay Teens Are The New Vampires

Okay, who's read Fat Vampire by Adam Rex? It's my absolute favorite vampire book.

I've been thinking about this part, where the main character Doug thinks:
"[Gay people] were always popping up in shows and movies and in the books he read. They used to be comic relief, but at some point it was like you weren't allowed to laugh anymore, and the characters were Very Serious. Their whole character would be about them being gay, and how serious and unfunny and also completely normal it was. In each new book, there seemed to be one or two."
Doug is a dolt, but he's still a loveable character. And I bet there are real people out there (who are not vampires) who are thinking the same thing. There have been a lot of popular YA novels recently with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) main characters. (Think of Passing Strange in the Generation Dead series; Will Grayson, Will Grayson; and Almost Perfect). I'm here to fill you in on why this trend is happening and why it makes me so happy.

The first gay YA novel ever was I'll get there. It better be worth the trip by John Donovan in 1969. The first lesbian YA novels were Happy Endings Are All Alike by Sandra Scoppetone and Hey, Dollface! by Deborah Hautzig, both published in 1978. They're all great reads, and I think they stand the test of time. These books were revolutionary in that they depicted queer main characters a) at all and b) in a positive light . But, like a lot of books about marginalized people, something bad has to happen to the queer characters, they suffer tragically, and the relationships usually don't last. (Uh, sorry for the spoilers!)

As time went on, more YA books began to appear with LGBTQ main characters, and they began to have more upbeat storylines. (Some classics are Annie on My Mind by Nancy Garden, Keeping You a Secret by Julie Anne Peters, and Rainbow Boys by Alex Sanchez.)

It's so cool that LGBTQ teens can see themselves reflected in the pages of novels. Although being gay is awesome, growing up gay can still be a tough experience when families aren't accepting or schools allow bullying to run rampant. During this school year, a dozen American teenagers died by suicide after being
tormented by homophobic bullying (and those are just the stories that made it into the newspaper.) For young people who are struggling against prejudice and isolation, reading a book with a queer character can be a life-changing experience.

"Okay," you may say, "So it's really meaningful for the gays to read these books; what about the other 90% of the population?" Well, not to get all guidance counselor-y on you, but reading about people who are different from you makes you better prepared to navigate a world that is awesomely diverse. Who wants to be the
only kid freshman year in college who doesn't know what "sexual orientation" means? Or the shmoey guy who inadvertently offends people just because he truly doesn't know any better?

I agree with Doug the vampire about one thing. Sometimes I get tired of Very Serious gay themed books.

Part 2 will be posted tomorrow and Nora will be discussing the Walter Dean Meyers book that changed her outlook and what recent YA novels she's enjoyed featuring LGBTQ protagonists!

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