Does everyone know what very very special day it is today?!!
That’s right! It is the day before my nephew’s birthday!!!!
Okay, but really it is—-
NATIONAL COMING OUT DAY!!!!
And I have something to say…. Are you ready?
I…… Love….. books.
Women and books.
Not necessarily in that order.
But really. Happy National Coming out day. If you are interested in my coming out story it is here. And kind of hilarious. No really.
In Honor of National Coming Out Day I’m going to talk about books with gay kids in them. Ready? Awesome.
First up is the one I am currently most pumped about.
House of Hades by Rick Riordan.
I am a long time fan of these books and Riordan’s writing in general. (Check out his adult mystery novels because they are awesome!) One of my favorite things about these books is the diversity that Riordan showcases. Leo is Hispanic. Frank is Chinese/Canadian. Hazel is black. Piper is Native American. Considering that the demigods come from all over the country it makes sense that they’d be ethnically diverse.
Riordan writes this diversity really well. Each character’s background informs who they are in an honest way. It’s not just “look I have a black kid and a Chinese kid.” The kids all have different strengths that come from their godly parentage and their ethnic background. It’s part of who they are in an authentic way. I think it is SO IMPORTANT in YA books to do this, and Riordan does it well. All that was missing was the inclusion of queer kids, and for the past several years I’ve been all “Come on Rick, put in a queer kid” And then House of Hades came out and I’m reading and… NICO IS GAY!!!!
This is really exciting to me guys. First of all, it makes sense, it totally lines up with Nico’s character and how he has acted in the previous books. Second, it is a risk for an author to do this. It shouldn’t be a risk, but it is. Already I’m seeing bullshit online from people who are all “How could you write this sick twisted gross liberal propaganda in books for middle school kids I am never buying anything you write ever again.” Riordan had to know that would happen. And he did it anyway.
Now I feel like there is a line to be walked because when straight allies do things like write songs or publish books with gay kids I get conflicted because I don’t think people should expect a fucking cookie for something they are supposed to do –aka being a decent human being who includes all kinds of humans in writings. And I’m all what about Malinda Lo and Emily Danforth and all the other authors that are not nearly as well known that write about gay kids and aren’t as successful when they should be grrrrrr. But at the same time I have to recognize that Riordan probably had more to lose by this move than he gained by exciting us pro-queer people. Also he has not been all “LOOK AT ME I AM SO AWESOME CUZ I WROTE A GAY KID” which is nice. He doesn’t appear to expect a cookie. Which is refreshing.
And this is a series that lots and lots of kids read. So for them to read a character who struggles with who he is, and when he comes out, his friend has this reaction:
“Nico knelt and picked it up. He regarded Jason, as if waiting for an attack. “If the others found out—” “If the others found out,” Jason said, “you’d have that many more people to back you up, and to unleash the fury of the gods on anybody who gives you trouble…. Nico,” he said gently, “I’ve seen a lot of brave things. But what you just did? That was maybe the bravest.”
That is Awesome! Exposing kids to positive reactions to homosexuality in any way shape or form—I’m very pro that. So haters can hate I am a HUGE fan of this development and am really looking forward to see what Riordan has in store for Nico in the next (and final) book of the series.
Also these books are amazing and everyone should read them immediately:
- Ask the Passengers by A. S. King: I love that Astrid fights against labels. She has this great speech about why can’t we all just love who we do why do we have to put a label on it and confine everyone into boxes? She also has an up and down relationship with her friend that I think is really honest. Also she gets to do a Socratic debate for her philosophy class about “Nobody’s perfect”
- I am J by Cris Beam: This book made me feel ALL THE FEELINGS. It really made me feel like I got inside J’s head. I am very comfortable in my identity as cisgender and so it was amazing to get a glimpse into the viewpoint of someone who is trans*. Everyone should read it. Literally everyone.
- Ash by Malinda Lo: this is a Cinderella story with an Asian twist where Ash is actually in love with the Huntress instead of the Prince. For all of us who grew up unable to identify with the people in the fairy tales, Lo is like I CAN FIX THAT! It’s beautifully written and so refreshing to live in a world where being gay is no big deal.
- Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan: I love that this book covers a lot of ground. There is the closet case kid and also the super gay kid who is totally fine with who he is. And I love that it is mostly about friendship, much more than romance. It’s about being a good friend and the importance of that relationship. And also contains the quote: “When things break, it’s not the actual breaking that prevents them from getting back together again. It’s because a little piece gets lost — the two remaining ends couldn’t fit together even if they wanted to. The whole shape has changed.”
- The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth: I love literally everything about this book. I want to be Cameron’s best friend. I love her voice. I love her perspective. I love that every single character is real, that even when you hate them because of what they are doing you understand why they are doing it. I love that nothing is portrayed as black and white, that no one is totally evil. I identify so strongly with Cameron that it is hard to write coherently about it. But read it. Right now. And then read it again.
- Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz: I love the way this all unfolds. I love how Ari’s parents react to him. I love how beautifully Ari and Dante’s relationship develops. It is sweet and amazing.
And because I’m such a librarian I can’t help myself, links to information about LGBTQ in YA lit and some more recommendations. Because if you are coming out — to yourself, to others, whatever– or know someone who is, or just WANT TO KNOW THINGS BECAUSE YOU ARE A HUMAN WHO WANTS TO BE A PERSON — these are some resources for you.