ASU professor selects 6 essential readings by, for and about LGBTQ youth
June is Pride Month, a time to commemorate the people, places, and events that have catalyzed change for the LGBTQ community.
Arched by the history of the 1969 Stonewall Uprisingthe month-long celebration draws attention to LGBTQ culture – including artists, creators and authors – and it can be a space of affirmation for members of the LGBTQ community, especially among struggling young people again for identity and acceptance.
Jim Blasingame, an internationally renowned young adult literature scholar and professor in ASU’s Department of English, says highly acclaimed literature can be helpful in addressing these issues.
“Research tells us that reading fiction increases the capacity for compassion and imagination,” Blasingame said. “Educators around the world agree that students should read about characters that reflect their own personal identity, as well as characters that are different from themselves, so that they embrace their own selves and feel compassion for them. people who are different from them.”
To learn more about the stories and characters that have helped build compassion and trust among LGBTQ youth, we asked Blasingame to share a list of resonant reading recommendations. He selected the books below from the American Library Association’s Rainbow Project Book List and explained his reasons for choosing them.
“Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard: The Hammer of Thor”
The second book in Rick Riordan’s “Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard” series continues the adventures of Boston teenager Magnus Chase and his friends as they attempt to retrieve the magic hammer belonging to Thor, the god Norse thunder, before it falls. in the wrong hands.
The story introduces a new teenage character, Alex Fierro, who is fluid and also Loki’s daughter who, according to Norse myths, could change gender at will. Like Loki, Alex can also choose gender in the moment as well as shapeshift into animals. After meeting on the streets of Boston when they were both homeless, Magnus and Alex team up to stop Alex’s mother, Loki, from using Thor’s hammer for ultimate evil, causing Ragnarok , the end of the universe.
The American Library Association has called the character of Alex de Riordan a “hero” and representative of “vast genre possibilities for future generations”, according to Blasingame. And Riordan himself ranks high with Blasingame, who calls the author “the pied piper of teenage literature”, noting Riordan’s authorship of the Disney hit Percy Jackson series Hyperion and affinity from Disney to turn Riordan’s books into movies.
One of author Jeff Garvin’s many books on The Rainbow Project’s list of books, the award-winning “Symptoms of Being Human” revolves around Riley Cavanaugh, a gender-fluid teenager who describes himself as sometimes a man, sometimes a girl. woman, sometimes both and sometimes neither, according to Blasingame.
Riley speaks to the reader through a blog – an activity started under the advice of a therapist after someone threatened to take Riley out, who has never shared her changing identity and orientation with her parents, whose one is a well-known politician.
Blasingame quotes renowned young adult literature expert Michael Cart, who described Garvin’s “Symptoms of Being Human” as “one of the first books for young adults to deal with the complex issue of gender fluidity” in a review for Booklist. Carter says Garvin avoids references to Riley’s assigned birth sex throughout the book to “emphasize the dynamic nature of the situation.” This, he says, “means avoiding personal pronouns, a device which some readers will find frustrating but which nevertheless underscores readers’ instinct to put individuals in a box”.
The winding road of self-discovery and love begins with an untangled family life for ninth-grader Angie in EE Charlton-Trujillo’s young adult reader “Fat Angie,” says Blasingame.
Angie lives in a dysfunctional, drug-heavy family whose unraveling seems to have begun when Angie’s athletic superstar sister, a local hero, enlists in the military rather than take a basketball scholarship, and ends up miss in battle. Angie desperately misses her sister and suffers a nervous breakdown, but her life takes a turn when a new girl named KC Romance comes to town. Angie and KC become an item.
“This book addresses multiple issues facing millions of teens every day, including gender identity and sexual orientation, mental illness, teen suicide, bullying, and first love,” says Blasingame. It also made the author Charlton-Trujillo a winner of several awards.
Ever since his first outing in eighth grade in his progressive hometown of Boulder, Colorado, Rafe Goldberg has been “the gay kid,” says Blasingame, describing the narrative in Bill Konigsberg’s book “Openly Straight.” The term “gay”, says Blasingame, has become attached “like a tattoo” to the book’s central character. No matter what he does, including actions his sexual orientation has no bearing on, people begin by acknowledging that he is the “gay football player” or the “gay writer.”
When Rafe leaves Boulder to attend a prestigious all-boys prep school in Massachusetts, he’s intent on no longer being openly gay, but rather keeping his sexuality a secret and proving to himself that he’s more than “the ‘gay child’. find out at the Natick school if he really has the skills to do it without favoritism.
Flipping the script on the coming-out experience is unique and effective, says Blasingame of “Openly Straight” from Königsberg. The book won the Sid Fleischman Award for Humor in 2014. It also made the Young Adult Library Services Association’s list of Best Young Adult Fiction in 2014.
“Some Assembly Needed: The Not-So-Secret Life of a Transgender Teenager”
A memoir about transgender self-discovery, Blasingame describes “Some Assembly Required: The Not-So-Secret Life of a Transgender Teen” as “often funny, brutally candid, and sometimes heartbreaking.”
Born Emerald Andrews with the assigned gender of female, Arin Andrews knew he was not female. After Arin’s suicide attempt convinces his mother that Arin truly feels like a man trapped in a woman’s body, she gives him her full support as he begins to change gender.
According to Blasingame, surgery, hormone injections and first love (with a transgender girl) make Arin’s true story so powerful, especially when read in combination with the side story of the transgender girlfriend. from Arin’s “Rethinking Normal”.
“Publisher’s Weekly” described Andrews’ book as “a courageous book that deals with complicated and sensitive subjects honestly and, at times, with humor.”
“Rethinking normality: a memoir in transition”
Blasingame says memoirist Katie Rain Hill lived a teenage life much like her future boyfriend, Arin Andrews.
In her book ‘Rethinking Normal: A Memoir in Transition’, Katie recounts her life journey, which began as Luke, assigned male at birth, and nearly ended in a self-induced suicide attempt. through struggles against gender dysphoria and cruel treatment by family, classmates and school officials.
Her only advocate, her mother, helped Katie through a legal name change, genital reconstruction and counseling.
Blasingame calls it an important book for young readers struggling with identity. He says Hill’s book includes facts trans youth need to know and a set of tips for talking to transgender people.
James Blasingame is a former Executive Director, Past President and Past Editor of the National Council of English Teachers’ Assembly on Teen Literature and has four decades of experience working with LGBTQ authors and books. . He is also Chairman of the Board of the Arizona Humanities Council, the state chapter of the National Endowment for the Humanities.
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