LGBTQ+ YA with Diverse Characters
Characters, according to many mainstream publishers, are allowed to be diverse, provided that they are not too diverse. A teenage girl, for example, can be gay, but not gay and Asian. A child in the fifth grade can have a disability, but they can’t also be transgendered. A parent can be transgendered, but only if they’re also white. When it comes to diversity in publishing, the prevalent theory seems to be that less is more.
Now, if you’re reading The Book Wars, you likely know already that this is a load of horse manure. Human beings do not fit neatly into categories, and they certainly don’t fit into a single category at the expense of all others. People come in every shape and colour and size, with every identity and ability imaginable. Denying this reality means denying the validity of millions of people. Which, as I’ve already stated, is a load of horse manure.
And so, in the spirit of Diverse Romance month, here are just a few LGBTQ+ novels that feature diverse characters who smash constricting categories and prove that people, like ideas, are at their best when they’re outside the box(es).
- The Necessary Hunger by Nina Revoyr
As a star basketball player in her last year of high school, Nancy Takahiro’s life is about to change forever. Faced with the college recruitment process and unsure of where her skill will take her, Nancy is not prepared for meeting Raina Webber, an All-State shooting guard whose passion for basketball is matched only by her talent.
When Nancy’s father and Raina’s mother move in together, the girls are faced with the challenge of negotiating their already intense friendship and rivalry. As Nancy’s love for Raina grows and both prepare to leave inner city neighborhood that has nurtured them, they find themselves looking toward a future that is no longer easily defined.
Set against a backdrop of racial tension between the Asian American and African American communities of Los Angeles and infused with tenderness and passion. The Necessary Hunger explores not only the intricacies of the game of basketball, but also the very nature of the relationships young women create in the face of the odds that are stacked against them.
- Skim by Mariko and and Jillian Tamaki
Heartbreakingly funny, moving and vibrantly drawn, Skim is an extraordinary book–a smart and sensitive graphic novel of the highest literary and artistic quality, by and about young women.
“Skim” is Kimberly Keiko Cameron, a not-slim, would-be Wiccan goth who goes to a private girls’ school. When Skim’s classmate Katie Matthews is dumped by her boyfriend, who then kills himself, the entire school goes into mourning overdrive. As concerned guidance counselors provide lectures on the “cycle of grief,” and the popular clique starts a new club (Girls Celebrate Life!) to bolster school spirit, Skim sinks into an ever-deepening depression.
And falling in love only makes things worse…
Suicide, depression, love, being gay or not, crushes, cliques, and finding a way to be your own fully human self–are all explored in this brilliant collaboration by cousins Mariko and Jillian Tamaki. An edgy, keenly observed and poignant glimpse into the heartache of being young.
- The House You Pass on the Way by Jacqueline Woodson
Staggerlee is used to being alone. As the granddaughter of celebrities and the daughter of an interracial couple in an all-black town, she has become adept at isolating herself from curious neighbors. But then her cousin, Trout, comes to visit. Trout is exactly like Staggerlee wishes she could be: outspoken, sure of herself, beautiful. Finally, Staggerlee has a friend, someone she can share her deepest, most private thoughts with. Someone who will teach her how to be the strong girl she longs to be. But is Trout really the girl Staggerlee thinks she is?
- If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan
In this stunning debut, a young Iranian American writer pulls back the curtain on one of the most hidden corners of a much-talked-about culture.
Seventeen-year-old Sahar has been in love with her best friend, Nasrin, since they were six. They’ve shared stolen kisses and romantic promises. But Iran is a dangerous place for two girls in love—Sahar and Nasrin could be beaten, imprisoned, even executed if their relationship came to light.
So they carry on in secret—until Nasrin’s parents announce that they’ve arranged for her marriage. Nasrin tries to persuade Sahar that they can go on as they have been, only now with new comforts provided by the decent, well-to-do doctor Nasrin will marry. But Sahar dreams of loving Nasrin exclusively—and openly.
Then Sahar discovers what seems like the perfect solution. In Iran, homosexuality may be a crime, but to be a man trapped in a woman’s body is seen as nature’s mistake, and sex reassignment is legal and accessible. As a man, Sahar could be the one to marry Nasrin. Sahar will never be able to love the one she wants, in the body she wants to be loved in, without risking her life. Is saving her love worth sacrificing her true self?
- God Loves Hair by Vivek Shraya
This book features 21 illustrated short stories about a young Indo-Canadian boy growing up in Alberta and grappling with gender, sexuality, racial politics, religion and belonging. Not quite a graphic novel, each story features a striking image that captures the mood of the accompanying text. God Loves Hair takes an unconventional approach to the complex issues surrounding identity and is ultimately a celebration of youth and diversity.
- Wandering Son by Takako Shimura
The fifth grade. The threshold to puberty, and the beginning of the end of childhood innocence. Shuichi Nitori and his new friend Yoshino Takatsuki have happy homes, loving families, and are well-liked by their classmates. But they share a secret that further complicates a time of life that is awkward for anyone: Shuichi is a boy who wants to be a girl, and Yoshino is a girl who wants to be a boy.
Written and drawn by one of today’s most critically acclaimed creators of manga, Shimura portrays Shuishi and Yoshino’s very private journey with affection, sensitivity, gentle humor, and unmistakable flair and grace. Book One introduces our two protagonists and the friends and family whose lives intersect with their own. Yoshino is rudely reminded of her sex by immature boys whose budding interest in girls takes clumsily cruel forms. Shuichi’s secret is discovered by Saori, a perceptive and eccentric classmate. And it is Saori who suggests that the fifth graders put on a production of The Rose of Versailles for the farewell ceremony for the sixth graders, with boys playing the roles of women, and girls playing the roles of men. Wandering Son is a sophisticated work of literary manga translated with rare skill and sensitivity by veteran translator and comics scholar Matt Thorn.