LGBTQIA+ reads for teens
by Jan Johnson, Teen Librarian
“Books are sometimes windows, offering views of worlds that may be real or imagined, familiar or strange. These windows are also sliding glass doors, and readers have only to walk through in imagination to become part of whatever world has been created and recreated by the author. When lighting conditions are just right, however, a window can also be a mirror. Literature transforms human experience and reflects it back to us, and in that reflection, we can see our own lives and experiences as part of the larger human experience. Reading, then, becomes a means of self-affirmation, and readers often seek their mirrors in books.” This is a famous quote by Rudine Bishop Simms that she wrote back in 1990 when she noted the need for more diverse books in children’s literature.
When we step into the world of a good book, not only do we get to immerse our self in the story, but we get to step into the shoes of the characters as they journey through their adventure. We learn empathy for their plight, and we can share in their triumphs. When the only books we are exposed to tell stories where no one looks, acts, or feels like you do, that can feel pretty lonely.
For teens, this is especially important. When we’re learning who we are and what we want to do with the rest of our lives, it’s indispensable to have stories that relate to your experiences. Reading is a safe space to find characters who you can relate to, find answers to questions about your identity, and reading also gives us space to make you think. There may be questions you have that you’re not ready to talk about, or experiences that you think are yours and yours alone. You can read a story about a life path that you might not have thought possible. Of course, it doesn’t always have to be about a similar experience. Just reading about someone who identifies like you do can be reassuring and empowering.
We have a wonderfully diverse young adult collection that is full of characters and stories for every reader. The following is but a small selection of the titles we have that focus on LGBTQIA+ characters. Whether you want to glimpse through the window of someone from the queer community to gain more understanding and empathy, or if you are looking for characters and stories that mirror your own identity, check out these titles and so much more in our young adult collection.
In “The Girl from the Sea” by Molly Knox Ostertag, fifteen-year-old Morgan has a secret: she can’t wait to escape the perfect little island where she lives. She’s desperate to finish high school and escape her sad divorced mom, her volatile little brother, and worst of all, her great group of friends…who don’t understand Morgan at all. Because really, Morgan’s biggest secret is that she has a lot of secrets, including the one about wanting to kiss another girl.
In Jake Maia Arlow’s unabashedly queer middle grade debut, “Almost Flying,” a week-long amusement park road trip becomes a true roller coaster of emotion when Dalia realizes she has more-than-friend feelings for her Raia, the new girl on the swim team.
In “All That’s Left in the World” by Erik J. Brown, a deadly pathogen has killed off most of the world’s population, including everyone that Andrew and Jamie have ever loved. The road ahead of them is long, and to survive, they’ll have to shed their secrets, face the consequences of their actions, and find the courage to fight for the future they desire, together. Only one thing feels certain: all that’s left in their world is the undeniable pull they have toward each other.
“Felix Ever After” by Kacen Callender is a revelatory novel about a transgender teen grappling with identity and self-discovery while falling in love for the first time.
In Keito Gaku’s “Boys Run the Riot” manga series, a transgender teen named Ryo finds an escape from the expectations and anxieties of his daily life in the world of street fashion.
Our collection of nonfiction books is also extensive with titles like: “The New Queer Conscience” by Adam Eli; “Out! How to Be Your Authentic Self” by Miles McKenna; “Gender Explorers” by Juno Roche; and “The Pride Guide” by Jo Langford.
Manhattan Public Library is affirming and welcoming to all members of our community. If you would like more “windows and mirrors” titles, check www.mhklibrary.org.