Queer Novels for All!

Written by Peggy Nemeth

California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill a few years ago requiring schools to teach history in a manner inclusive of contributing members of the LGBT community. Read about that here: http://www.cnn.com/2011/US/07/14/california.lgbt.education/

I am not a history teacher. I’m an English teacher – freshman English, specifically. So I can be more LGBT inclusive by adding historically relevant authors and English Language Arts contributors to my curriculum, which I do. But I feel I could be doing so much more, so I applied for a grant offered by the California Teachers Association to purchase LGBT-themed novels for my English classes. 

I have a variety of good novels for my students to read, including entire class sets and sets of four to read in small groups. But none of these books include characters or themes that represent the LGBT community, sending the message that queer folks don’t, or shouldn’t, exist beyond the realm of the GSA club.

I am thrilled to announce that I have received a CTA grant of $700 for the purchase of LGBT-inclusive novels for my 9th-grade English classes. Below are the books I am leaning toward purchasing.  I will heartily embrace any feedback that could help me make the best choices possible for my students, so if anyone out there has suggestions, please share!

1. Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda

This is a current, lighthearted novel about coming out and growing up. The protagonist is a high school junior who is secretly gay until his status is discovered by accident. Typical high-school drama follows, and all ends well. 

2. Boy Meets Boy

This novel is refreshing because it completely normalizes variable sexualities and gender identities in a high school setting. The star quarterback is also the homecoming queen. It’s a glimpse into a better future for LGBT youth.

3. Hero

This novel is about a superhero who has to hide more than his super powers; he also has to hide, and come to terms with, the fact that he is gay.  A nice twist to the reality genre of other LGBT-themed novels.

4. Her Name in the Sky

In this novel, the 17-year-old protagonist discovers her sexual identity, which conflicts with the world in which she was raised. She falls in love with a girl and has to decide whether to go with the flow or embrace her family’s ideals. 

5. Rumble

This novel covers a number of heavy issues including homosexuality, bullying, suicide, religion, dysfunctional parents, and forgiveness. The protagonist has to come to terms with the suicide of his gay brother under extreme circumstances.

6. Luna

In this novel, a teen transgender girl is living as a boy during the daytime and (with the help of her sister) indulging in her true self at night, in the cover of darkness and in the basement where the siblings spend much of their time. The novel provides powerful insight into the struggle of hiding one’s true gender at an age where life is already challenging enough.