On Beyond Stonewall: Young Adult Literature with LGBTQ Content

On Monday, October 3, 2011, over fifty students, staff and community members gathered to hear Dr. Christine Jenkins speak on the topic of the history of LGBTQ in young adult literature at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, MN. Titled “On Beyond Stonewall: Young Adult Literature with LGBTQ Content,” Dr. Jenkins took the audience back to 1969, when the first novel was published (I’ll Get There. It Better Be Worth the Trip) and discussed the developments of the literature since then up through the present day. Through Dr. Jenkins’ talk, we learned about the development – glacial though its pace may be – of young adult literature with LGBTQ content, and whether or not and to what extent it provides meaningful and accurate reflections for young people.

LGBTQ Literature!After her talk, students and other attendees browsed through over 100 LGBTQ YA books that were displayed on the stage. It was quite striking to see a visual presentation of the growth of the literature over the years. The organizers of the event (me – assistant professor Sarah Park and my student assistant Laura Camp) created placards indicating the decades in which the books were published: 1 in 1969, a handful in the 1970s; a handful more in the 1980s and 1990s, and then an explosion in the 2000s. Audience members repeatedly commented on how wonderful it was to see this visual representation and to be able to look through so many of the books.

In an effort to get more of our students involved in YALSA, we displayed YALSA posters on the walls and placed flyers and other materials alongside refreshments prepared by members of the St. Kate’s Library and Information Science program.

Dr. Jenkins, an associate professor at the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, has written extensively about LGBTQ YA literature. She is the co-author (with Michael Cart) of The Heart Has Its Reasons: Young Adult Literature with Gay/Lesbian/Queer Content, 1969-2004(Scarecrow Press, 2006).Christine Jenkins

The event was hosted by St. Catherine University’s Master of Library and Information Science Program.

Posted on behalf of Sarah Park, Ph.D.

The morning began with Michael Cart giving an overview of some of the important social and political events related to LGBTQ issues. Next, Cart and Christine Jenkins presenting a list of all of the books with LGBTQ content from 1969 to 2010. They booktalked many of these, highlighting some trends (resolution by automobile crash, melodrama, impossibly good looking gay men and the women who love them), the breakthrough books, and the real dingers. It was like being back in library school, taking a class on LGBTQ YA Lit, but it was compressed. If you want to spend more time with these books and these issues, check out Cart and Jenkins’ book from Scarecrow Press, The Heart Has It’s Reasons.

If you get your hands on their bibliography and were not in attendance, please note that this is not a list of recommended books. Some are good and some are not so good. During introductions, we each chose books from the list to highlight. Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan and Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and Levithan got the most nods, along with the graphic novel Skim by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki. Please add your own recommendations in the comments. Read More →