Tag Archives: MG

Better Know an Author: Kheryn Callender

It’s one thing to debut with a great addition to queer kidlit canon, particularly one that fills a huge gap, and with something beautifully written, no less. It’s another to do it in both Middle Grade and Young Adult in the same damn year. But that’s exactly what this month’s featured author, Kheryn Callender, is doing with their 2018, and trust me when I say you wanna be along for the ride.

You, Kheryn Callender, have had A Year! I’m gonna be greedy and jump ahead to your next release, because lord knows I am dying for everyone else to read the incredibly cute glory of This Is Kind of an Epic Love Story. What can you share about it, and what’s your absolute favorite thing in it?
 
Thank you so much, that really means a lot! In Epic Love Story, Nathan Bird is afraid of letting himself fall in love–to him, happy endings only belong in rom-coms, not in real life–but his resolve against romance is tested when a long-lost childhood best friend, Oliver James, returns to town. Lots of cuteness ensues. 🙂

My absolute favorite thing in the novel? I’m pretty proud of the intersectionality, and seeing brown queer people in love and unapologetically happy. It makes my heart soar whenever I re-read the book, and is a love letter to myself and my QPOC sibs in a lot of ways: we absolutely deserve epic love stories, too.

Labels are conspicuously absent in Epic Love Story, which I imagine was a conscious choice. Is shifting away from labels something you’d like to see more of, or was it more of a “right for your characters” situation?

Glad you caught that! It was definitely a purposeful choice to shift away from labels in the book.

Labels are a source of pride for me, personally, and a way to connect with others who are also queer, trans, and/or nonbinary, for example. But when I’m around my community of QPOC friends and self-made family, we never really talk about labels. It’s understood, and generally unsaid, that one person can be into another regardless of gender identity. If we talk about labels, it’s usually for the sake of non-queer folk around us.

This is Kind of an Epic Love Story is set in a perfect world, where there’s no anti-queer climate for the characters to worry about (or racism, for that matter)—where labels aren’t necessary, because the idea of queer sexuality isn’t groundbreaking. This is what I hope is a perfect escape for QPOC readers, since we already deal with so much homophobia and racism in our every day lives.

Of course, you also released a Middle Grade this year, the wonderful Hurricane Child, which is a standout for so many reasonsa queer girl of color, a Caribbean setting… What has response to the book been like, and who’s your dream reader for it?

The response to Hurricane Child has been amazing. I really never dreamed that it would receive the level of love and support its gotten, which I’m so incredibly grateful for.

My dream reader is ultimately anyone who feels alone and isolated, and reads and feels empowered by Caroline Murphy and her journey to be herself—that she deserves to exist, and deserves to be happy, no matter what. Whenever I need a reminder of that myself, I just take a look at the cover, and that powerful expression on Caroline’s face.

You also somehow managed to be an editor at Little, Brown among all this, which is just wild to me. What drew you to the queer titles you worked on as an editor, and what would you like to see more of?

Well, the main queer title I worked on during my time at LBYR was Ashley Herring Blake’s Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World, which to this day remains one of the most beautiful middle grade novels in existence. Ashley is such a talented author, and I know she’ll blow everyone away with her second MG novel, The Mighty Heart of Sunny St. James, which is out in March 2019 (I know, I know, such a long wait…)

As for what I’d like to see more of, I did want to see more queer MG books, and I do think that there’s still such a large gap to fill, but I’ve also been so uplifted by the number of recent queer MG books (such as Jen Petro-Roy’s P.S. I Miss You, Barbara Dee’s Star CrossedOne True Way by Shannon Hitchcock, and more)…

Right now, my focus is on seeing more intersectionality. I’d love to see more queer people of color as main characters, in all sorts of novels—and especially more rom-coms where the only tension is if the main character and love interest are going to make out or not, and where you know there’s going to be a happy ending. Unfortunately, historically, queer folks, and especially queer people of color, haven’t been guaranteed happy endings; it feels revolutionary to me to see stories where we are guaranteed that happily ever after.

As someone who straddled both author and editor positions, and particularly within the same category, what were the biggest challenges and the biggest perks?

The biggest challenge in the end unfortunately did become juggling a little too much, and spreading myself too thin. I wanted to help diversify the industry, so I tried very hard to continue working in publishing, as one of the few black editors in children’s books (and I believe the only black trans editor)… but the work became a little too overwhelming, sadly, and I started to become curious about other potential opportunities (my position at LBYR was my first out of grad school, and I’ve never explored any other fields!), so I decided to leave my position in the end, though I hope to now help other people of color and queer people of color find positions in publishing.

The most difficult part of leaving has been parting with incredible authors I’ve been honored to work with, but I know I had nothing to do with their talent, and that they’ll continue to flourish!

The biggest perk was definitely humility. Seeing the incredible talent of authors I worked with was very grounding in my own work, and a reminder that there are so many wonderful authors with so much extraordinary talent, and that no one author is more important than another, or that no one story is more important than another. I’m determined to keep this mindset as I move forward, in all of the work that I do.

I ordinarily ask people who the characters are in media who’ve resonated with them, but you already had a fantastic Twitter thread back in May about Adam from Degrassi. What was it about that character that really stuck with you and made a difference in your own life?

Adam not only changed my life, but I’m pretty sure he’s saved my life, too. Adam had a problematic ending on the show, but watching his story and journey allowed me to see similarities in him that I’d thought and experienced, but had never been able to put a name to before. Suddenly, everything shifted into place, and a few years later, I’m the happiest I’ve ever been. I’m not sure I was living life before–going through the motions, maybe—but now, as people around me say, I’m “glowing.” 🙂

Adam’s absolutely inspired me, and I hope to have a YA with a trans main character named Felix coming out soon!

Lightning round, based on things from This is Kind of an Epic Love Story:

1) Third favorite movie? My favorite movies are all Pixar, and my third favorite happens to be Coco. 🙂
2) Favorite movie character? Chiron, for all that he symbolizes.
3) Favorite writing craft book? Definitely Story by Robert McKee. Technically a film/screenwriting craft book, but novelists can absolutely learn a lot from his plotting advice as well.
4) Favorite Pandora station? While writing Epic Love Story, it was Bon Iver! Now, it’s Sia.
 

And speaking of which, there are some great shoutouts in the book, including ones to authors Benjamin Alire Sáenz and Gabby Rivera. Who are your insta-read authors?

So many! Right now, definitely Sáenz, but also Nina LaCour and David Levithan.

Shifting back to editor life, we’ve spoken before about how you’d love to help more people of color, and specifically Black editors, get involved in publishing. What tips do you have for PoC trying to break into publishing on the business/editorial side?

My biggest piece of advice would be to follow groups like POC in Publishing and We Need Diverse Books on social media for regular tips and job opportunities, and to take advantage of programs like Representation Matters. Reach out to editors for informational interviews, ask questions, be curious and passionate!

What’s something on the topic of queer lit/publishing you wish was talked about more?

I wish intersectionality was discussed a little more. I want to see a lot more queer people of color as main characters, and I want more stories by and featuring queer authors with disabilities, queer authors with different religions, queer authors with different socio-economic statuses, and a mix of all of the above, and more. There’s still a lot of work to be done.

Kheryn Callender is the author of Hurricane Child and This Is Kind of an Epic Love Story, and is committed to expanding diversity in children’s books. Kheryn loves playing RPG video games and watching soul-sucking reality TV shows in their free time. They really wish they had a dog.
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Fave Five: LGBTQP MG/YA Set at Summer Camp

Drum Roll, Please by Lisa Jenn Bigelow

Nothing Happened by Molly Booth

Keeping Her Secret by Sarah Nicolas

Lunaside by JL Douglas

On a Summer Night by Gabriel D. Vidrine

New Release Spotlight: Drum Roll, Please by Lisa Jenn Bigelow

You may recall Lisa Jenn Bigelow from one of the first traditionally published f/f YAs, Starting From Here, which released in 2012. Well now she’s back with a queer-girl MG novel and damn if it doesn’t look afreakingdorable. I’m so, so thrilled at the queer MG boom this year has seen, and as this is the final one being released this year, please give it lots of love and ensure there’s lots more to come!

36301050Melly only joined the school band because her best friend, Olivia, begged her to. But to her surprise, quiet Melly loves playing the drums. It’s the only time she doesn’t feel like a mouse. Now she and Olivia are about to spend the next two weeks at Camp Rockaway, jamming under the stars in the Michigan woods.

But this summer brings a lot of big changes for Melly: her parents split up, her best friend ditches her, and Melly finds herself unexpectedly falling for another girl at camp. To top it all off, Melly’s not sure she has what it takes to be a real rock n’ roll drummer. Will she be able to make music from all the noise in her heart?

Buy it: B&N * Amazon * Indie-Bound * Powell’s * Google Play

Guest Post: Author Joanne Rocklin on Love, Penelope

There are only a few exceptions to the rule that all books covered on the site have to have main characters who ID under the LGBTQIAP+ umbrella, and one of them is Mother’s Day, when queer parents—even of allocishet characters—get to take center stage.

Today, in honor of Mother’s Day, Joanne Rocklin is here to discuss her new MG, Love, Penelope, in which the main character has two moms. It’s set in 2015, against the backdrop of the marriage equality Supreme Court ruling, and it released on March 20 of this year, so you can already grab a copy via B&N, Amazon, IndieBound, or Book Depository!

Take it away, Joanne!

My middle grade novel, Love, Penelope is a story told in letters to an unborn sibling, by an eleven year old Oakland girl with two mamas. “How did you come up with that idea?” I’m asked, more often than you want to know.
So I often say that the idea began with two huge, wondrous, peaceful, joyous celebrations, days apart.

The first was on June 19, 2015, a parade for the Golden State Warriors who had just won the National Basketball Association championship for the first time in over half a century. Oakland exploded with joy and pride for “their” team.

The second celebration was on June 26, 2015, when the Supreme Court made same-sex marriage legal throughout the land, and the happiness was palpable throughout the world.

And so, along comes Penelope to tell us her story. Penelope, a fervent Warriors fan. Penelope, who loves her city and hates the fact that San Francisco, not Oakland, is called THE CITY (as in, “I went to The City on Saturday.”)  Penelope, who wants her parents to marry because her family is just as good as anyone else’s, so why not?

But often, very often, (again, more often than you want to know) I get this response from my questioner: “Well, how nice, Joanne. How really, really nice that you decided to write a story helpful to kids in that situation!”

Uh, no. That’s not what I decided to do.

First of all, it is not an author’s aim to be “helpful”. In another life, long, long ago, I was a clinical psychologist, but if I wrote a novel as a clinical psychologist it would be a didactic, boring piece of poop.

Second of all, Penelope’s voice simply swept me away, and that’s why I wrote it. She is curious, she is often humorously wrong, but mostly right, about things she observes. She is bursting with mixed-up feelings, true to her age. She tells a lie about her heritage, and is riddled with guilt. But mostly, she is joyful. She, too, is “born” into this complicated world as she figures things out in letters to the baby. It was just absolutely pure FUN for me to write her story.

But most of all, “kids in that situation” don’t need my help. Kids in that situation are doing fine, in my estimation.

Better than fine, actually.

What is “that situation”, exactly?

Here is Penny’s situation, as Penny explains to someone who says her family is “not right”. On the first Monday of every month, the family tries a new flavor of ice cream. Sundae Mondays! Her parents have some nifty, fun ideas, but when they mess up, they listen and learn and grow with their daughter, and apologize. Holidays and sports teams are celebrated noisily with family and friends, and birthdays observed with reverence. There are homemade greeting cards for every occasion and sing-a-longs, and warm stews and cups of tea offered to anyone who needs them. There is lots and lots of giving- including forgiveness.

But mostly there is a piercing awareness on everyone’s part, every second they are together, that they are lucky to have one another. An awareness that love, not DNA, makes a family, and how very, very much Penny and the baby are wanted. I have known and interviewed scores of families like Penny’s. They may not have observed Sundae Mondays, but love is always a common denominator.

So perhaps the book is helpful for anyone wanting a definition of a happy family and good parenting; a description of a family that is “just right.” Penny and her parents already know what that is. All I did was tell their story.

Happy Parents Day!

***

Joanne RocklinJoanne Rocklin is the author of many books for children, including The Five Lives of Our Cat Zook, which won the Golden Kite Award and was named to Florida’s Sunshine State Young Readers Award master list.

 

Better Know an Author: Ashley Herring Blake

If you’re not already familiar with the work of Ashley Herring Blake, it’s time to get on board, because she’s become a serious force in both queer YA and MG, with one of each out this very season. I snagged her right in between her two 2018 releases (both phenomenal) to ask her about them, her bookselling days and recs, and what’s coming up!

Congrats on your newest release, Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World! The world of queer Middle Grade is so small; what was it like getting into it? And what’s your favorite thing about Ivy herself?

Thank you so much! I’m excited to have the book out in the world. Deciding to write a queer middle grade novel was an easy one for me—there are just too few out there and I really wanted to write a book that could be really meaningful for kids at this age. My second YA, How to Make a Wish, was very much the book I needed as a teenager, but Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World is the book I needed at a tween and I just knew I needed to write it. Once it sold though, that was a little scarier, thinking about its reception. Sure, its 2018, but the world is still very much a scary place for queer people and I live in the south. I’ve seen the wrinkled noses and heard the snarky comments first hand. But, really, I think that only proves that we need more queer middle grade books out there. Because if I’m nervous, I know queer kids dealing with identity and questions are terrified. I think my favorite thing about Ivy is drive to explore her feelings. She keeps them a secret from the people in her life, but she lets them all out on paper, and that’s something I never had the courage to do. As a tween, I squashed down any feelings I felt rise up for other girls. In fact, I doubt I even realized I was doing it. It was an unacceptable course for my life, as I saw then, so I didn’t even let it bloom into my heart too much. But Ivy, she lets it in, even if it’s just with herself, and I think that, too, takes a kind of bravery.

You also have an incredible YA coming out on May 15, Girl Made of Stars. You know I’m already obsessed, especially with the fact that it’s really a book that has no easy choices or paths, but it’s also releasing at what feels like a really auspicious time. Can you tell us about the book, and what it feels like to have it published now in particular?

Thanks, I’m excited about Girl Made of Stars too. It was definitely the most emotionally difficult book I’ve ever written. I get this question a lot—about how it’s the perfect time for the book to come out, how timely it is, that it’s a book for the #MeToo movement, and I don’t disagree. But when I wrote it, these conversations and revelations hadn’t exploded quite yet. There was no #MeToo movement. But there were angry, hurt, ignored, strong, brave, scared women and victims dealing with the repercussions of abuse and assault. And you know, it felt just as timely then as it does now. Unfortunately, I don’t think there has ever been a time when a book like this wasn’t timely. When I talk about it, I want to make sure readers get that—yes, we’re talking about this issue a lot right now and hopefully, that will lead to some real self-reflection, policy changes, consequences, healing, and safety for victims. But these stories have always been. These women, these victims have always been trying to tell their truth and heal and feel safe. Girl Made of Stars, I hope, simply adds to an already rich body of YA literature out there that lifts up and reveals these stories.

I of course have to give a shout to your last YA, How to Make a Wish, which, like Girl Made of Stars, features an out-and-proud bi protag and a beautiful queer romance. As you continue to embody “Write the books you want to see on shelves” and maybe even “Write the books you needed as a kid,” what stands out to you as really important to have in both your romances and your representation?

I think the most important thing to me is to just write a damn good character. I love flawed, messy, real characters and, as I do desire to add to the wonderfully growing list of books featuring bisexual protagonists, one of my biggest goals is simply portray that character as a real person. When writing a marginalized character, there’s a pressure to get it perfect, which isn’t fair at all. I know others, particularly women of color writing women of color, experience this pressure on a much larger scale than I do, which is even less fair. Every bad choice my character makes, every errant thought, every mean thing they think or say, I have to second guess it. Because there’s a feeling that my bi character must represent all bi people and if they come across as a certain way, I’m damning everyone. I think this pressure comes from a good place—the desire to do no harm with our characters, which I fully endorse. People are messy, though. So while I am careful that my bi characters do no harm in terms of bi-erasure or bi-phobia or bi-shame, it’s important to me to write characters who make out with people for the wrong reasons and hurt people they love because they’re scared. I want to read about a character I can relate to and that’s the kind I want to write and no one is squeaky clean or perfect, marginalized characters included. I love creating that room, that space, for my girls to eff up and grow.

My feeling about your books is that they really fill in gaps in this really quiet and wonderful way. What are some of the best things you’ve heard from readers about your work?

Some of my favorite emails from readers have come in the short time since Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World has released. I’ve had readers tell me they read it and then came out to their family. I’ve had readers echo my own feelings—that they wish they had this book as a tween and can’t wait to get it into young readers’ hands. Each email reminds me why I do what I do, even when it’s hard. I’ve had a number of readers really connect with Grace’s relationship with her mom in How to Make a Wish, telling me it reflected their own relationship in a way that helped them process it. Those are really special messages as well, as I didn’t have a mom like Grace’s and I’m so honored to those who entrusted their story to me that helped me craft Grace’s fraught relationship with her mom. I’m starting to get some messages about Girl Made of Stars and those are probably the most difficult to read, but also the most important and moving. In short, I’m honored and humbled to get to do what I do.

In addition to being on the author side of a while now, you’ve also spend some time on the other side of the bookstore counter. What did you learn as a bookseller that authors and/or readers might not know about the business?

I loved my time as a bookseller and so wish I could do it again! I just loved being around all the books, you know? I’m not sure if I have any real insider info to pass along, but I will say that it was truly amazing to be able to put the right book into the right person’s hands. Authors, I’m telling you, hug your local bookseller and/or librarian. (I mean, ask first, but if they say yes, give them a squeeze.) Because the work tirelessly, particularly those who work predominantly with kid and teen books, to get you work to the reader who really needs it. In this business, it’s so easy to feel lost among the top-sellers, but being a bookseller really revealed to me that there is place for every book, bestsellers and mid-list alike.

As someone with professional recommendation experience, what are your favorite queer titles to shove in the arms of everyone you know? What upcoming queer titles are you excited about?

Oh, I do love this question. *cracks knuckles* So, my absolutely favorite queer book of the past year was Nina LaCour’s We Are Okay. Many of you have probably read it—and it won the Printz—but it is this quiet, perfect, devastating, lovely book that everyone should read and reread. I also must put an adult queer book that just RUINED me a few months ago, and that’s Taylor Jenkins Reid’s The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. I’m serious, I was just useless for days, crying in my classroom, could’t stop thinking about it. It’s that good. The books I regularly push into people’s arms are Far From You by Tess Sharpe, Under the Lights by Dahlia Adler (ahem), Like Water by Rebecca Podos, literally any book by Anna-Marie McLemore, Let’s Talk About Love by Claire Kann, If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo, Echo After Echo by Amy Rose Capetta, any book by Caleb Roehrig, and any book by Sara Farizan. There are two books come out soon (or may be out by the time this posts) that I’ve read and am wild about. Picture Us in the Light by Kelly Loy Gilbert just might be the most perfect book I’ve ever read. I’m not even kissing. And Kheryn Callender’s Hurricane Child is a queer middle grade that is simply gorgeous and is a must-read. As far as upcoming release, I’m beyond excited for Kheryn Callender’s This is Kind of an Epic Love Story, Jen Wilde’s The Brightsiders, Candice Montgomery’s Home and Away, Anna-Marie McLemore’s Blanca & Roja, Tehlor Kay Mejia’s We Set the Dark on Fire, and Claire Legrand’s Sawkill Girls.

You have another Middle Grade novel coming in 2019, The Mighty Heart of Sunny St. James. What can you tell us about it?

Yes! I’m so excited about this book. Sunny actually might be my favorite character I’ve ever written and I can’t wait for you to meet her. So, this book is about Sunny St. James and it opens when she’s about to go into surgery to have a heart transplant. In recovery, her estranged mother shows up, which throws her New Life plan all out of whack. But Sunny is nothing if not determined, so she forges ahead, meeting a new girl named Quinn and the two embark on a Kissing Quest, in which they try and find a boy with whom to share a first kiss. But, in quintessential Ashley fashion, Sunny starts to realize it might not be boys she wants to kiss. All the while, there’s the long-lost mother, a Former Best Friend who is the worst betrayer to ever betray, and free verse poetry. I love it and I hope you do too.

With both queer MG and queer YA under your belt, what are the most notable differences to you in both writing it and publishing it?

You know, every book is different, even if you always stay without the same marketing category and age range, but I will say that it took me a while to find my middle grade voice with Ivy. I wrote the whole book in first person, but couldn’t get away from a YA sound, it was so ingrained, so I changed it to third, which I ended up loving for Ivy. Sunny, however, needed a first person, but by then, I had my feet wet and I was able to create an authentic, unique MG voice for her. Of course, I can’t drop eff bombs in middle grade and I’ve found a tenderness to middle grade, even when the characters are dealing with pretty heavy stuff, that I have just fallen in love with. Publishing wise, it’s interesting, because I’ve definitely found it harder to use my normal social media platforms for middle grade. Of course, there are fewer middle grade aged readers on social media (as it should—I’m not letting my own kids touch it until they’re 30), so I’ve had to let go of a lot of my own promo a bit. I’ve done things, but I’ve definitely found less response (granted, maybe that’s because the book and not the market, ha), but it’s been a bit more challenging to navigate. That being said, I’ve interacted with more librarians and teachers with middle grade, which has just been lovely. I’m hoping to find more places online where I can connect with those who get these books into MG readers’ hands.

Your Middle Grade editor is none other than the unstoppable Kheryn Callender, who also has two books coming out this year, one MG and one YA. What’s it like working with another author on your books?

Ha, yes, I’ve already lauded their two books this year, one I’ve read and one I’m drooling over, so you could definitely say I’m a fan. Honestly, it’s been a dream working with Kheryn. They’re insightful, supportive, wise. They are everything I want in an editor. My agent is also an author, so working with Kheryn in that capacity wasn’t very different. Also, we keep those two things pretty separate. With my reader hat on, Kheryn is an amazing, kickass author and in my author hat, Kheryn is an amazing, kickass editor. I’m honored to work with them.

You have truly been blessed by the cover gods. Who’s behind those gorgeous designs, and how much say did you have in them?

I have been so blessed and have loved each one of my covers. Ivy and Girl Made of Stars have an particularly special place in my heart. Funny, boyhood these book covered were actually designed by the same company, Good Wives & Warriors. My two separate publishers both hired this company totally on their own. They compliment each other pretty well, I think. 🙂

If you can share, what are you working on now?

Ha, good question. I’m finishing up edits on Sunny and ruminating on my next projects. I think I’m just about ready to start drafting my next YA, but that’s really all I can say about it right now. It’s in that fragile “is this the book or isn’t it?” phase. Thanks so much for having me!

***

Preorder Girl Made of Stars at Parnassus Books, B&N, or Amazon!

Ashley Herring Blake is a reader, writer, and mom to two boisterous boys. She holds a Master’s degree in teaching and loves coffee, arranging her books by color, and cold weather. She is the author of the young adult novels Suffer Love, How to Make a Wish, and Girl Made of Stars (HMH), as well as the middle grade novel Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World (Little, Brown). You can find her on Twitter and Instagram at @ashleyhblake and on the web at www.ashleyherringblake.com.

New Releases: March 2018

P.S. I Miss You by Jen Petro-Roy (6th)

34499228In this epistolary middle-grade debut novel, a girl who’s questioning her sexual orientation writes letters to her sister, who was sent away from their strict Catholic home after becoming pregnant.

Eleven-year-old Evie is heartbroken when her strict Catholic parents send her pregnant sister away to stay with a distant great-aunt. All Evie wants is for her older sister to come back. But when her parents forbid her to even speak to Cilla, she starts sending letters. Evie writes letters about her family, torn apart and hurting. She writes about her life, empty without Cilla. And she writes about the new girl in school, June, who becomes her friend, and then maybe more than a friend.

As she becomes better friends with June, Evie begins to question her sexual orientation. She can only imagine what might happen if her parents found out who she really is. She could really use some advice from Cilla. But Cilla isn’t writing back.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon

Inkmistress by Audrey Coulthurst (6th)

Inkmistress_JKT_des2_CC15.indd

Asra is a demigod with a dangerous gift: the ability to dictate the future by writing with her blood. To keep her power secret, she leads a quiet life as a healer on a remote mountain, content to help the people in her care and spend time with Ina, the mortal girl she loves.

But Asra’s peaceful life is upended when bandits threaten Ina’s village and the king does nothing to help. Desperate to protect her people, Ina begs Asra for assistance in finding her manifest—the animal she’ll be able to change into as her rite of passage to adulthood. Asra uses her blood magic to help Ina, but her spell goes horribly wrong and the bandits destroy the village, killing Ina’s family.

Unaware that Asra is at fault, Ina swears revenge on the king and takes a savage dragon as her manifest. To stop her, Asra must embark on a journey across the kingdom, becoming a player in lethal games of power among assassins, gods, and even the king himself.

Most frightening of all, she discovers the dark secrets of her own mysterious history—and the terrible, powerful legacy she carries in her blood.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon

Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World by Ashley Herring Blake (6th)

35604722When a tornado rips through town, twelve-year-old Ivy Aberdeen’s house is destroyed and her family of five is displaced. Ivy feels invisible and ignored in the aftermath of the storm–and what’s worse, her notebook filled with secret drawings of girls holding hands has gone missing.

Mysteriously, Ivy’s drawings begin to reappear in her locker with notes from someone telling her to open up about her identity. Ivy thinks–and hopes–that this someone might be her classmate, another girl for whom Ivy has begun to develop a crush. Will Ivy find the strength and courage to follow her true feelings?

Buy it: B&N * Amazon

The Beauty That Remains by Ashley Woodfolk (6th)

29736467Autumn always knew exactly who she was—a talented artist and a loyal friend. Shay was defined by two things: her bond with her twin sister, Sasha, and her love of music. And Logan always turned to writing love songs when his love life was a little less than perfect.

But when tragedy strikes each of them, somehow music is no longer enough. Now Logan can’t stop watching vlogs of his dead ex-boyfriend. Shay is a music blogger struggling to keep it together. And Autumn sends messages that she knows can never be answered.

Despite the odds, one band’s music will reunite them and prove that after grief, beauty thrives in the people left behind.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon * IndieBound

Boomerang by Helene Dunbar (6th)

Michael Sterling disappeared from his Maine town five years ago. Everyone assumed he was kidnapped. Everyone was wrong.

Now, at seventeen, he’s Sean Woodhouse. And he’s come “home,” to the last place he wants to be, to claim the small inheritance his grandparents promised him when he graduated high school, all so he can save Trip, the boy he developed an intense and complicated relationship with while he was away.

Sean has changed, but so has his old town and everyone in it. And knowing who he is and where he belongs is more confusing than ever. As his careful plans begin to crumble, so does everything he’s believed about his idyllic other life.

Told in gorgeous prose, Boomerang is an honest, authentic exploration of coming to terms with who you are, what you want, and how vast the distance can be between the two.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon * Parnassus * Book Depository

Curved Horizon by Taylor Brooke (8th)

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In the sequel to Fortitude Smashed, navigating the ins and outs of love is hard enough as strangers, but now Daisy and Chelsea must find a way to transform their friendship into something more. Meanwhile, Shannon and Aiden’s year-long relationship is put to the test when a horrific accident puts Shannon’s life at risk.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon

Kim Reaper: Grim Beginnings by Sarah Graley (13th)

35941643The first collection of Kim Reaper comics, contains issues 1-4! 

Part-Time Grim Reaper. Full-Time Cutie!

Like most university students, Kim works a part-time job to make ends meet. Unlike most university students, Kim’s job is pretty cool: she’s a grim reaper, tasked with guiding souls into the afterlife.

Like most university students, Becka has a super intense crush. Unlike most university students, Becka’s crush is on a beautiful gothic angel that frequents the underworld. Of course, she doesn’t know that.

Unaware of the ghoulish drama she’s about to step into, Becka finally gathers up the courage to ask Kim on a date! But when she falls into a ghostly portal and interrupts Kim at her job, she sets off a chain of events that will pit the two of them against angry cat-dads, vengeful zombies, and perhaps even the underworld itself. But if they work together, they just might make it… and maybe even get a smooch in the bargain.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon

Fire Song by Adam Garnet Jones (13th)

35737829Shane is still reeling from the suicide of his kid sister, Destiny. How could he have missed the fact that she was so sad? He tries to share his grief with his girlfriend, Tara, but she’s too concerned with her own needs to offer him much comfort. What he really wants is to be able to turn to the one person on the rez whom he loves—his friend, David.
Things go from bad to worse as Shane’s dream of going to university is shattered and his grieving mother withdraws from the world. Worst of all, he and David have to hide their relationship from everyone. Shane feels that his only chance of a better life is moving to Toronto, but David refuses to join him. When yet another tragedy strikes, the two boys have to make difficult choices about their future together.

With deep insight into the life of Indigenous people on the reserve, this book masterfully portrays how a community looks to the past for guidance and comfort while fearing a future of poverty and shame. Shane’s rocky road to finding himself takes many twists and turns, but ultimately ends with him on a path that doesn’t always offer easy answers, but one that leaves the reader optimistic about his fate.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon * Book Depository

The Right Thing to Do at the Time by Dov Zeller (15th)

If Jane Austen and Sholem Aleichem (Fiddler on the Roof) schemed in an elevator, this just might be their pitch. Ari is Elizabeth and Itche is Jane–and this Jewish, queer, New York City retelling of Pride and Prejudice is for everyone.

Ari Wexler, a trans guy in his late 20s, is barely scraping by. His family life is a mess, he feels like a failure when it comes to love, and his job at a music library is on the rocks. His relationship with Itche Mattes, his doting best friend, helps him get through the days. Then a famous actress comes to town and sweeps Itche off his feet, leaving her dreadful sidekick to step on Ari’s toes.

As Ari’s despair grows, a fascinating music project falls into his lap, and he s faced with a choice: to remain within his comfort zone, however small and stifling, or to take a risk that could bring meaning and joy to his life.

Buy it: Amazon

The Pros of Cons by Alison Cherry, Lindsay Ribar, and Michelle Schusterman (27th)

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Drummer Phoebe Byrd prides herself on being one of the guys, and she’s ready to prove it by kicking all their butts in the snare solo competition at the Indoor Percussion Association Convention.

Writer Vanessa Montoya-O’Callaghan has been looking forward to the WTFcon for months. Not just because of the panels and fanfiction readings but because WTFcon is where she’ll finally meet Soleil, her internet girlfriend, for the first time.

Taxidermy assistant Callie Buchannan might be good at scooping brains out of deer skulls, but that doesn’t mean it’s her passion. Since her parents’ divorce, her taxidermist father only cares about his work, and assisting him at the World Taxidermy and Fish-Carving Championships is the only way Callie knows to connect with him.

When a crazy mix-up in the hotel lobby brings the three girls together, they form an unlikely friendship against a chaotic background of cosplay, competition, and carcasses!

Buy it: B&N * Amazon

Hurricane Child by Kheryn Callender (27th)

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Prepare to be swept up by this exquisite novel that reminds us that grief and love can open the world in mystical ways.

Twelve-year-old Caroline is a Hurricane Child, born on Water Island during a storm. Coming into this world during a hurricane is unlucky, and Caroline has had her share of bad luck already. She’s hated by everyone in her small school, she can see things that no one else can see, and — worst of all — her mother left home one day and never came back. With no friends and days filled with heartache, Caroline is determined to find her mother. When a new student, Kalinda, arrives, Caroline’s luck begins to turn around. Kalinda, a solemn girl from Barbados with a special smile for everyone, seems to see the things Caroline sees, too. Joined by their common gift, Kalinda agrees to help Caroline look for her mother, starting with a mysterious lady dressed in black. Soon, they discover the healing power of a close friendship between girls. Debut author Kheryn Callender presents a cadenced work of magical realism.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon

New Releases: February 2018

All We Can Do Is Wait by Richard Lawson (6th)

9780448494111_p0_v2_s550x406In the hours after a bridge collapse rocks their city, a group of Boston teenagers meet in the waiting room of Massachusetts General Hospital:

Siblings Jason and Alexa have already experienced enough grief for a lifetime, so in this moment of confusion and despair, Alexa hopes that she can look to her brother for support. But a secret Jason has been keeping from his sister threatens to tear the siblings apart…right when they need each other most.

Scott is waiting to hear about his girlfriend, Aimee, who was on a bus with her theater group when the bridge went down. Their relationship has been rocky, but Scott knows that if he can just see Aimee one more time, if she can just make it through this ordeal and he can tell her he loves her, everything will be all right.

And then there’s Skyler, whose sister Kate—the sister who is more like a mother, the sister who is basically Skyler’s everything—was crossing the bridge when it collapsed. As the minutes tick by without a word from the hospital staff, Skyler is left to wonder how she can possibly move through life without the one person who makes her feel strong when she’s at her weakest.

In his riveting, achingly beautiful debut, Richard Lawson guides readers through an emotional and life-changing night as these teens are forced to face the reality of their pasts…and the prospect of very different futures.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon

The Last To Let Go by Amber Smith (6th)

33803090How do you let go of something you’ve never had?

Junior year for Brooke Winters is supposed to be about change. She’s transferring schools, starting fresh, and making plans for college so she can finally leave her hometown, her family, and her past behind.

But all of her dreams are shattered one hot summer afternoon when her mother is arrested for killing Brooke’s abusive father. No one really knows what happened that day, if it was premeditated or self-defense, whether it was right or wrong. And now Brooke and her siblings are on their own.

In a year of firsts—the first year without parents, first love, first heartbreak, and her first taste of freedom—Brooke must confront the shadow of her family’s violence and dysfunction, as she struggles to embrace her identity, finds her true place in the world, and learns how to let go.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon * iBooks * IndieBound

The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza by Shaun David Hutchinson (6th)

Sixteen-year-old Elena Mendoza is the product of a virgin birth.

This can be scientifically explained (it’s called parthenogenesis), but what can’t be explained is how Elena is able to heal Freddie, the girl she’s had a crush on for years, from a gunshot wound in a Starbucks parking lot. Or why the boy who shot Freddie, David Combs, disappeared from the same parking lot minutes later after getting sucked up into the clouds. What also can’t be explained are the talking girl on the front of a tampon box, or the reasons that David Combs shot Freddie in the first place.

As more unbelievable things occur, and Elena continues to perform miracles, the only remaining explanation is the least logical of all—that the world is actually coming to an end, and Elena is possibly the only one who can do something about it.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon

Fire on the Ice by Tamsen Parker (6th)

Blaze Bellamy is the bad girl of the short track speed skating world. Looking like a roller derby bruiser when she’s not in her Team USA uniform, she’s an unlikely American heroine. She’s got a punk attitude to match her provocative dress and her dyed hair, and she’s determined to get onto the front pages of the papers regardless of how she has to do it.

Maisy Harper is the workhorse of the Canadian women’s figure skating team. Serious, modest, and above all, polite, Maisy would prefer to win her victory on the ice rather than in the press, and is exasperated by Blaze’s antics. When she’s not lusting after her anyway. After they both failed to make the medal podium at the last Snow and Ice Games, they drowned themselves in gin—and each other.

Despite their hookup being drunken, they both harbor fond memories of their night together and are keen for a repeat. But they’ve got different ways of going about getting what they want, and Blaze’s willingness to go to any lengths for the spotlight could ruin any chance she has with Maisy.

Buy it: Amazon

The Last Beginning by Lauren James (13th)

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The epic conclusion to Lauren James’s debut The Next Together about true love and reincarnation.

Sixteen years ago, after a scandal that rocked the world, teenagers Katherine and Matthew vanished without a trace. Now Clove Sutcliffe is determined to find her long lost relatives.

But where do you start looking for a couple who seem to have been reincarnated at every key moment in history? Who were Kate and Matt? Why were they born again and again? And who is the mysterious Ella, who keeps appearing at every turn in Clove’s investigation?

For Clove, there is a mystery to solve in the past and a love to find in the future, and failure could cost the world everything.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon

Snowsisters by Tom Wilinsky and Jen Sternick (15th)

High school students—Soph, who attends private school in Manhattan, and Tess, a public school student who lives on a dairy farm in New Hampshire—are thrown together as roommates at a week-long writing conference. As they get to know each other and the other young women, both Soph and Tess discover unexpected truths and about friendship, their craft, and how to hold fast to their convictions while opening their hearts to love.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon

Hold Fast by Kris Ripper (20th)

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Zack Scherzo likes his notebooks. And his pens. And, okay, he really loves to organize stuff. He’s organized his whole life into the ideal trajectory for his ten year plan, at which point his career will be solid and he’ll be ready for a husband and family. Everything makes perfect sense.

Until he meets Isaiah.

Driven entrepreneur Isaiah Carlin generally doesn’t get involved with lost causes, like the climbing gym Zack’s trying to keep afloat. But there’s something about the gym—and there’s definitely something about Zack—that intrigues him. He wants to help. He also wants to see what happens when Zack shakes loose some of his rules and allows himself to feel.

When passion collides with Zack’s regimented life path, something’s gotta give. And it looks like that thing is going to be Isaiah, unless he can convince Zack that sometimes real life is even better than the best laid plans.

Buy it:  Amazon

One True Way by Shannon Hitchcock (27th)

Welcome to Daniel Boone Middle School in the 1970s, where teachers and coaches must hide who they are, and girls who like girls are forced to question their own choices. Presented in the voice of a premier storyteller, One True Way sheds exquisite light on what it means to be different, while at the same time being wholly true to oneself. Through the lives and influences of two girls, readers come to see that love is love is love. Set against the backdrop of history and politics that surrounded gay rights in the 1970s South, this novel is a thoughtful, eye-opening, look at tolerance, acceptance, and change, and will widen the hearts of all readers.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon

People Like Us by Dana Mele (27th)

35356380Kay Donovan may have skeletons in her closet, but the past is past, and she’s reinvented herself entirely. Now she’s a star soccer player whose group of gorgeous friends run their private school with effortless popularity and acerbic wit. But when a girl’s body is found in the lake, Kay’s carefully constructed life begins to topple.

The dead girl has left Kay a computer-coded scavenger hunt, which, as it unravels, begins to implicate suspect after suspect, until Kay herself is in the crosshairs of a murder investigation. But if Kay’s finally backed into a corner, she’ll do what it takes to survive. Because at Bates Academy, the truth is something you make…not something that happened.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon

All Out: The No-Longer-Secret Stories of Queer Teens throughout the Ages ed. by Saundra Mitchell (27th)

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Take a journey through time and genres and discover a past where queer figures live, love and shape the world around them. Seventeen of the best young adult authors across the queer spectrum have come together to create a collection of beautifully written diverse historical fiction for teens.

From a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood set in war-torn 1870s Mexico featuring a transgender soldier, to two girls falling in love while mourning the death of Kurt Cobain, forbidden love in a sixteenth-century Spanish convent or an asexual girl discovering her identity amid the 1970s roller-disco scene, All Out tells a diverse range of stories across cultures, time periods and identities, shedding light on an area of history often ignored or forgotten.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon

LGBTQA MG/YA in Translation

One major access problem with LGBTQIAP+ books is that so many of them are published in English and never translated into anything else. To that end, here are great books that are (or will be; some of these are forthcoming) available in other languages. (Of course, most of these books have different titles in other languages; I’ve chosen the easiest method for myself by posting the titles in English here. If you need assistance with finding the title in its native language, please feel free to contact me or comment below.)

Please note that links were taken from a combination of Amazon and author websites, so while they may not be the right link for your location, the point is to see that the translation exists so it can be a starting point for you tracking it down. I also recognize that languages can vary by territory, and that, for example, sometimes rights are specifically purchased for Brazil and the book is not available in Portugal; I did the best I could to note such instances but feel free to leave notes/corrections in the comments.

(Caveat: I have not read any of these translations, and cannot speak to whether the queer storylines have been modified, as unfortunately certain countries are particularly wont to do.)

US = a link to that edition on American Amazon, via affiliate link, or on BN.com

This will be a regularly updated resource, so if you are an author whose book has been internationally translated, please get in touch or comment below to have your book added! (Or make any corrections as needed.)

Bosnian and Montenegran

  • I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

Catalan

Chinese

  • Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli (Complex)
  • George by Alex Gino (Complex)
  • Every Day by David Levithan (Simplified)
  • I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson (Simplified)

Czech

Danish

  • Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
  • George by Alex Gino
  • More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera
  • History is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera
  • They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera

Dutch

Estonian

Finnish

French

Georgian

  • I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

German

Hungarian

Indonesian

  • Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli (Spring/Haru)

Hebrew

Icelandic

  • I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

Italian

Japanese

Korean

Norwegian

Polish

  • Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli (US)
  • Alan Cole is Not a Coward by Eric Bell
  • This is Where it Ends by Marieke Nijkamp
  • More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera
  • History is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera

Portuguese

(Most of these links go to amazon.br)

Romanian

Serbian

  • I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

Slovakian

  • Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

Spanish

Swedish

  • Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
  • You Know Me Well by David Levithan and Nina LaCour

Taiwanese

  • Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
  • George by Alex Gino
  • More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera

Thai

  • Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
  • We Are the Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson
  • The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee
  • Every Day by David Levithan

Turkish

  • Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
  • We Are the Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson
  • The Last Beginning by Lauren James
  • Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour
  • We Are Okay by Nina LaCour
  • People Like Us by Dana Mele
  • This is Where it Ends by Marieke Nijkamp
  • More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera
  • History is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera
  • They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera

Ukrainian

  • I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

Vietnamese

  • Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
  • George by Alex Gino
  • We Are Okay by Nina LaCour
  • Every Day and Another Day by David Levithan

Better Know an Author: Robin Stevenson

Today on the site I’m psyched to have the incredibly prolific and wonderful Robin Stevenson! As it happens, I wasn’t the only one with the idea to shine a light on her this time of year; right after I asked Robin if I could interview her for August, a great interview with her went up on Gay YA, so make sure you check that out too! 

You’re such an impressively prolific author, with over 20 books to your name now. How long have you been writing, and can you give us a little rundown on your books with LGBTQ narrators?

I started writing on maternity leave, soon after my son was born— which was thirteen years ago. My first book came out a couple of years later, in 2007. It began as a short story that grew and grew, and ended up as a YA novel called Out of Order. The main character, Sophie, is a sixteen year old girl who dealing with a history of being bullied, struggling with an undiagnosed eating disorder, and caught up in the orbit of a charismatic but troubled new friend. She is bisexual but not yet using this word… she is just beginning to realize she is attracted to girls.

26586455My novel Big Guy came out the next year, and also has a queer narrator—-this time a teenage boy who is in an online relationship with another guy. It was my first hi-lo novel in the Orca Soundings series. (My most recent book in the series came out in 2016, and also has a queer narrator: It’s called Under Threat, and deals with anti-abortion violence. I wanted to write an unambiguously pro-choice novel that shows the cost of anti-abortion fanaticism. The main character, Franny, has a girlfriend called Leah and they are together throughout the novel—the book was an ALA Rainbow list selection.)

In 2009, my YA novel Inferno came out— this one was also an ALA Rainbow list selection, which I was delighted about. The narrator is a queer teenage girl who has recently broken up with a girl with whom she was in a very closeted relationship. When the book begins, she has just cut off all her hair and changed her name from Emily to Dante, and she is about to meet a new group of friends who are going to complicate her life in interesting and challenging ways. Dante seemed to provoke strong reactions; readers either adored her and really related to her, or disliked her intensely! Personally, I adore her.

My newest book also has a queer narrator: It is a mystery/thriller called Blood on the Beach. I co-wrote it with Sarah N. Harvey, who is a senior editor at Orca, and was in fact my editor for a number of my novels and my non-fiction book Pride. Blood on the Beach is told in the alternating voices of two first person narrators: Sarah wrote from Caleb’s point of view, and I wrote from the point of view of Alice, who is bisexual.

Your most recent book, Pride, has received all sorts of award nominations, including a 2017 Stonewall Honor. What was the research experience for that book like?

26586443Pride was my first non-fiction book, and the research and writing process was entirely new to me—so different from fiction. I read a lot, and watched documentaries, and sifted through archival photographs, but I also spoke with so many people about their experiences of Pride. And from activists in Russia and Uganda to 12 year old kids here on the west coast, everyone was so helpful and interested and enthusiastic. People shared their opinions and stories and personal photographs, and read drafts, and gave feedback. It felt like a very collaborative process and one that strengthened my own sense of connection to the LGBTQ community.

Do you have your own personal favorite Pride memory?

I’ve been going to Pride for 30 years so I have accumulated a lot of really great memories; I can’t pick just one! Here are a few that stand out: Going to my first-ever Dyke March with friends in Toronto, back in 1991. Seeing my parents walking in the Pride Parade with PFLAG a few years later. Taking my son to his first Pride when he was only a month old. Speaking about the history of Pride to teens at youth-organized events. Reading at Pride in the Word, which is my favorite literary Pride event ever. And this year, taking my spaniel puppy to Pride Victoria’s Big Gay Dog Walk!

You do the very cool work of writing Hi-Lo books for Orca, which, for those unfamiliar, are “high interest, low reading level” books. How did you specifically get into Hi-Lo, and how does the writing process differ for you from your other books?

2697919I got into it entirely by accident. I’d written a short story for adults, which got way too long—novella length, really, around 15,000 words. It was about a gay teenager who lied his way into a job working as a caregiver in a residence for adults with disabilities, and I had no idea what to do with it. I’d just published by first YA novel with Orca, and I knew they had this series called Soundings that were about that length…and so I thought I’d tweak it a bit and try submitting it for that series. That story became my first hi-lo novel, Big Guy. I have written five books in that series now—they are fun to write, and they are a great writing exercise for me: because the word count is so tight, they force me to consider every word to make sure it is absolutely necessary and to work hard to make each scene serve multiple purposes (eg. developing character, building tension, furthering the plot). My writing process is a bit different for hi-lo…I’m not usually much of an outliner, but– with the exception of that first accidental hi-lo novel, of course– I outline all my hi-lo novels in a fair bit of detail before I begin.

I think hi-lo books reach a lot of kids, for a lot of reasons, and some of my favorite reader emails have come from kids who have read these books. They meet a real need, helping kids to gain confidence and to see themselves as readers—plus they are just fun, quick reads. I also edited hi-lo books for Orca for three years: the Limelights series, which are books about teens in the performing arts. It was very enjoyable work and I learned about everything from stand-up comedy to aerial silks!

I saw on Twitter you’re working on a book now about reproductive justice. Is that your next publication, and what can you tell us about that?

Yes! I am so excited about this. It’s scheduled to be published in spring 2019, in Canada and the US, and it’s aimed at older kids and teens. To be honest, after Pride came out, I wasn’t planning to write another non-fiction book—but the ongoing attack on abortion rights and access in the US is so disturbing, and the current threats to reproductive choice under the current administration are so serious, and there is so much propaganda and misinformation being taught to young people about abortion. And even in Canada, where the landscape with respect to abortion looks quite different than in the US, most kids have no idea of the long battle that was fought to legalize abortion and make it accessible. It seemed like such an important topic for kids to be aware of, and yet there aren’t a lot of kids’ books on the subject. So I proposed this book idea to Orca, and—being awesome—they agreed!

You’re a Canadian author, and I think we in the U.S. often miss a lot of the great titles that come out of Canada, the UK, and Australia that aren’t published here. What are some titles that haven’t crossed the border that you think should be getting way more attention on this side?

One Canadian book that I recently read and was very impressed by was a debut novel by a young author, Arushi Raina. It is called When Morning Comes and it is published by Tradewind Books. The story is set in South Africa and follows the lives of four young people during the student uprisings of 1976; it is well-researched, beautifully written, and very powerful. It was published in Canada in 2016 and has just been published in the US this year—I highly recommend it.

In terms of LGBTQ books more specifically, some Canadian authors whose books I love include Carrie Mac, Ivan Coyote, Tom Ryan, Mariko Tamaki, and M.E. Girard. And author Heather Smith has a new YA novel coming out this spring which includes queer characters… I just read an ARC and absolutely fell in love with it. It is called The Agony of Bun O’Keefe, and I’m very much hoping it will get all the attention it deserves on both sides of the border.

In your interview with Gay YA, you talked about writing the complexities of queer theory to a younger (Middle Grade) audience, and reminding yourself “this isn’t a university text.” What are your favorite texts on it for older audiences, and could you ever see yourself writing one that is a university text?

I love reading about queer history, and have devoured just about everything that’s crossed my path. When it comes to writing, though, my first love is fiction—and I am really looking forward to getting back to working on my middle grade novel, to a YA novel I am co-writing with a friend, and possibly also working on some short fiction for grown-up readers. No university texts in my plans!

According to your bio, you are quite well-traveled! Does that play into any of your books now, and will we see it playing into any in the future?

My partner Cheryl and I have been together 20 years, and we’ve travelled a lot together. One of the most amazing trips we have taken was the year that we spent living aboard a small sailboat and travelling from Lake Ontario, through the barge canals to New York, then down the waterways and offshore to Florida and the Bahamas. Ten years after our journey, I read over all our logbooks and used my memories of the winter we spent sailing in the Bahamas as the basis for my YA novel, A Thousand Shades of Blue. The characters and their story (and all the angst) is fictional, but the route they travel and all of the places they stay are entirely real—as is much of the scene where their boat runs aground on the rocks near Joe Sound on Long Island. It’s probably my favorite of my YA novels because it is so closely connected to so many wonderful memories for me and Cheryl.

I am working on a teen novel now that is mostly set in Australia, a country where I lived for a year as a teen and another year as a young adult– I actually came out as queer while I was living in Australia, aged 21. But most of my novels are set in BC, as this is the place I know and love best.

Please drop your thanks to Robin for dropping by, and make sure you check out
her books!

SushiRiceStudios-1socialmedia-300x300Robin Stevenson is the author of twenty books for kids and teens. Her novels include The World Without Us and The Summer We Saved the Bees, as well as the Silver Birch Award-winner Record Breaker, and the Governor General’s Award finalist, A Thousand Shades of Blue. She lives in Victoria, British Columbia. For more information, visit http://www.robinstevenson.com.

Can A Story Be Too Diverse? a Guest Post by Felix Yz author Lisa Bunker

Today on the site, we welcome Lisa Bunker, author of the just-released-yesterday Felix Yz! This Middle Grade debut features a gay protagonist, several other characters under the LGBTQ+ umbrella, and a whole lot more. Here’s the info:

28525367When Felix Yz was three years old, a hyperintelligent fourth-dimensional being became fused inside him after one of his father’s science experiments went terribly wrong. The creature is friendly, but Felix—now thirteen—won’t be able to grow to adulthood while they’re still melded together. So a risky Procedure is planned to separate them . . . but it may end up killing them both instead.

This book is Felix’s secret blog, a chronicle of the days leading up to the Procedure. Some days it’s business as usual—time with his close-knit family, run-ins with a bully at school, anxiety about his crush. But life becomes more out of the ordinary with the arrival of an Estonian chess Grandmaster, the revelation of family secrets, and a train-hopping journey. When it all might be over in a few days, what matters most?

IndieBound (find Felix through your local indie bookseller)
Penguin Random House (Hardcover, ebook, audiobook)
Barnes and Noble (Hard cover, Nook book, audiobook)
Amazon (Hard cover, Kindle edition, audiobook)
Felix on Goodreads

And here to talk more about the publication of the book is Lisa Bunker!

In the leadup to the publication of Felix, when I started getting reader reviews based on advance copies, one reviewer remarked that there were too many LGBTQ+ characters in the book. The queerness-density strained credulity, she said. (This comment about a story of a boy melded with a fourth-dimensional being.) There have been other similar remarks too, from other quarters.

Hm. Interesting.

Identity is not The Point of Felix. This is a coming-of-age novel about love, death, and family. It’s a story about a young human grappling with mortality.

That said, it is also true that among various other plot threads this young human has a crush, and as it happens both he and the crush were assigned male at birth. Likewise, Felix has a quirky supportive grandparent, and one of the quirks is that this grandparent switches off regularly between the names Vera and Vern (and uses veir own gender-neutral pronouns – vo ven veir). Also likewise, in the course of the novel, Felix’s mom navigates a love triangle, and as it happens the two love interests are one of each gender. Etc.

I approached the character design for Felix in a spirit of gleeful experimentation/play – just how many of these characters can I give at least one letter? You know, just to see how it reads? Turns out, most of them, and I love how it reads. But, each identity is no more than a facet, and not the most important facet, of the character in question. Not the preachy teachy Point; just lots of identities.

But, too many?

No. Dear reader-reviewer and other skeptics, upon reflection (and I have thought a lot about this), I feel the need to push back respectfully here. There are not too many queer characters in Felix. But I’m fascinated about why you might think so.

Consider: I recently read and was blown away by Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give. Quite apart from the ripped-from-the-headlines story and the clean, powerful writing, what a fantastic submersion into the rich variety of contemporary African-American life in its many manifestations – family and friend-groups and church and more. And there are plenty of other books in which all or almost all of the characters are from the same race, nationality, or religion. Such books seem within the norm, and they’re valuable and important and great fun to read.

So why not also books full of queer folk? Why so many books with one or two tokeny LGBTQ+ characters, but no more than some implied limit seems to allow? Well, perhaps it is not yet generally understood that queer folk also form community and have culture.

There are plenty of families like Felix’s. Mine, for example: I’m a trans woman in a committed relationship with another woman, and one of my two children is genderfluid. (My poor son – the token cis-het member of the family.) And there are many other clusters in my circle of acquaintance – friend groups, group houses, families of choice, community meeting places and flashpoints, both in the real world and online. We rainbow umbrella people are a misunderstood and often maligned sector of humanity, and part of our response to that is to seek and find each other. We join together for solace and strength. We have community and culture too.

Can you imagine anyone saying a book had too many Hispanic characters? Too many Jewish characters? Too many refugee characters? Me neither, thankfully, at least other than at the farther fringes of public discourse. But, it still seems reasonable to some people to say “too many LGBTQ+ characters.”

I aim to do what I can to rectify that. What started out as something of a writerly lark in Felix has evolved into a sense of mission. Moving forward, I aim to work toward a world in which no number of queer characters is too many. And I hope my books and others like mine will both give LGBTQ+ readers a much-needed chance to see their worlds celebrated in fiction, and also invite the general reading public to visit those worlds and perhaps discover, once again, the common bedrock of humanity that unites us all.

The story I’m working on now is about a trans girl with a troubled past and advanced coder/hacker skills who solves cyber-crimes with the help of her genderqueer best friend and her cool Lesbian aunties, while attempting to survive adolescence and middle school. Onward!

Lisa BunkerBefore setting up shop as a full-time author and trans activist, Lisa Bunker had a 30-year career in non-commercial broadcasting, most recently as Program Director of the community radio station in Portland, Maine. Besides Maine she has made homes in New Mexico, southern California, Seattle, and the Florida panhandle. She currently lives in Exeter, New Hampshire with her partner and her cat. She has two grown children. When not writing she reads, plays piano, knits, takes long walks, does yoga, and studies languages. @LisaBunker on Twitter; author website at www.lisabunker.net.