Ten LBGTQ Books In My Classroom Library by Chris Kervina

At Airline Park Elementary, Mariah didn’t quite fit in with our 2nd grade class. She was…different somehow. A bit brash and more of a tomboy than many of us, she seemed to draw the attention of the class bullies, and she got in trouble when she reacted angrily to their teasing.

Mariah may have gone to my school for only a short time. I remember her in the 2nd grade, but not after. We weren’t really friends, but she still lives in my memory because of one particular day.

While rehearsing for the 2nd grade play, where I made my one and only stage appearance as a haystack, some of the other kids teased her as we waited around. They started by singing “They Called The Wind Mariah” when she walked by on the stage. As usual, she started to get aggravated. Then one boy called her a name I’d never heard before.


The boy spat that unfamiliar word at her, and she screamed back at him. I didn’t know what that meant, but I knew it must have been bad. The boy said it like he would have said one of the bad words adults use sometimes when they are angry. I thought that being a lesbian, whatever that was, must be awful.

Looking back, I wonder if Mariah was a lesbian. If she was, she probably didn’t find the refuge I did in books. During middle and high school, the books I read on my own, and certainly the ones I read in school, wouldn’t have reflected her. There were plenty of boys and girls falling in love to mirror the experiences of my peers, but they didn’t have female characters that suddenly discovered they had crushes on each other. If Mariah questioned her sexuality in the age before the Internet, she didn’t have any models or mirrors that kids need.

One of the courses I took to prepare to switch from working in the government contracting world to teaching was an elective called Young Adult Literature in Multicultural Settings, taught by Dr. Linda Hanrahan. Linda required us to explore YA books that represented the diversity we might encounter in our own classes. Perhaps inspired by Mariah, my friends from college, and my own experiences, I took on a study of gender and sexual identity in YA as my culminating project.

That class was the start of what has become my classroom library. Though some of those books have disappeared over the years (Love Rules, One of Those Hideous Books Where the Mother Dies), half remain in my classroom library today. Others have joined them. They deal with many issues faced by gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) teens, their friends, and their families.

Here are 10 LBGTQ books  I have in my classroom library. This is by no means an exhaustive list. However, these 10 (+1 bonus!) have been a good start toward ensuring that my high school classroom has books for every reader.

Annie on my Mind by Nancy Garden (1992-L)

When 17-year-olds Liza and Annie meet at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, they form an instant friendship that turns romantic. Liza struggles to understand her feelings after she and Annie are discovered together by a school administrator.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky (1999-G)

High school freshman “Charlie” writes to an anonymous person about his first year in high school. He befriends Sam and her step-brother Patrick, who is gay. One subplot involves Patrick’ secret relationship with Brad, the football team’s quarterback. Perks is #16 on NPR’s 2012 “Best-Ever Teen Novels.”

Rainbow Boys by Alex Sanchez (2001-G, Q)

Senior and popular athlete Jason begins to question his sexuality and goes to a meeting for gay youth. There he meets Kyle, a swimmer who is coming to accept his sexuality, and Kyle’s best friend Nelson, a flamboyantly gay senior. As they bond over their fears about coming out, Kyle and Jason become more than friends. The book also deals with casual sex, meaningful relationships, and HIV.

Luna by Julie Anne Peters (2004-T)

In this 2004 National Book Award finalist, the fifteen-year-old narrator, Regan, has always known her brother Liam’s secret: he cannot stand who he pretends to be during the day. At night, Liam transforms himself into Luna with the help of his sister’s clothes and makeup. Regan alternately fears Liam/Luna will harm or reveal himself. When Liam/Luna considers openly embracing her identity as a woman, can Regan support her?

Out of the Pocket by Bill Koningsberg (2008-G)

Senior football star Bobby Framingham knows he’s gay, but keeps his sexual orientation secret from his teammates and coach. Tired of hiding, he confides in “friend” Finch Gozman,. Finch, a high school reporter who desperately wants to be a journalist, writes a news story that outs Bobby, who must deal with the fallout.


Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan (2010-G)

Will Grayson has been best friends with Tiny Cooper since grade school. The only thing tiny about Tiny Cooper is his name; he’s out, outrageous, and lovable. When Will Grayson accidentally encounters another Will Grayson, the lives of all three are changed. Both funny and poignant, this was the first gay themed YA to debut on NYT Bestseller list and is #34 on NPR’s 2012 “100 Best-Ever Teen Novels.”

Shine by Lauren Myracle (G-2011)

Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award winner Shine starts in the aftermath of a brutal hate crime. After Peter’s attack leaves him in a coma, his former best friend, sixteen-year-old Cat, thinks someone in their rural Southern community is responsible and feels compelled to seek justice for Peter. The book immediately calls to mind the real life murder of Matthew Shephard and is a gut-wrenching, beautiful story of friendship and healing.

The Miseducation of Cameron Post by emily m. danforth (2012-L, G, T, Q)

Cameron Post lives in rural Montana. The day after her first kiss with her best friend Irene, twelve-year-old Cam’s parents die, and her conservative Aunt Ruth and her grandmother move in to care for her. As a teen, Cam begins to accepts her sexuality and identify as a lesbian. She falls for the beautiful Coley Taylor in high school, and they have a secret relationship. When her aunt discovers the truth, she sends 17-year-old Cam to God’s Promise, a fundamentalist church camp that promises  to “cure” her.

Every Day (2012-L? G? B? T?)

Every day, A wakes up in a new body. A’s hosts are male, female, all races, and all social classes. The only common threads: each is A’s chronological age and fairly close by. Mostly, A tries not to disturb their lives, until A wakes up as Justin and falls in love with Justin’s girlfriend Rhiannon. The next day brings a new body. But the love A feels for Rhiannon remains, and A wants to see her. This book defies definition and makes the reader question…everything.

Ask the Passengers by A.S. King (2012-L, Q) 2012

Senior Astrid Jones hates that her mother moved them to a small Pennsylvania town. She feels attracted to other women, but doesn’t know if she is a lesbian. Her best friend pressures her to come out of the closet, her mother domineers, her sister tries to be perfect, and her father escapes into pot. With no one to talk to, Astrid examines her life through her imaginary friend Frank Socrates and sends her love to the passengers of the planes that fly overhead.

October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shephard by Leslea Newmann (2012-G, Hate crimes)

Since it’s National Poetry Month, I’d be remiss if I left out October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shephard by Leslea Newmann. While Newmann’s book isn’t young adult literature, it, too, holds a place in my class library. October Mourning’s poetry responds to and explores the impacts of the brutal murder of Matthew Shephard in 1998. I graduated from the University of Wyoming in 1997. Some of my best friends there were in the LGBTA, one of whom was its president at the time. Newmann’s book and Myracle’s Shine are windows into the darker places I hope my kids never go. But I keep them and will include other “dark books” because putting blinds over the windows doesn’t make the bad things go away. For the kids in 213, the right book might just be the one that rips down the blinds.

Chris Kervina teaches English and journalism, and relentlessly adds books to her classroom library in northern Virginia. A long time sufferer of helium hands, she also advises the literary magazine, works at basketball games, and belongs to an educational sorority. She can no longer claim to be just a “Nerdy groupie.” Chris blogs inconsistently at http://mrskervina.blogspot.com. You can also find her on Twitter as @ckervina.