Top Ten LGBTQ Books the Younger Me Desperately Needed by Dawn Betts-Green
Educators and librarians are well aware that every child and young adult needs to find themselves reflected in the pages of the books they read. For some this is more difficult to achieve than others. As an LGBTQ youth just coming out in the 90s and living in small-town, rural Alabama, I sought frantically through my library’s shelves for books that would help me understand this new part of my identity. Whether it was because they weren’t there or I just didn’t find them, I was unsuccessful, and I didn’t locate those books until I started college and discovered the wonders of my first gay bookstore. It’s my hope that someday, this will simply be an historical anecdote that no LGBTQ person can relate to, that all libraries (school and public alike) will be stocked with multitudes of relevant books for these kids.
With that end in mind, what follows is a list of ten wonderful books I only discovered as an adult or that have only recently been published. I guarantee that you know someone right now who could use one or all of these. Of course, there are many more that I could have included, and they are all wonderful as well. These ten just happen to be my own personal favorites. I think you’ll love them, but to quote every young book nerd’s hero, “you don’t have to take my word for it.”
Annie on My Mind by Nancy Garden
Despite the fact that this was published in 1982, it took me until 2013, when I was 34 and in graduate school, to find this book. Garden, who recently passed, was a prolific author with multiple titles including LGBTQ characters; Annie is probably her most known work. It tells the story of Liza and Annie, high school students in New York City, who meet in a museum and form a fast friendship. It soon becomes clear to them that it is far more than friendship. I read this in one sitting and bawled like a baby for the sixteen-year-old me who needed this book.
Queer: The Ultimate LGBT Guide for Teens by Kathy Belge
Many LGBTQ teens have no one in their lives to turn to with questions about the many new thoughts, feelings, and issues they experience when coming out (both to themselves and the world). Belke’s book offers this information about coming out, life in general, and some LGBTQ history.
And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson
This is one of my favorite picture books of all time! Richardson tells the true story of a pair of male penguins that form a family and raise a chick—an excellent tale of how families are all different and wonderful in their own ways.
The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth
In the news recently because of censorship challenges, Danforth’s book gives us a vision of a young lesbian dealing with family rejection of her identity and the horrifying experience of Christian gay-reparative therapy.
The Letter Q: Queer Writers’ Notes to their Younger Selves edited by Sarah Moon
Sixty-three LGBTQ authors contributed to this amazing anthology. Every section of the spectrum you can imagine is covered in these letters to their younger, confused, and sometimes frightened selves.
Uncle Bobby’s Wedding by Sarah S. Brannen
A picture book about gay marriage starring guinea pigs…how could you go wrong?! What I love most about this book is that you aren’t even aware that it’s a gay wedding until over halfway through the story. It’s just about family and love, and that is awesome.
10,000 Dresses by Marcus Ewert
Bailey dreams of beautiful dresses, but he’s a boy! Ewert’s book is an excellent story of being true to who you are, regardless of others’ expectations.
Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan
Even though the main character’s world seems more fantasy than reality, the beauty of this book is that the focus isn’t Paul’s coming out or identity crisis, it’s the messiness of teenage relationships and friendships and figuring out how to navigate them.
The Legend of Bold Riley by Leia Wethington
I love graphic novels and comics, and finding good LGBTQ representations in them is sort of a hobby. Like Levithan’s book, this one’s most endearing quality to me is that Riley being a lesbian just is not a big deal. It’s who she is, and that’s all there is to it.
This Day in June by Gayle E. Pitman
Finishing out this list is the most appropriate one for October—it is LGBTQ History Month, after all. This shiny new picture book is all about a Pride celebration and includes LGBTQ history as well as resources for parents and other adults on explaining sexual orientation and related topics to children.
Dawn Betts-Green is a first-year doctoral student in Library and Information Science at Florida State. If you couldn’t tell from the post, she’s primarily interested in studying LGBTQ youth and LGBTQ children’s and YA collections in libraries, mainly in the rural South, although intellectual freedom is a close and dear second. When she’s not wading through classwork and actually has time, she’s reading, gaming, or embroidering strange things. Though she’s the most sporadic and unscheduled poster in history, she blogs as obsessivecompulsivedawn.blogspot.com and dinosaurinthelibrary.blogspot.com and tweets as @librarydino.