“Yes. . .I Have Those Kind of Books.” by Paul W. Hankins

I had a Nerdy Book Club post ready for the administrators to post today. When Cindy emailed and asked for a new bio and picture to go along with the post, I told her that I had a new bio. . .a new picture. . .and a brand new post.
This is that post. The other can wait for another time as I muse about the importance of narrative.
Maybe, I am still doing that in this post. We can decide together when we come to the end.
After a recent GSA meeting at our high school, a student came into Room 407 and said, ” ______________ said that you have gay books and I could borrow them from you.”
Now, like many of you, I have seen the meme that addresses the “Can I go to the bathroom” vs. “May I. . .” and the discourse between the teacher and the student after the request regarding meaning and whether or not meaning has been achieved even in the absence of proscriptive presentation.
A meaning had been achieved by the student. Even if what he probably meant was, “Do you have any titles that bring forth themes that would address the questions and interest and needs of the LGBTQPIA community of readers?”
I told him, “Yes. I DO have those kinds of books.”
This was not the time to talk through the nuances of what we call a book beyond a story bound in such a way that it can be carried away by the hands of a reader in order so that it might enter his, her, or their heart in the reading of said book.
It was a time to recognize–in a flash of realization–that I DO:
*know those kind of books.
*stay aware of and advocate for those kind of books.
*shelve those kind of books.
*add to the collection of those kind of books.
*share those kind of books.
*lose with regularity those kind of books.
One of the ways I stay aware of “gay books” is to keep my eyes upon the Stonewall Awards each year. Here is some quick information regarding the Stonewall Book Award from The American Library Association’s website:

The first and most enduring award for GLBT books is the Stonewall Book Awards, sponsored by the American Library Association’s Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Round Table. Since Isabel Miller’s Patience and Sarah received the first award in 1971, many other books have been honored for exceptional merit relating to the gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender experience.

The Stonewall Book Award-Barbara Gittings Literature Award, the Stonewall Book Award-Israel Fishman Non-Fiction Award and the Stonewall Book Award-Mike Morgan and Larry Romans Children’s and Young Adult Literature Award are presented to English language works published the year prior to the announcement date. The award is announced in January and presented to the winning authors or editors at the American Library Association Annual Conference in June or July. The award winners each receive a commemorative plaque and $1,000.


Here is a backlist of some of the Stonewall Book Award Winners from the past few years. The American Library Association website offers even more titles that can be added to school and classroom libraries.


Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kuklin

I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress by Christine Baldacchio


Better Nate Than Never by Tim Federle

Branded by the Pink Triangle by Ken Setterington

Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan


Drama by Raina Telgemeier

Gone, Gone, Gone by Hannah Moskowitz

October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard by Leslea Newman

And the list goes back and back and back. Forty-five years of recognizing titles that address the interests, questions, and needs of readers looking for these kind of books.

More recently, in Room 407, the student walked away with a copy of Susan Kuklin’s Beyond Magenta and Ken Setterington’s Branded by the Pink Triangle. Probably excited that he might learn more about issues related to transgenderism told in narrative by those his age and the prospect of adding to his knowledge of the Holocaust (and his interest in the book, Night), I noted that the young man held both books against his chest when leaving.

I know that method of bearing a load. Especially when it is a book load. We carry close to the vest. Close to the chest. This is the first contact the book makes with the heart.

I’ve probably lost both of those books.

When we talk of books that meet the interest, questions, and needs of a reader–no matter the subject or themes–we stand to lose these books to love. And. . .in this case. . .it is better to have lost TO love than to have never been able to love at all.

LGBTQPIA titles are those that are often checked out quietly. And lost frequently. I’ll think about a title that I want to offer to a reader knowing its place upon the shelf only to find that the book is not there when I look for it.

It was there when a reader needed it.

And there is no better way to discover that a book has been lost than to realize that–when it really mattered–it was found.

Because we have “those kind of books.”

Next Monday, as the community of readers turn his, her, and their collective attentions to the American Library Association Awards, there will be that kind of early soothsaying in regard to the prospective Newbery and Caldecott Medal winners and honor titles. I count myself among those excited to each year to see what the committee members have seen and have selected in these two categories. There is local talk of snow arriving here in southern Indiana which could mean I watch the ALA Youth Media Awards quietly at home. But as a matter of tradition in Room 407, we will watch the simulcast in the room and the recorded version in the subsequent class meetings. We will learn about the award categories and what they mean to the books that are chosen for each.
We will look forward to the big announcements which are always saved for the end of the ceremony. But, I know that before those two awards are announced, The Stonewall Book Award will have already been given. I am just as excited to see a winner here and as many honor books as there can be allowed. Here is some information from the American Library Association regarding the Stonewall Book Award.
I will have seen one or two in 2016. I will have read many more that might not be recognized by the committee. I remember that Ann Bausum’s non-fiction title, *Stonewall: Breaking Out in the Fight for Equal Rights, did not win a Stonewall Book Award (I thought I had this bet covered). I often miss one or two (usually in the children’s or picture book formats).
These will be added to our collection in Room 407.
And I will have more. . .”gay books.”
Because I know that kid. He’s way to nice to take one of my books. And he’ll need more. And because someone told him I have those kind of books, he look for them.
And I’ll have them.
*By the way, this book did win an award for the audio format. Tim Federle reads the text and it is a title you will not want to miss with your eyes, or, because of Federle’s delivery, with your ears.
img_3251Paul W. Hankins teaches English 11 and AP English Language and Composition at Silver Creek High School. An advocate of readers and independent reading alike, he maintains an classroom library as well as a social media presence in an effort to get books to readers who need them. He reads, shelves, and shares many kinds of books. You can find Paul at Facebook: PaulWHankins. Twitter: @PaulWHankins and Instagram: paul_w_hankins. Follow #Room407 and #THIS407 for ideas in connecting readers with books and books with would-be/will be readers.