Summer Learning keeps moving forward, and the librarians at San Jose Public are moving forward too! We've got another list to help inspire your reading and learning this Summer. If you haven't already, you should sign up for Summer Learning to log your reading and win prizes. We will also be releasing a weekly blog with a new booklist that we hope will pique your interest. This week we'll celebrate Pride Month with a selection of books featuring LGBTQ+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, + representing/encompassing the spectrum of gender/sexuality) characters and themes.
Representation in popular media is important. Whether in a movie, a book, or even an advertisement, when someone can identify with a character it can help them engage with the story, maybe it grants a role model, and it could even boost self esteem by changing the way an individual sees themselves. Reading stories with different points of view also fosters empathy and understanding. With these ideas in mind and June being Pride Month, it seemed only natural to include a list of books for all ages that feature LGBTQ+ characters and characters that share unique perspectives and experiences.
What is Pride Month? Pride Month originally started as Pride Day (celebrated the last Sunday in June and commemorating the Stonewall Uprising, a pivotal event leading up to the gay liberation movement) and eventually grew to Pride Month. Pride Month is an umbrella that encompasses many different initiatives: it seeks to raise awareness for the issues facing the LGTBQ+ community; it hopes to fight bias and encourage understanding; it is about being proud of who you are, and the right to live life openly without fear of persecution; it is about making visible what people have long been forced to hide.
While there are no doubt still challenges and biased attitudes to face yet, the progress that has been made by people belonging to and allies of the LGBTQ+ community should be highlighted. With an ever growing presence in literature, one way we can appreciate this progress is by reading books with LGBTQ+ characters and themes, and this is an initiative to take any time of year, Pride Month and beyond. These books are not only an opportunity for some of us to find that important representation in media, but they can help fight bias by exposure, and also fight boredom because these books are great reads! Check out the full, multigenerational booklist here.
It wasn't that long ago that there was a paucity of literature in general featuring LGBTQ+ characters and themes, so it is especially wonderful as a librarian to see so many picture book titles that relate to Pride Month. This is a mix of fiction and nonfiction, with true stories and new fairy tales. These books can be used to start a variety of different conversations to help teach understanding and acceptance of both the self and others.
While all of these books are worth a read, I always like to highlight my favorites, and for this lot I absolutely love Julián is a Mermaid. This particular book, a Stonewall Book Award recipient (among others in this blog), I love for a number of reasons. It is a simple book that relies a lot on the artwork to tell the story, and the artwork is absolutely gorgeous. The pages of Julián imagining himself as a mermaid, and the costumes of the parade later on, are beautiful and whimsical and perfectly complement the story. The story itself is a simple one - it's about the pure joy of being accepted for who you are, especially by someone you love.
These books, all novels, are a little longer and best for confident readers and pre-teens (or roughly, ages 9-12). These books not only grant us access to different perspectives of those during moments of self discovery and coming of age, but begins to introduce more literally some of the issues, challenges, and attitudes that affect individuals that are grappling with understanding discoveries of themselves.
As The Crow Flies is a unique pick to highlight. This is the story of a thirteen-year-old African-American lesbian girl that sets out to find herself as part of an all-white Christian youth camp. This book provides opportunities to consider a lot pertinent topics; race, microaggressions, spirituality, and cis/white feminism in addition acceptance, friendship, and belonging. I also like to highlight graphic novels when I can as I often feel they are an under-appreciated medium. Reading a graphic novel requires that you pay close attention to dialogue, and use skills of observation to fill in details of the story through the illustrations. All in all, this book is a great middle grade read that will inspire empathy and understanding in its readers.
This selection of books is roughly intended for ages 12-17, but of course can work for a precocious younger reader and anyone older as well. For the Teen or Young Adult (YA) there is definitely a growing representation of the LGBTQ+ community in literature, and we have the pleasure of being introduced to a number of inspiring voices, both real and imagined. From protagonists to side kicks to side characters, there are many ways to read and celebrate Pride with YA fiction. While there are a growing number of books from a variety of genres adding greater diversity to their cast of characters (like Cassandra Clare's Alec Lightwood, found in City of Bones, a demon hunter that just happens to have a handsome warlock for a boyfriend), this list focuses more on realistic fiction, with one non-fiction pick.
For this selection of books I want to highlight Like a Love Story. With the definition of what constitutes historical fiction set to around take place 30 years in the past, this book recently made the transition to technically historical fiction, being set in 1989. The book is about the relationships between Reza, Art, and Judy, and how they play out against the backdrop of fear, anxiety, ignorance, and misunderstanding that came with the HIV/AIDS epidemic. This near history will make a moving read for many, as likely many readers will know people that lived through this time, and it is a Stonewall Book Award honoree (finalist).
For those seeking to learn more about queer history in the USA, the final selection of this list, A Queer History of the United States for Young People, will no doubt help out. This book shares many stories, spanning as far back as the 17th century, and "encourages young readers, of all identities, to feel pride at the accomplishments of the LGBTQ people who came before them and to use history as a guide to the future." (--Provided by Publisher)
Last but not least, our Pride Picks for Adults are here! This selection leans more on non-fiction, but also features a book of poetry. Prelude to Bruise opens with a quote from Franz Kafka, "The man in ecstasy and the man drowning — both throw up their arms", and continues thereon in with the worlds of Saeed Jones, whose poetry is filled with multiple meanings and wordplay while exploring the theme of sexuality among myriad others.
Whether Pride Month or not, these books have many important lessons and observations within their pages that will make a good read any time of year. As always, if you're looking for more to read check out other great recommendations on our Staff Picks Page. If you're looking for more ways to participate in Summer Learning, leave a book review on Beanstack (the site that powers our Summer Learning program). There is a chance we may feature your review in an upcoming blog!