Why the American Library Association’s New “Gay” Award for Youth Literature is More than Just a Token

Thursday, November 4, 2010 § 3

On Monday, the American Library Association announced an addition of a new prize, the Stonewall Children’s and Young Adult Literature Award, to their Youth Media Awards.

The honor is awarded to English-language books “of exceptional merit relating to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered experience”.

This a big deal.

Books receiving this award are put on the same level as the prestigious John Newberry and Randolph Caldecott medals. With this award, the ALA is essentially saying to librarians that, hey, it’s totally cool for American youth to read about the LGBT experience! In fact, here’s some books excellent books that cover just that!

This message was needed. The amount of books that deal with the LGBT experience in libraries across the US is generally pretty abysmal. In my area (northern suburbs of Chicago), both the school and the  public libraries do a pretty good job in stocking a variety of literature. Sadly, this is not the norm (link to a pdf study by the National Association of School Psychologists).

In thousands of libraries across the United States, lgbt experiences are just not represented in youth literature. Whether its from prejudice or simply ignorance, many librarians choose not to stock teen or children's books that deal with the lgbt community. Fifteen-year old Kentucky blogger Brent posted over the summer on the lack of LGBT literature in his community.

He brought up many great points, foremost in my mind being that many LGBT youth, many marginalized by their communities, turn to books to see that, hey, there’s nothing wrong with me being who I am! Stories are important. As I talked about in my previous post about the It Gets Better Project, people look to stories to see that they’re not alone in the their struggles. With no easily accessible books, that becomes a lot harder.

Robert Stevens, president of the ALA, brings up another. By reading books about the LGBT community, heterosexual and cisgendered youth can hopefully become more tolerant and accepting of their LGBT brothers and sisters. Because, after all, stories are also to take in new experiences, to learn about different groups of people. And again, without books, that’s just not gonna work.

Librarians care about the ALA awards. They’re looked at by librarians across the country when deciding what new book to purchase. Maybe, some hesitant librarians will see that because awards are presented for excellent LGBT youth literature, that there’s nothing wrong or inappropriate about stocking it. Maybe they’ll put in an order for Boy Meets Boy, or 10,000 Dresses. Or maybe they won’t. But hey, it’s a step.

The 2010 Stonewall Children’s & Young Adult Literature Award was given to The Vast of Fields of Ordinary, by Nick Burd.

the vast fields of ordinary

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§ 3 Response to “Why the American Library Association’s New “Gay” Award for Youth Literature is More than Just a Token”

  • Kate says:

    Kyle,
    This is awesome. I had no idea the Stonewall award was coming into play, and I think it's so important. I've always thought books are a great way of changing people's minds and bigotry, especially when you start with the youngest generation. As always, your writing was so sophisticated, and your links we're helpful. Do you have any other favorite LGBT-friendly children's books? I'd be interested in seeing them.-- Kate H

  • Kate-
    I haven't actually read these, but 10,000 Dresses (linked above); Dada, Papa and Me; Mommy, Mama and Me; And Tango Makes Three, and The Sissy Duckling are generally pretty highly recommended.

    This website also has some great recommendations: http://rainbowlist.wordpress.com/rl-2010/

  • Kate says:

    Thanks so much, Kyle! I'll try and check them out:)

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