My last blog post was pretty focused on ethnic and racial diversity, mainly because the write-up was in part a reflection on my own experiences. But obviously diversity goes far beyond that.
There’s of course religion, disability, wealth, social status…just to name a few.
Also consider the characters’ professions. Someone I was talking to at BEA said she’d noticed that in books the parents of minority characters were rarely given higher educated professions. Like why can’t the Latino guy’s dad be a doctor?
Then of course there’s identity and sexuality. Which is what I’m going to focus on for this post. I just want to share some books that I find myself recommending over and over again. They’re from a variety of genres:
By Anne Carson
This is a beautifully written novel-in-verse. It is so so beautifully written, and is also very readable. The main character Geryon is a teenaged boy struggling to understand his own identity and dealing with heartache. It’s profound and inspiring — one of those books that, once you’ve read, you sort of end up carrying around in your head at all times.
By Andrew Smith
This book is unlike anything I’ve read, somehow wild and hilarious and poignant and ridiculous all at the same time. The main character doesn’t understand his own sexuality and can’t help being in love with two people of two different genders. He’s constantly horny but also kind of a badass and goes around killing giant praying mantises. …It’s hard to explain. Just read it.
This is one of my favorite fantasy trilogies ever. My best friend introduced me to these books when we were in the eighth grade and they were life-changing. The main character struggles with his sexuality; he’s forced to deal with external prejudices plus a homophobic father. It’s a fictional land but the issues are very much the kinds that a sixteen-year-old gay boy might encounter in our world. Add to that the awesome system of magic and one of the best romances in the history of fantasy writing, and you’ve got a must-read.
By Oscar Wilde
I guess there are still people who argue that this book has no themes of homosexuality at all, but that’s not how I read it so I’m including it in this list. This book is thrilling and witty with beautiful prose and a fascinating premise about a man who stays perfectly preserved physically while his portrait changes to reflect his age and past. It’s about beauty and vanity and virtue.
By Jamie O’Neill
I read this in high school as a two-birds-one-stone type thing to fuel my obsession with Ireland and my obsession with books centered around homosexual characters. It’s done stream-of-consciousness style and tells the love story of two young men in Dublin. This book is a slower read and a little harder to get into in the beginning, partly because of the language, but it’s so so rewarding and beautiful and heartbreaking.
By Christopher Isherwood
Cheating a little bit because I actually haven’t read this one. I saw the movie (starring Matt Smith!) and loved it. So I’ve been meaning to read the book, which is actually Christopher Isherwood’s autobiography. Isherwood was a novelist who was probably most famous for writing what ended up being adapted into the Broadway musical Cabaret. The movie focused a lot on his homosexuality, and apparently the book also treats his homosexuality very matter-of-factly, which is fascinating given that it covers the 1920s and 1930s.
By Jessica Herthel & Jazz Jennings
And lastly — how could I not include a picture book? This is a fantastic title that comes out later this year. It’s based on the real-life experiences of twelve-year-old transkid Jazz Jennings (who also co-authored the book!). When I read this for the first time I was so so thrilled to see that such an important book was going to be published. It’s an amazing story of identity that everyone should absolutely read.