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Clodagh Chapman, Ambassador Coordinator of Just Like Us, the LGBT+ charity empowering young people 'from the classroom to their careers', shares her top reads for LGBT+ History Month - because everyone deserves to see themselves represented in books.
In recent years, LGBTQ+ narratives have begun to make their way into mainstream culture. With LGBT+ History Month upon us once again, here are six of the top children’s and YA books which celebrate LGBT+ identity - because everyone deserves to see themselves represented in books.
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz (Simon & Schuster)
With an impressive slate of awards, numerous celebrity endorsements and an upcoming film adaptation to boot, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is a heart-warming, witty and lyrical snatch of adolescent angst. Sáenz’s expertly-crafted prose immerses even the most romance-averse reader into Ari and Dante’s colliding worlds of swimming lessons, stargazing and first kisses. A refreshing take on the “will-they-won’t-they” narrative, with bonus points for incidental Latinx representation.
Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli (HarperCollins)
It would be forgivable to assume Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda is overhyped, having made virtually every LGBTQ+ YA reading list since its release. But in this instance, the hype is just about justified. Is it cheesy? Yes. Is it cliched? Is it a smart novel which hits the nail on the head in normalising LGBTQ+ teenagehood by presenting a queer storyline through a quintessentially normative social narrative? Absolutely, emphatically, yes.
Having worked with Just Like Us - a charity which aims to empower LGBT+ young people by eradicating anti-LGBT+ bullying in schools - for four years, I can attest to the importance of this. 96% of LGBTQ+ young people have heard homophobic, biphobic or transphobic language used in their school, and six in ten experience anti-LGBTQ+ bullying. Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda does critical work in normalising LGBTQ+ relationships within a school environment, and is nigh-on essential reading.
And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson & Peter Parnell (Simon & Schuster)
And Tango Makes Three is a (true) story about two male chinstrap penguins at Central Park Zoo who together hatch an egg and raise a baby penguin. Not only is it exactly as adorable as it sounds, complete with Henry Cole’s famously gorgeous illustrations, but it also provides an excellent introduction to diverse families for younger children.
The Grief Keeper by Alexandra Villasante (Putnam)
Villasante’s razor-sharp prose and rigorous world-building are living proof that YA does not equal 2D. The Grief Keeper follows Marisol as she sacrifices everything for a chance to stay in her adoptive home country. In a magical realist spin on the classic Bildungsroman, Villasante crafts a tender and heart-aching cry for acceptance in an increasingly hostile political climate and an ode to grief, celebration and everything in-between.
Neither by Airlie Anderson (Little, Brown)
Anderson’s beautifully simple picture book follows Neither, who aims to carve out a genuinely inclusive space in the Land of This and That. Demystifying non-binary identity for the very youngest of readers, Neither is a gentle conversation-starter on gender identity and inclusion of people of every ilk.
Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit by Jeannette Winterson (Grove Press)
Bone dry comedy meets stomach-wrenching tragedy in Winterson’s beguiling, heartbreaking and darkly comedic novel for younger audiences. A semi-autobiographical account of growing up as a queer woman in a hyper-religious community, Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit brims with Winterson’s evocative yet readable prose. An excellent read for both young and not-so-young adults.
Clodagh Chapman is a queer writer and Ambassador Coordinator at Just Like Us, a charity which aims to eradicate homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying. At the age of 18, Clodagh became one of the youngest ever writers to have work nominated for an Off West End Award. Currently, she is co-writing butterfly, which explores queer history and remembrance, for VAULT Festival 2020.