Last week I was invited to donate a book or swag to the blogaversary of a YA blog. Anyone who has ever heard me expound on the subject knows I love YA blogs and bloggers (whether or not they love me back; I love the passion for books and the vitality of the community). This blog seemed lovely and the blogger terrific.
But as I went through the blog, I was struck by the fact that the YA books she doesn’t want are listed as “horror” and “gay and lesbian.”
And as much as I’d love to support the blogger and the blog, I just can’t go there.
I grew during in a period when it was largely illegal to be gay or lesbian in this country. You could be arrested; you could lose your job; you could lose custody of your children. This extended past the era when African-Americans were consigned to the back of the bus, and it was legal for a family in Syracuse, New York to refuse to sell my family a house because we were Jewish.
To me, the battle that gay and lesbian Americans are fighting for equal rights and recognition in this country is the contemporary frontier of the Civil Rights movement. And this struggle extends to books with gay and lesbian characters which are right now, at this moment, being banned from some of our libraries and schools.
Am I suggesting that this blogger is a homophobe who wants to push gay men and lesbians back into the closet? No, I don’t know the motivation behind her decision. But when I think of gay or lesbian youth in the YA book community coming upon the “no gay or lesbian books” proviso, it makes me very sad.
So, I’m backing away. Just as I would back away from a blog that won’t review books it labels as African-American, or Jewish, or Hispanic, I am backing away from this blog.
The question of whether a book in which a protagonist’s gayness, or Jewishness, or Blackness is part of a whole separate genre is a bigger question, one that my family has been debating at the dinner table for the past couple of days. For a while I felt that I had to resolve the question before I could write this post. But in the final analysis, where you come down on this question doesn’t really have a bearing on my decision.
Because we’re not really talking about a genre here, like the horror books the blogger doesn’t choose to review. We are talking about marginalizing and excluding people, ghettoizing literature that touches upon or addresses their experience as a central theme. By supporting this blog, we are saying that excluding books that, to a greater or lesser degree, probe the experiences of gay and lesbian teens is okay with us.
It’s not okay.
And I know, it’s just a bookmark, a signature, a paperback book. But it’s also complicity with something that is unacceptable to me and I hope to my YA book community. I hope, from the bottom of my heart, that this blogger will open her blog to books that reflect the experience of the entire YA community. Until she does, I, for one, am not coming to the party.