Quantcast
Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
(The Associated Press) David Levithan is author of "Boy Meets Boy," which was published in 2003.
Writer David Levithan on LGBT books for the young
First Published Jun 27 2014 01:53 pm • Last Updated Jun 27 2014 01:58 pm

Writer David Levithan last year marked the 10th anniversary of his "Boy Meets Boy," a romantic teen comedy where the homecoming queen was once a guy and the gay-straight alliance was aimed at helping the straight kids learn how to dance.

And there was Paul, who meets Noah.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

Since then, there’s been a burst of books featuring lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning young people.

Levithan, also publisher and editorial director at Scholastic, offered his insights into parenting and books on LGBTQ-related themes for young people in an interview with The Associated Press.

How does a parent who isn’t involved in the LGBTQ community but would like to foster an awareness and tolerance in children go about doing that through books, and at what age does that process begin?

It’s never too early to foster kindness and equal treatment, for whatever group. So much of the pain that LGBT kids go through is because they feel distanced from all of the narratives they’ve been given. They’ve been told that everyone grows up a certain way, and now their own way is diverging from that.

The best thing parents can do, whether their kids end up queer or straight, is to acknowledge all of the different options that are out there, and letting their kids know that they support them no matter which options end up being theirs.

Books are a wonderful signifier and a perfect conversation starter. With my novel "Boy Meets Boy," I’ve seen it work both ways: I’ve had kids who’ve left their copies around for parents to find, as a way of ‘coming out’ to them. And I’ve had parents who’ve left their copies around for kids to find, so the kids would know they were supported and loved.

Your fellow writer John Green said a Hollywood producer once told him: "The only thing audiences hate more than smart teenagers are gay teenagers." Does that extend to books for kids and teens today?

That producer would be laughed out of one of my editorial meetings, for certain. Readers embrace all kinds of characters, as long as they are written with emotional truth.


story continues below
story continues below

Ten years ago, there may have been some hesitation on some people’s part. But it’s a different world now, and the best-seller list is full of novels with well-developed gay characters — not just in gay-themed novels like "Will Grayson, Will Grayson" (co-written by Green and Levithan) but in works by best-selling authors like Cassandra Claire, Maggie Stiefvater and Ellen Hopkins, where the queer characters are part of the multifaceted worlds they are creating or reflecting.

Are LGBTQ kids and teens fairly represented in books for those age groups? Are there enough stories where LGBTQ themes are taken on but also books that just happen to include such characters but are not about that experience?

There is constantly a need for diversity within the representations. It’s just as limiting to say there’s only one kind of gay story, just as it’s limiting to say there’s only one kind of straight one. As for how much being gay is central to the character’s identity or story — as in life that totally depends on who the character is and what he or she is going through.

The important thing is for the characters to feel real, and to be given the humanity they are due. That granting of humanity is what separates a full portrait from a stereotype.

I think it’s dangerous to talk about "Oh, that character just happens to be gay" as some kind of goal for us and our literature. The important thing is to show as much of the spectrum as possible, and to continue to investigate it.



Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment


About Reader Comments


Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Videos
Jobs
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.