Life, Love, and Lesbian Literature

So, this has been a crazy past couple of weeks for me. I spent last week preparing to give a talk about graphic novels at the New England SCBWI conference, and as I was packing to go on thursday evening, I found out that the little foster boy that my partner and I had cared for was going to be back in Vermont for the entire summer. But we have no idea if we will get to see him, even though he will be less than an hour away from us.

He left a year and a half ago to return to his birth mother–they moved to Florida–and it took a long time for life to settle back into some sort of rhythm without him. Now finding out through the grapevine that he will be back just brings up all these big thoughts and feelings: mistakes, slights, moments of extreme and human weakness, etc.

I have a great deal of compassion for anyone who has ever taken a child into her home and heart knowing that some day that child might be gone. And for the child who never quite knows where his home is going to be next year. And even for the parents who might not have their act together but in almost all cases truly love their children and want to work hard to be able to get them back. It’s just hard for everyone. I send love and compassion to anyone else who is experiencing this situation.

But since I had to be at the conference this weekend, most of these feelings got pushed under the surface. It was a great weekend, though. Full of learning, connecting, new and old friends.

Annie on My Mind by Nancy Garden

One of the most satisfying moments of connection was when I found myself opposite Nancy Garden at lunch yesterday. Her novel Annie on My Mind was one of the first books about lesbians I ever found as a teenager, and I can’t describe the feelings of hope and understanding it gave me. Though I obviously write and keep this blog because I believe in books and their power to make life better for kids, I am still amazed to look back and think of the impact some books had on me.

This book was definitely one of them. And I am certainly not alone in this. This same book, orginally published in 1982 (the year I was born) is certainly one of the most influential GLBTQ books for teens, and I think maybe the first to really bring them into focus in the industry.

Nancy Garden has continued to write many books for GLBTQ kids and teens, and the reality is that there are not enough of these books, and there are not enough of these books that are hopeful and well-written, though they do exist. A colleague pointed out that none of the Stonewall Awards that the ALA gave out this year for GLBTQ books for youth featured a lesbian protagonist. So the work that women like Nancy Garden and Ellen Wittlinger do is invaluable.

Anyway, Nancy Garden was lovely and genuine and down to earth and she agreed to be interviewed for this blog, so look forward to that sometime in the nearish future.

And I thought I’d close this post with another list of good books generated by the brain trust that is my VCFA friends. This time the list is, timely enough, about Lesbian books for teens:

  • Ash by Malinda Lo
  • Huntress by Malinda Lo
  • A Love Story Starring My Dead Best Friend
  • Annie on My Mind by Nancy Garden
  • Empress of the World by Sara Ryan
  • (I would include Tipping the Velvet though it’s not usually called YA.)
  • The Necessary Hunger, by Nina Revoyr
  •  Wildthorn, by Jane Eagland
  • Secrets of Truth and Beauty, by Megan Frazer
  • The Vast Fields of Ordinary, by Nick Burd
  • The House You Pass on the Way by Jacqueline Woodson
  • Hard Love by Ellen Wittlinger
  • The Realm of Possibility by David Levithan

Hope you all are well.


About pamwatts

Writer, Reader, and Children's advocate
This entry was posted in Book Lists, Current Events, Thoughts and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Life, Love, and Lesbian Literature

  1. sarahtuttle says:

    This is a great list of books. Thank you so much for posting it! I loved Ash so much, and I’m on my way through Annie on My Mind right now. I just bought it at the conference this weekend. It’s so incredibly wonderful, and a book I wish I’d known of as a teenager. I’m saving this list to add some of these to my (now very long) summer reading!

  2. pamwatts says:

    I loved both of those, too. The list of books to read just gets longer and longer . . . (Which is a good thing.)

  3. Kristin Brænne says:

    Be a ★ !

  4. Pam–it was my pleasure meeting you at NESCBWI, and now to come to your blog, and find out that you have a heart for fostering, well, that’s just icing on the cake. My dream has always been to be a foster parent, and am looking into emergency fostering right now as I grow my three children. I have worked with abused teenage girls and my heart is always with those children who need a safe place to land. I hope you get to reconnect with your child!
    I also purchased Annie On My Mind at the conference and look forward to delving into it.
    And, I hope you join us in playing TwitterGames–which we think of as a fun way to build community… And… well, everything else, as I ramble my way through this comment. LOL

  5. pamwatts says:

    Hahaha! Thanks, Heather. It was great to meet you as well. And I am so glad when I hear that kind people want to foster children. It is really a hard gig, but so so necessary. Thank you.

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