In contemporary writing and publishing, diverse representation among stories and characters is becoming increasingly crucial. While LGBT characters have been finding representation in fiction written for an adult audience, recent trends have brought LGBT characters even in children’s literature. The aim of these books is to build a narrative around LGBT children who may be undergoing a conflict with their gender identity and sexual orientation. Such books can be crucial in helping children deal with their personal struggles and increase acceptance among peers.
Here is a list of five books for children and young adults to introduce them to LGBTQIA+ literature and people, both children and adults.
Talking of Muskaan by Himanjali Sankar
Talking of Muskaan by Himanjali Sankar is a young adult novel set in the Indian subcontinent. The story is centred around a young teenager named Muskaan who is grappling with her sexuality. The story begins when she attempts to commit suicide as she is conflicted about her sexual orientation and her friends try to trace what could have led her to take such a drastic step.
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The book speaks of taboo topics such as sexuality and sheds light upon the story of a teenager in the Indian context. Hence, it is a home-grown story of a girl next door who could be one among us. The book is relatable because of the context it is placed in while dealing with the topic of sexual orientation.
Slightly Burnt by Payal Dhar
Slightly Burnt by Payal Dhar is another book in the young adult section which is set in the Indian subcontinent. This book is a coming out story centered around a teen love triangle. The protagonist of this young adult novel is grappling with his homosexuality and romantic interest for another boy. The protagonist is also very close to a female friend who expresses romantic interest in him.
Creating protagonists who are teenagers and dealing with their sexual orientation in Indian society’s context, adds a hyper-local aspect to the story and makes it relatable to the readers.
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George by Alex Gino
George by Alex Gino is a children’s novel about a child who is a transwoman. Known to the world as George, at heart they are Melissa. In this novel, the conflict of gender identity is captured poignantly. You see and feel the story through the mind and eyes of a child who wishes to be a girl.
In the mainstream narrative when there is a stark absence of even adult transgender characters in positive roles, portraying a transgender child breaks the norm. The story centres around a play based on Charlotte’s Web with George wanting to play the female lead in the play. It is a tale of discovery and acceptance.
Let me Out by Omid Ravazi
Let me Out by Omid Ravazi is a pop-out book about coming out. This book is for kids who are struggling to come out. The aim of this book is to act as a manual on coming out that the creator of this book wished he had while growing up. In a way, this book is the extension of support that he never had while questioning his sexuality and grappling with coming out.
The messaging in the book is positive, loud, proud and popping off the pages. It is meant to be a visually engaging book that acts as a manual for kids who want to come out.
Simon vs the Homosapien Agenda by Becky Albertalli
Simon vs the Homosapien Agenda by Becky Albertalli is yet another young adult fiction which deals with the theme of teenage sexuality. In this, the protagonist Simon is a closeted gay has affection for a classmate and they have an elaborate intimate exchange over the mail.
The book tackles the theme of peer pressure, bullying and the coming out process of Simon. The book has been on bestselling charts, that portrays the audience’s receptivity to LGBT characters in the mainstream.
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Why It Matters?
Grappling with Gender identity and sexual orientation can be a lonely journey. Closet is oftentimes a dark place where support, even if available, does not reach the individual who is struggling. In such a scenario, fictional worlds can provide solace by bringing forth characters that are dealing with the same issues in similar or different contexts. Reading bridges barriers and is a great ally when it comes to acceptance of LGBT individuals in stories and in real lives.
Priyanka Chakrabarty is an intern with SheThePeople.TV.