Our next guest we so desperately tried to book last year, but based on time restraints, she wasn't able to =) She's one of the bloggers who make sure the awesome YA blog GayYA is constantly pressing content for it's readers to learn, connect and have their voices heard for people who identify as LGBTQIAP or Quiltbag.
Outside of Disability in Kidlit, it's one of our favorite blogs that talk about inclusion in books, especially in the YA community, where the voices are especially needed.
Plus she's a super homie. Let's not forget that =D
Twinja Book Reviews Annual Diversity Month Event Day Twelve:
Vee of The GayYa
We’re so happy to have you included in our event. We’re really big fans of Gay YA but for those that aren’t familiar, why don’t you tell us the team behind GayYa and how GayYA came to be…
I’m so so thrilled to be included! I just adore your website, and your diversity month.
So, GayYA started back in 2011 after Jessica Verday was asked to change her m/m story in the Wicked, Pretty Things anthology to a m/f pairing. The reaction from the YA community was incredible and made it clear to my sister and I that there were tons of fans who loved LGBTQIA+ YA and they needed a place to talk about it and be heard.
Now, GayYA is made of six awesome volunteers who are all fantastic and make everything we do on the site happen.
What inspired you to make GayYA a diversity in books resource?
Well, fun story, back when my sister and I decided to start up this site, I had NO IDEA I was queer or trans. I thought I was a Helpful Straight coming to help The Gays. (Do I get a pass since I was 12?)
Eventually, when I was around fifteen I started realizing that I was queer and trans. I became depressed and suicidal. (It’s amazing how you can be totally fine with other people being something, but hate yourself when you find out you’re that same something.) I felt worthless, freakish, and unlovable.
Then, I found books about trans kids and queer girls. Brooklyn, Burning by Steve Brezenoff, Love in the Time of Global Warming by Francesca Lia Block, and Far From You by Tess Sharpe changed my life. More than that, they probably saved my life. The first two include trans characters in romantic relationships, fully accepted as who they are. Far From You portrayed a bisexual girl who was rock solid in her identity, and unashamed of liking girls. These books validated my identity, and for the first time I saw a possible future for myself, one beyond the misery I was in, one where someone might love me as me… one that might be worth living for.
I knew there were thousands of teens living in a similar misery. I knew that they didn’t know that books like these existed. (There’s a very prevalent myth that all queer YA is either nonexistent, badly written, or so contrived that it’s not relatable.) I knew that a lot of librarians and teachers who’d be happy to share these books didn’t know about them. Books saved my life; I knew they could save others as well. So I rebooted GayYA, and we’ve been going steady ever since.
What are some of your recommendations of the last few good books you’ve featured/read?
I just read Gena/Finn by Hannah Moskowitz & Kat Helgeson, and am in the process of reading We Are the Ants by Shaun Hutchinson. They were both amazing, intense, nuanced, and deeply relatable books. I also really loved My Year Zero by Rachel Gold. (Full disclosure, I’m Rachel’s marketing intern. But I swear that I’m not saying this because of that!) My Year Zero is new and fresh and interesting and geeky and sexy and I loved it.
Watch for these books in the first few months of 2016! They’re fantastic reads and really important contributions to LGBTQIA+ YA.
Any wishlists of themes or genres you’d like to see more with stories featuring Queer YA?
This is the BEST question! I actually have a running word document of my things-I-want-to-see-in-Queer-YA Wishlist. But I’ll try to narrow it down to just a few for this question. ;)
To start, there are so few people of color, disabled, and neuroatypical characters in queer YA. The lack is unacceptable. So I really want to see more intersectional diversity in queer YA especially that is written by people who have the same intersections.
I want to see coming out stories for bisexual teens. Coming out as bisexual is different than coming out as gay or lesbian, and bisexual teens need to see that represented.
I desperately want a trans romance. And I mean straight up, butterflies-in-your-stomach romance, not a contemporary book with a romantic side plot.
I want to see books with characters that don’t come out at the end. People always look at me like I’ve exceedingly questionable taste when I say this, but hear me out. I’m not out to my parents. I’m not hiding—they know I run GayYA, I’m very outspoken about queer rights, my aesthetic is very queer. I just don’t want to share this bit about myself with them. And whenever I do eventually definitively come out to them, it won’t be a euphoric moment, like I always see in coming out stories. I’ve no doubt it is a euphoric moment for so many teens to come out to their parents. But I don’t think it is for all. And I’d like to see that reflected.
Are there any areas GayYA would love to explore more for 2016?
Yes! We’ve got a lot of exciting plans for 2016 that I’m really looking forward to.
We’re going to start offering monthly book recommendations in 2016. We’ve got an amazing review team that will be writing reviews for GayYA’s book recommendations. Our recommendations will be of books that we thought had great representation, great writing, and/or brought something really new to the table of LGBTQIA+ YA lit. Our reviews will of course discuss any problematic elements of the books, but will primarily look at why we thought the book was amazing and what, specifically, made it amazing. Did it subvert a trope? Represent an identity that hasn’t been represented yet? Include something we haven’t seen in queer YA before? I’m really excited for it, since it means we’ll be able to share the books that we loved, while still critically discussing representation! (Side note: if you’re an author or publicist interested in having your book considered for recommendation, please check out our page here: http://www.gayya.org/?page_id=961)
I’m also hoping to introduce some new columns. I’d really love to have a slot every month for teenage contributors, and another for interviews with queer YA authors that talk about everything other than the diversity in their books. We’re also looking at doing a series that covers LGBTQIA+ YA before the 2000s.
Lastly, we’re hoping to restructure our LGBTQIA+ YA masterlist to make it a better resource, and do a full site redesign!! So, we’re really looking forward to 2016. ☺
Where can people go to find out more about GayYA and how others can make a contribution to GayYA?
As for making a contribution… we’re always looking for new community members, and community involvement. We love to hear your feedback on our posts, we love it when you signal boost our posts and spread them around the blogosphere, we love hearing suggestions of new features, we love to have people involved in our Twitter book club. We’re also always looking for guest blog pitches!
Lastly, we always really, really appreciate financial contributions. [link: Click here to donate!]
Thanks so much for having me, Twinjas! <3Vee S. lives in Minnesnowta. When she’s not weeping frozen tears over how cold it is, she spends her time writing, reading, keeping up with school, and snuggling her cats. Vee is the admin and co-founder of GayYA.Org. She have a lot of thoughts on LGBTQIA+ representation in YA.