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Rachel Manija Brown and Sherwood Smith have a problem. Their co-authored young adult novel has five viewpoint characters. One of them had the temerity to be gay.
Naturally, our intrepid literary agents – who totally work for and represent authors, really – have, by and large, found themselves lacking the courage to take on this project, and the pressure’s on to ‘straighten’ poor Yuki Nakamura.
I’m not going to tell you why this is wrong, because Brown and Smith have done a bang-up job of that already, in their description of the situation and open call for more representative fiction:
When you refuse to allow major characters in YA novels to be gay, you are telling gay teenagers that they are so utterly horrible that people like them can’t even be allowed to exist in fiction.
LGBTQ teenagers already get told this. They are four times more likely than straight teenagers to attempt suicide. We’re not saying that the absence of LGBTQ teens in YA sf and fantasy novels is the reason for that. But it’s part of the overall social prejudice that does cause that killing despair.
We wrote this novel so that the teenagers we know—some of whom are gay, and many of whom are not white—would be able, for once, to read a fun post-apocalyptic adventure in which they are the heroes. And we were told that such a thing could not be allowed.
Dear publishing world: I know you want to run your business like it’s still 1868 and you just got a humdinger of a steam press. I know that. I understand. Change is hard! But in between your cynical attempts to mainstream the life out of the books you purport to improve, why not actually poke your heads out the window and see what the world looks like, today, in 2011?