Wednesday, April 21, 2010

We Need Books That Aren't "ABOUT"

Okay, that is a pretty random title. What I mean is, books that are about being gay without being "coming out" books. Books that have Black/Asian/Hispanic main characters, but aren't ABOUT being Black/Asian/Hispanic. There have been a bunch of books lately that have non-stereotypical characters which is great, but I think we need more that have that aspect within the story itself. Malinda Lo did this really well in ASH- a beautiful, romantic story where the love interests just happen to both be female.

I just finished the new YA book WILL GRAYSON/WILL GRAYSON by John Green and David Levithan. I love both of the authors and I loved the book. It is about two guys named Will Grayson, and each author writes from one of the character's point of view. One WG is gay and one WG is straight but has a gay, football-playing best friend. The writing is excellent and intelligent, the characters are fun and the plot is wacky. You should go and get a copy. I mean like now. We'll wait.

Except for a small "coming out" thread, the gay characters are treated normally and even celebrated. What other book would include a musical called "Hold Me Closer" written by and starring a ginormous football player named Tiny Cooper? It was this "coming out" thread that got me thinking about gay characters in YA books.

Now, I'm not gay, so maybe I shouldn't be talking about this at all. Maybe we do need more books about the moment that the gay character comes out to parents and friends. But I've been thinking that maybe we also need more books where the characters just ARE gay rather than having the plot be ABOUT being gay. Does that make sense?

I think this also carries over to books about minority characters. I adore books where the love interests are of different races but it's barely mentioned and not an issue. Or the main character isn't white, but it has no bearing on the story itself. Justin Larbalestier did this in LIAR where the main character is black just 'cause. So did Jackie Dolamore in MAGIC UNDER GLASS (no, we're not going to talk covers in this post).

I think the more kids (and adults) see these kinds of characters in normal situations, the less of an issue it will become. I was just thinking about how nice it would be if there were no such thing as "coming out". Everyone would just be.

If you're a writer, you should go out and write books like this. If you're a reader, you should go buy them. Feel free to disagree in the comments. Feel free to think I'm an idiot. Feel free to name other books that have gay/minority characters as a normal part of the plot. I'd love to hear what other people think .

On this date: In 1973, "Tie a Yellow Ribbon 'Round the Old Oak Tree" tops the charts.


Shaun Hutchinson said...

Great post. And a lot of your comments are right on. The only thing I'd add is that for gay teens, coming out doesn't have to be this big huge thing, but it does happen.

Take this one scene in United States of Tara (if you watch the show). Marshall, the 15-year-old son who everyone assumed was gay, dated a girl and realized once and for all that he was definitely gay. He was a little afraid to tell his dad, to say the words once and for all, not because he was afraid they'd hate him for it, but because it meant declaring something. His father's response? "Cool." The coming out scene happened in about 30 seconds but it was poignant and in character. It also didn't mean that the character's story was about his coming out, just that it happened.

Gay folk have to come out over and over and over again. It doesn't have to be traumatic. But it's just like how minorities face discrimination. You can write a story with a minority MC where discrimination isn't the plot, but at some point they're likely to face it. And they won't just face it once, but many, many times. I think you can acknowledge those things without making the story about them.

Great, great, post!

cynjay said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
cynjay said...

I just saw Tara for the first time on a plane (I'm too cheap for premium cable) and loved it. Am getting the whole series on Netflix.

Point totally taken. It's that moment of mental adjustment that gay people must have to face daily. I'm not saying ignore it in books, but have it just be a part of the character rather than the focus. That's why I loved the Tiny Cooper character in WG. Really well done.

Dannie said...

YES, FINALLY someone shares my sentements. Why must we turn every minority into a Serious Issue?

Shaun Hutchinson said...

OMG! I can't wait until you've seen it all. That show is amazing. I keep hearing about WGWG, so I'm going to have to get it. You should get a commission for it :)

Beverley BevenFlorez said...

I agree. Coming out novels have their place, but it shouldn't be the only story told. I think YA has more books like this. For instance, in the House of Night series there are two gay characters and it's not treated like a big deal. It's just who they are.

Daisy Whitney said...

I'm with you on this. Totally agree.

cynjay said...

Thanks guys - I may still be an idiot, but nobody has commented on that fact yet.

Beverly, I'll have to check that series out. Thanks for the tip.