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Children's Literature  
page: 1  2  

Two works for adolescent boys stand out in similar ways for their validation of young gay male experience.

Reflections of a Rock Lobster by Aaron Fricke is an honest, explicit autobiography written by a teenager for teenagers. Fricke's coming out story probes the isolation, self-hatred, and self-destructive behavior of a lonely young gay man who finally makes the courageous decision to live his life honestly.

Fricke is best known for his legal campaign in the late 1970s for permission to bring a male date to his high school prom. His lawsuit garnered national attention and had both positive and negative personal consequences that are detailed in a sequel, Sudden Strangers, which Fricke co-authored with his father in 1991.

Equally explicit and powerful, though a work of fiction, is Edmund White's A Boy's Own Story, a novel that appeals to both an adolescent and adult audience. The young narrator details the process of coming to terms with his own sexuality by describing childhood events from the perspective of a boy who cannot reconcile the homosexual play and experimentation of other boys with their violent homophobia.

A twist on this story is told in Jack by A. M. Homes, in which a young heterosexual adolescent boy must come to grips with the homosexuality of his father; though initially homophobic, Jack learns to accept his dad after being the mistaken target of homophobic abuse himself.

All the works detailed here are appropriate for high school students though most are not taught in schools because of their sexual content and hard, but honest, criticism of heterosexual parents, teachers, and young adults.

Thus children's literature is in a period of transition, moving toward more openly gay- and lesbian-positive representations and more explicitly political discussions. From early childhood through late adolescence, young readers can now find books that help them deal with a wide variety of gay- and lesbian-relevant topics.

Two final stand-out examples of the ways children's literature changes to meet the needs of new audiences are MaryKate Jordan's fine work Losing Uncle Tim and Willhoite's very amusing Uncle What-Is-It Is Coming To Visit!!.

The former is a beautifully illustrated book for elementary school students on AIDS and grieving. The latter is a comic look at two children's fears about the impending visit of a gay uncle; they first envision a drag queen and then a leather queen breaking down the door of their house but finally meet their very tame Uncle Brett who talks to them about stereotypes.

Thus new works appear on the bookshelves of stores and libraries every day that celebrate nontraditional families and social diversity.

Although homoeroticism has long been a part of literature for children, it is only in recent years that lesbian and gay identities have been honestly portrayed. It is clear that the authors and illustrators today are contributing to what will continue to be a rich gay and lesbian heritage in literature for children.

Donald E. Hall

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literature >> Overview:  Young Adult Literature

Gay and lesbian young adult literature--books targeted at readers aged twelve and up--ranges widely in sensitivity, topic, quality, and political and social insight.

arts >> Darger, Henry

Now considered one of the most original artists of the last half of the twentieth century, Henry Darger died completely unknown in his native Chicago.

literature >> Hartinger, Brent

Although best known as a writer of young adult fiction, Brent Hartinger is also a playwright and an activist against censorship.

literature >> Jansson, Tove

Best known for her series of children's books about the Moomin family of trolls, Tove Jansson, considered a national treasure in Finland, also wrote fiction for adults and was an accomplished artist and illustrator.

literature >> Newman, Lesléa

Prolific Jewish femme lesbian-feminist writer of poetry, fiction, and children's books, Leslèa Newman draws on her own multiple identities to describe the complex tapestry that results when a variety of identities are woven together.

literature >> Rossetti, Christina

Her sexuality repressed by religion, Christina Rossetti wrote poetry that included highly-charged erotic female-to-female affection.

literature >> Sanchez, Alex

Alex Sanchez's unique background as a youth and family counselor and his experiences as an immigrant have helped make him an important voice in today's young adult glbtq literature canon.

literature >> Sendak, Maurice

An important voice in children's literature over the past half century, Maurice Sendak wrote and illustrated books that both acknowledge the fears faced by children and celebrate the imagination with which they cope with them.


Brogan, Jim. "Gay Teens in Literature." The Gay Teen: Educational Practice and Theory for Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Adolescents. Gerald Unks, ed. New York: Routledge, 1995.

Faderman, Lillian. Surpassing the Love of Men. New York: Morrow, 1981.

Fiedler, Leslie. "Come Back to the Raft Ag'in, Huck Honey!" The Collected Essays of Leslie Fiedler. Vol. I. New York: Stein and Day, 1971.

Nodelman, Perry. The Pleasures of Children's Literature. New York: Longman, 1992.

Rudman, Masha Kabakow. Children's Literature: An Issues Approach. 2d ed. New York: Longman, 1984.

Wolf, Virginia L. "The Gay Family in Literature for Young People." Children's Literature in Education 20.1 (1989): 51-58.


    Citation Information
    Author: Hall, Donald E.  
    Entry Title: Children's Literature  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2002  
    Date Last Updated September 16, 2007  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 1995, 2002 New England Publishing Associates  


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