Blog Tour: Here’s the Thing by Emily O’Beirne + the LGBT label & why it matters
Here’s the Thing by Emily O’Beirne
Expected publication: October 19th, 2016 by Ylva Publishing.
Genre: YA Contemporary (LGBT)
It’s only for a year. That’s what sixteen-year-old Zel keeps telling herself after moving to Sydney for her dad’s work. She’ll just wait it out until she gets back to New York and Prim, her epic crush/best friend, and the unfinished subway project. Even if Prim hasn’t spoken to her since that day on Coney Island.
But Zel soon finds life in Sydney won’t let her hide. There’s her art teacher, who keeps forcing her to dig deeper. There’s the band of sweet, strange misfits her cousin has forced her to join for a Drama project. And then there’s the curiosity that is the always-late Stella.
As she waits for Prim to explain her radio silence and she begins to forge new friendships, Zel feels strung between two worlds. Finally, she must figure out how to move on while leaving no one behind. (Goodreads)
Why the LGBT Label Still Matters
I was asked a couple of questions as a prompt for this guest post.
The first was: Is LGBT a genre?
The answer to this is simple: no, it’s not.
I’m just going to pop on my teacher hat on here. The term genre, which translates from the French to ‘kind’, is used in popular culture to define a set of conventions and expectations of a type of story. For example, when I’m teaching my media students about genre, I start by asking them questions like what they expect to see when they are about watch a new TV sitcom. They’ll inevitably spout a bunch of conventions like canned laughter, lots of one-liners, the short length, limited sets, the lack of narrative continuity etc. And when I ask them what they’ll expect from a fantasy, someone will inevitably call out “dragons!”
The ‘LGBT’ label describes a demographic, not a genre—in the same way the ‘Young Adult’ label does. By using it, we know who the book is about, and, to some extent, who it is for. And like YA, a vast range of genres exist under this label, too. There’s Malinda Lo writing LGBT fantasy with Ash. There’s Robin Talley dabbling in horror with her Macbeth re-render, As I Descended. There’s Molly Beth Griffin writing historical romance with Silhouette of a Sparrow. There is no set of rules or expectations of the label ‘LGBT’ as such. Except, you know, the presence of LGBT folk.
The second question I was asked was: do we still need this kind label for books?
The answer here is an unequivocal, emphatic yes.
Because it doesn’t matter that LGBT is not a genre. That’s not what’s important. What’s important about labelling a book LGBT is that it offers an indicator both for readers that here is a story about them. And given there are still not enough of these stories, for some readers this is a crucial identification point.
I had a teenage reader write to me earlier this year who was saved by a literal LGBT label. She wrote to me asking how she could get a copy of my first book, an YA book about a lesbian relationship, A Story of Now. We wrote back and forth a few times, and in her emails she told that no one outside her online life knows she is gay. Not her parents, not her teachers, and not her friends. And this is because her mother and father are religious and vocally intolerant of homosexuality. She doesn’t dare come out—even to her friends— in case it gets back to her parents. She doesn’t dare buy LGBT books online or in a shop in case her parents find records of her purchases. In fact, until she learned how to hide her browsing history, she was nervous about just looking at anything related to being gay online.
What had saved this girl until this point was physical books. A few years ago she was visiting a public library with her mother when she discovered that some helpful librarian had put a rainbow sticker on the spine of every LGBT book in the YA section. This sweet, colourful identification point told her that queer people lived inside the pages of each and every one of those books. The next chance she got, she came back to the library alone and has been reading her way through all of them ever since. Inside them she found characters she could identify with and stories that made her feel possible. Now she hunts online for LGBT YA wherever she can find the category.
The LGBT label is vital for people like her, who need to find themselves in books. They are also important for building a community of writers in an area of under-representation so we can support and promote each other. And sure, I guess I like to think that one day in the future there might be a time when there is no need to label a book LGBT, but I don’t kid myself it’s close yet. Not when I’m still hearing stories like this. This is why we need to keep putting rainbow labels on the spines of our novels—literally or figuratively. Because that’s how they get to those who need them.
Blog Tour hosted by: YA Bound Book Tours