Our librarian, Nico went to the fabulous YALLFest (Young Adult Literature Lovers Festival) in South Carolina this past weekend and she wants to get you as close as possible to being there. For the rest of the week she will be sharing her notes from several panels to give you a taste of what the authors had to share!
YA Gender Studies 101 Panel
Featuring David Levithan, Danielle Paige, Zac Brewer, Aaron Hartzler and Gayle Forman
David Levithan: The Full Spectrum was published nine years ago. It featured writing about queer identities of people under the age of 23. Now almost a decade later he and Billy Merrell, the editors decided to open it up to new essays.
been fascinating because ten years ago it was almost all about coming
out, and mostly heavily on the LG parts of the LGBT letters. Now more
than 3/4 of the stories were about being Trans, A-Sexual,
A-Romantic, Non-Binary and more. It is much more about living as rather than
about coming out. A lot is about not being pigeon holed.
Zac Brewer: The Blood Between Us
(his next book) talks about labels. Adrian refuses to accept labels that others attempt to slap on. The question from everyone around Adrian seems to be,
'what are you?' Zac's editor says that it ended up not being the reader's
responsibility to find out.
Aaron Hartzler: Talking about gender. Kate is at a party where someone reports that they were raped. Kate was unaware that anything had happened while she was there. Kate is learning to make independent decisions.
Danielle Paige: Dorothy Must Die has a character who switches genders. The impetuous for this is
that there's a character in the original book that she wanted to have and this would be an integral part to them. She wanted to give this aspecta lot of respect and space.
Gayle Forman:: Her next book takes place in the 1980s. In her school they have three trans kids and the school has worked really hard to normalize it with their bathrooms and with communication with parents. When she was growing up, as Rainbow Rowell says, 'there was boy girl love, or it was a secret.'
She doesn't want to slap a happy face on things, but this generation of teens is normalizing these gender issues, which is great and the internet definitely helps with it.
But, in the 1980s this character is eleven and knows he's different, but doesn't even have a label for how.
Zac Brewer: In Missouri, there is an incredible girl, Lila Perry. At her school she's been out as trans for 3-4 years but she couldn't use the women's restroom. She got permission to use the teacher's restroom and 150 people from her school (parents, other classmates, even her friends) protested against this.
Zac went down to Missouri and talked to her GSA and hugged her. He just told her, "change is coming whether they like it or not."
David Levithan: Part of the reason people are obsessed with the gender of A in Every Day is because of pronouns. They want to know what A identifies as and Levithan always wants to know why. Our own language has limitations and we have to be open to changing that as well.
Zac Brewer: When it comes to attraction Adrian thinks, he kissed a boy named Greg in 9th grade and 11th grade - what's with Gregs? Also, he's interested in a girl who he wants to spend time with. But, then his best friend (a boy) who he doesn't know his orientation, kisses him. And he's taken completely by surprise and has to figure out what he thinks about it.
Zac is fascinated with the idea of being in love with the package rather than the gender-- being in love with the soul of a person.
Gayle Forman: She doesn't know that she writes with an "agenda" but she is an opinionated person with strong feelings about how men and women are portrayed.
When she writes, she has to spend time with these people. She hopes those people won't fall into stereotypes when they deal with each other.
What We Saw, he had moments where he was panicked what people would think about it (especially since he was a guy writing it). But, he is surrounded by a great team of incredible women who were with him every step of the way as he wrote the book.
He's a writer and he wants to put on the skin of his characters. He doesn't think gender makes us all so unique. He wants to write from a human perspective.
Danielle Paige: She hates the idea that her friend wrote a piece where she said she wouldn't write from a person-of-color's perspective. She wants everyone to write the world.
Gayle Forman: When she read Ta-Nehisi Coates' Between the World and Me, she was struck by this small exchange where Coates' bumps into someone at the airport, he says 'my bad' and the guy replies, 'you straight.' If she can't access that world of experience, how can she write it?
Zac Brewer: People used to ask him why he can write from the male perspective so well. He used to tell them (before he came out as trans) when everyone turned around he morphed into a 12-year old boy. Now they don't ask that question any more.
They write fiction. You stretch it to fit a different skin. It can change a reader's perspective whether the main character is a girl versus when it's a boy.
Aaron Hartzler: He loves that Every Day is being taught. That book turns the lights on in a room in your brain that you didn't even know you had. That's what books do, they turn the lights on.
It's important that we write from all these perspectives and question gender because the book is going to travel to readers around the country and turn the lights on for them.
Gayle Forman: This can be subtle. Like a casual diversity, or it's a two mother household or a family where the man is home taking care of the family.
When you watch the commercials on TV so many women are STILL mopping. It's been the same for decades!
Aaron Hartzler: But then you see a Campbell's soup ad with two dads and it feels like maybe the world is changing.
Zac Brewer: In the midwest this is still the world people are living in. But, there are minds and eyes opening and many of those eyes and minds belong to teens.
Danielle Paige: She used to soaps which have an extremely diverse amount of characters because they have so many plots happening at the same time. It was good preparation because now she wants her books to have the same kind or more diversity of stories.