YA LGBT Books discussion

The Question Corner > An LGBT category in The GR Awards - good idea or ghetto?

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message 1: by Kaje (new)

Kaje Harper | 16662 comments I thought I'd open up this question, which is going around the adult side, to (polite, courteous) discussion here:

It's very hard for LGBT-themed books to compete head-to-head against straight mass-market books in award venues. In the current Goodreads Awards, we do have one LGBT YA book (Two Boys Kissing) and one adult gay romance (Lover at Last - part of a long-running mainly M/F series) in the finals. But no mysteries, or paranormals, or fantasies...

There has been discussion about how to get notice for the great LGBT stories we know are out there, in this and other award venues in the future.

So what do you think? Do we pick a title and organize for it next time, voting en mass, to compete directly in the regular categories (YA, romance, mystery, etc?) Or do we petition for an LGBT Books category, to potentially honor a much bigger number of books but removed from direct competition with the M/F stories? Or just let the chips fall where they may, and hope that over time natural winners will emerge?

Your thoughts?

message 2: by Salsera1974 (new)

Salsera1974 | 7 comments Kaje wrote: "I thought I'd open up this question, which is going around the adult side, to (polite, courteous) discussion here:

It's very hard for LGBT-themed books to compete head-to-head against straight mas..."

I think we organize ourselves around a book. Why is m/m romance, or LGBT fiction (adult or Y/A) in general, any different from other niche groups, like African-American fiction?

message 3: by C. (new)

C. Kennedy | 184 comments I vote we pick and organize, Kaje. This is an important issue.

message 4: by Kazza (last edited Nov 21, 2013 03:34PM) (new)

Kazza (kazzak) | 26 comments Organising around one or two books, whilst perhaps (maybe) getting some attention to the genre, seems awfully unfair to me. One book out of the many good ones written throughout the year. It is way too hard - and unfair - to throw YA LGBTQ books up against mainstream YA books, David Levithan is an exception rather than a rule. As for J R Ward's book, there are several reasons it is on the list. I don't disagree with rallying around a book, per se. I would also prefer or perhaps also like to see the LGBT YA authors recognised through individual categories specific to the genre.

It's an interesting question, Kaje. Good luck, and I hope LGBTQ YA authors are given more ability to shine.

message 5: by Kaje (last edited Nov 21, 2013 05:18PM) (new)

Kaje Harper | 16662 comments On the adult side, the M/M group has over 10,000 members. That was enough to get Hot Head into the finals, and Shattered Glass into the semi finals, for Romance the last 2 years. Those were impromptu efforts that gathered steam organically. Neither of those books had a het readership prior to that (while the Ward book this year does.)

I haven't voted for Lover at Last this year, because I haven't read it (Or any of the series.)

Is it wrong to vote for a book you haven't read, to promote an agenda?

If we petitioned for one LGBTQ category, how about throwing adult and YA in together, when the adult readership is so much bigger... do we need to ask for two?

Just tossing out questions here.

message 6: by Sara (new)

Sara Alva | 22 comments I don't know about the "wrongness" of it, but I personally wouldn't vote for a book I hadn't read. If a campaign was started early enough next year, though, I'd probably make an effort to read the book people were rallying behind.

I'm really torn on the issue of the separate categories. Can't make up my mind.

message 7: by Gabby (last edited Nov 21, 2013 05:31PM) (new)

Gabby | 166 comments I don't vote for books I haven't read with the exception of Two Boys Kissing. I hadn't read any of the others in the finals, and I like to think of it as "if we could only vote for books we'd read, then why does goodreads give us the option to vote for books on our to-read shelf?" I also think it would be nice to see an LGBTQ book win in a category.

message 8: by Kazza (new)

Kazza (kazzak) | 26 comments I'd like two - adult and YA LGBT - for the reason that more than a few YA readers don't read adult LGBT. More than a few YA readers aren't legally supposed to be reading adult books. Also, as Kaje pointed out, the MM romance group has a heck of a lot of members which makes it hard for the YA LGBT authors.

I also do not vote for books I haven't read. It is up to the individual, though.

message 9: by Kaje (last edited Nov 21, 2013 05:52PM) (new)

Kaje Harper | 16662 comments I agree that I would read Lover at Last to vote, if it wasn't number 11 in a complex series.

I would love to see an LGBT book win in a combined category against het books - we'll see what happens this year, because I think we have as good a chance as possible with these two. (Both big name mainstream authors.) If neither one can win, then I might lean toward a separate category. But I think having LGBT finalists in the combined categories may be the best way to pull in new readers (as opposed to awarding the best LGBT book) since people often don't even look at categories they aren't voting in. (And there are groups that read the finalists, etc.) So part of the question is, what is our goal for these awards?

message 10: by Sara (last edited Nov 21, 2013 05:59PM) (new)

Sara Alva | 22 comments Kaje wrote: "But I think having LGBT finalists in the combined categories may be the best way to pull in new readers (as opposed to awarding the best LGBT book) since people often don't even look at categories they aren't voting in."

Yeah, that's my main point in the 'cons' section for separate categories...that it will be keeping LGBT separate and not exposing some of the awesome writing going on in the genre to the wider public.

message 11: by Kazza (last edited Nov 22, 2013 01:59AM) (new)

Kazza (kazzak) | 26 comments Sadly, LGBT writing in the wider reading audience is going to take a lot more than winning or being nominated against het/mainstream books.

message 12: by Salsera1974 (new)

Salsera1974 | 7 comments I'm mostly agnostic on the question re: separate category or not, but if you're going to push for a separate category, it might be worthwhile having viable answers to questions like these: If LGBTQ gets its own category, why shouldn't there be an interracial category? Categories for each racial/ethnic group, or multicultural literature as a whole? If we simply focus on LGBTQ matters, why shouldn't there be a breakdown in that case between, say, m/m or f/f romance and LGBTQ lit? Should there be a category for inspirational romance?

There are probably a number of constituencies out there who feel like their authors and audiences get short-changed because mainstream audiences are less interested in the books that make up those subgenres. Especially in the romance world. What makes this genre so unique that it deserves its own category when other subgenres don't have separate voting categories, too?

Don't get me wrong; I want to see folks in our group get honored. I'm all the way in love with it, the way I used to be with historical m/f romances (mostly Regency era stuff). I just don't know if I'm super comfortable pushing for a separate category when so many sub-groups are not represented. I would feel differently if we were talking about awards for the romance genre alone, or the YA genre alone -- then, I think that all of the different breakdowns would appropriately be represented, as long as they had substantial readership, and I'd be pretty upset if LGBTQ fiction wasn't included.

Hmm. I guess I'm less agnostic than I thought!

message 13: by Salsera1974 (last edited Nov 21, 2013 06:17PM) (new)

Salsera1974 | 7 comments One last thought: if the push for a separate category is political -- part of an effort to gain greater acceptance for the LGBTQ community as a whole by highlighting it as a group that deserves its time in the sun, much like other groups have received in the past -- that will at least make more sense to me, and I would be more likely to get behind it. This would be especially true if these awards had a history of rewarding subgenres within romance and/or YA, and had subsequently abandoned those categories.

message 14: by Kaje (new)

Kaje Harper | 16662 comments I'm not sure the awards have been around that long, or have that kind of history.

message 15: by Tara (last edited Nov 22, 2013 01:33AM) (new)

Tara Spears | 85 comments Okay, Kaje, you know I have to have an opinion on this right? So here it is, and it is just that-- my opinion.

We are seeing more and more mainstream writers adding LGBTQ secondary characters into their stories. More mid and large presses are accepting LGBTQ character drivin fiction. The genre is in a transition. Let me ask you, if you hated apples and someone forced one on you, would you respect that person afterwards?

We should all work to promote LGBTQ fiction, but should we really force it? What happens when you force something on someone? The person, more likely than not, dislikes it on principal alone. But if they discover it for themselves, that is a whole different matter.

As the stories improve, as the genre becomes more diverse, I believe we will be able to stand on our own. Romance is romance. YA is YA. Fantasy is fantasy. LGBTQ authors need to strive for betterment. Editing is a huge problem. I have yet to read anything from an LGBTQ specialty press that is well edited. Sorry, this is straight fact. In a recently released, big selling YA MM book there were editing mistakes on the third page! And until THAT one MAJOR problem is fixed, I don't see the genre moving forward.

Fix the little things that turn readers away, and we, as a proud genre, will march forward.

message 16: by Elci (last edited Nov 22, 2013 05:46AM) (new)

Elci  I've been known to vote for books I haven't read if I believe it serves a purpose. I can see the benefits of everyone backing a title and/or petitioning for a category. They also both have their drawbacks. Either way I don't see it as forcing anyone to read m/m. Sometimes just sitting back waiting to be discovered or to be acknowledged isn't a better option.

message 17: by [deleted user] (new)

The idea behind a separate category is because socially marginalized groups who have had their ability to speak and communicate taken away by the majority do need extra support to allow their voices to finally be heard.

I think there are several groups in the world who are silenced by their cultures. No, make that many groups. In this country (USA) Native American writers and writings have been historically silenced and their work marginalized, and still are today.

The LGBTQ community has also been marginalized and their voices suppressed.

Is the goal to give a voice to a people who have not had the ability to be heard, to have their stories heard? If so, then the way we do that is to give that silenced group more support, until their work is indistinguishable from the mainstream and no one even remembers why they had been forced to live without a voice.

Another issue within the larger one is group identity. One of the ways people who have been marginalized form their identity is by identification with the group. Can people outside the group write honest fiction if they do not belong? Is their voice authentic? This is a divisive issue, which is still a serious problem today for the mainstream acceptance of LGBTQ fiction.

Things change. Over time, maybe these issues will change in ways we don't recognize. But for now, the in-fighting over LGBTQ Authors vs Books is one which is keeping our community from working together toward a common goal.

I also, while not trying to be divisive myself, feel that when our stories are good enough, the mainstream will beat a path to our door. Readers will always find good stories. Laurie King wrote the best-selling Kate Martinelli mysteries years ago. On the other hand, I recently had a co-worker, whom I really like, say, "Can't you write a normal romance so I can read one of your books?"

message 18: by Kaje (new)

Kaje Harper | 16662 comments The co-worker is an idiot, because normal is the definition of the guys you write - real men, real issues and just life the way it happens. Maybe you'll wear them down... but yeah, it's a slow process. OTOH look at Queer as Folk - who would have predicted thirty years ago that that show could have aired, in two versions, and had the audience that it did? Wiki says, "...in Canada, the series had such high ratings that by the end of the fifth season Showcase chose to air the show in hour-and-ten-minute timeblocks to accommodate all the ads without cutting any scenes."

I lean towards keeping a combination of other specific genre awards (the Rainbows, the Lambdas) and in things like this, especially where our voices are surprisingly strong (with the M/M group number eight for size in all of GR), to be inclusive and put our best up against the mainstream.

message 19: by Tara (new)

Tara Spears | 85 comments Kaje I think you and I are on the same plain here.

On the subject of minorities, you need to look at the literary winners. What about Sold? What about Middlesex? As I said, if the book is well written, it will make a mark. There have been many ALA award winners in the LGBTQ genre. Everyone here seems to forget about the books that have made a mark in the literary community. I am probably going to make some people mad here... There is more to the genre than MM!!!

message 20: by Andrew (last edited Nov 23, 2013 04:45AM) (new)

Andrew Peters (andrewjpeters) | 23 comments This is a really challenging question that - as others noted above - comes up well beyond the world of literature. I have come to respect both approaches - supporting LGBT stories and authors within mainstream markets and competitions, and creating opportunities for those stories and authors to be recognized among members of their own communities. I support both of those approaches because I think they're both needed, just as they are for other marginalized groups, e.g. people of color, differently abled people, etc.

message 21: by ttg (new)

ttg | 26 comments I'm more for organizing behind a title than a separate category, but I support any and all dialogue about providing more exposure for LGBTQ books.

I'm not a fan of the idea of waiting for people to "get it" or for wide-wide acceptance since a lot of that later acceptance is usually based on advocacy and organizational efforts to increase exposure.

For example: If we waited for everyone to come to the table about marriage equality, we wouldn't have marriage equality in the states that we have now. What we see now is based on a lot of organization and advocacy (and to tie into Sarah's point, a collective of organizers that spans the whole LGBTQ spectrum and allies.)

So, I vote to organize in multiple ways to continually push for increased exposure.

message 22: by Maisa (new)

Maisa (chairenn) Tara wrote: "There is more to the genre than MM!!!"
This! I wish people remember this more often. Sure, I like my share of M/M, but I wish other LGBTQ fiction gained visibility as well.

I also agree with Tara on the editing issue.

(The actual question in the title? I... don't know. Gotta sleep on it.)

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