Aug 26, 2011

Series Wrap-Up: Where Are the Gay Parents in Children's Literature?

As our series comes to a close, my interest in books about gay parents has not waned one bit - I will continue this search for years to come.

Last week, I visited the public library in one last attempt to uncover books that contained or focused on the existence of gay parents. I did not find any middle grade novels though, and without a reference list, I wouldn't have known what to search for at all. The availability is limited and it's not really labeled. I spent a good thirty minutes searching through every title from the list at Kris's blog and I found one book, as well as some other non-fiction works.

I had an odd revelation as I checked out my books. I flash-backed to 2002. I was working at that same library then and I was in 10th grade. After clandestinely looking at the cover of Rainbow Boys by Alex Sanchez for weeks, I finally decided to check it out. Of course, I had to mask my interest in the book and I checked out a book about surfing and football at the same time. The most ridiculous part is that I was checking the books out to myself and no one ever even saw me holding them. I was lying to myself, but opening a door at the same time. A closet door to be specific.

As I checked out the Sanchez book and its counterparts, my face burned. Months later, I checked out another Sanchez book, and the experience was much the same, but with less face burning. Soon after that, I checked out The Geography Club, by Brent Hartinger, because I thought the kid on the cover was cute. By that time, I was less mortified by the experience of checking out "gay" books.

Standing at the same counter last week, nearly ten years later, that flashback put a lot of my journey into perspective. I was chagrined when I realized how far I have come. I was checking out books that were deliberately about gay people, and I was not hiding them, I was flaunting them. I had no qualms about including the children's librarian in my discussion and no qualms about posting this series on my blog. I feel comfortable with myself - a rare moment in my life.

Essentially, that is the motivation behind this series: to recognize the existence of novels and picture books that contain gay parents - a direction toward which I am heading - and to call for more books that do the same. I know that I am not the only guy out there looking for books about gay parents for reference. I know that ten years ago I was not the only closeted gay kid learning about other like me through literature.

Thank you for joining Kris and me in this series. I never knew what I expected to find, but I am ambivalent about discovering something I have had all along.


  1. I've asked a lot of other bookworms about this topic and NOBODY had any books to offer. I wonder of Moonrat knows. Will try to locate her email...I redid my address book a few months ago, which was not my smartest idea ever.

  2. ::Hugs:: Jon.

    I wish there were more books on my list--it's been a struggle to find books with gay parents that aren't "issue" books, because they're not labeled (I guess I'm sort of glad they're not, but it's hard to find them. #Catch22).

    It's something I'm thinking about in my own writing--honestly reflecting the people I love and care about. I've got a WIP with a gay character that I'm struggling with--but doing this series has made me realize I need to face the struggle head on and write the darn thing.

    I was honored to be part of this series with you.

    And I'm most disturbed that you were in the tenth grade in 2002. :)

  3. That's too bad you're having to struggle to find books with gay parents. We can only hope that publishers and others see the lack here and look for books to fill the gap.

    And I agree with Kris, you are young.

  4. You and Kris did an excellent job creating awareness of gay parents in children's literature. Way to go, you two!!
    And congrats to you for becoming more confident and open in the last ten years. It could not have been easy in this judgemental society.

  5. Last year, I attended a conference that had an agent/editor panel. One person was an editor at a publishing company for gay literature. She said they were looking for, not gay coming-of-age or dealing with gay parents books, but regular books where one or more of the characters happens to be gay. I thought that was progress. There was next to nothing when I was growing up.

    Still, I'm sure there's still an underrepresentation. Just like there aren't enough books with diversity in general.

  6. Anita - I bet Moonrat would have a list of exceptional books.

    Kris - I saw a lot of issue books at my library, which is good in a way, but they are hard to relate to.

    Natalie - I have hope!

    Kelly - Thanks for coming back for each post. Your comments have been great.

    Theresa - Great points, I am glad the demand is out there. I hope, though, that coming-of-age books still get published because some of them have saved my life.

  7. Hey there-
    Just wandered into your blog and am delighted to be here! (And will likely spend way too much time poking around now that I'm here). But this post caught my eye because my debut Middle Grade book is coming out from Random House in fall 2014, and it is a slice-of-life humorous story about a family with two dads and four adopted boys. It's not an issue book, the dads are not a problem to be's just who they are. I hope the book makes kids laugh and have fun reading, but I also hope it shows kids that their own families, or the families they secretly hope they might have someday, are all part of the same weird-normal-crazy soup that describes us all.