Advertisement

Codes, Silences, and Homophobia: Challenging Normative Assumptions About Gender and Sexuality in Contemporary LGBTQ Young Adult Literature

  • Corrine M. Wickens
Original Paper

Abstract

Since the publication of the first young adult novel to deal with issues of sexual identity, John Donovan’s (1969) I’ll Get There, It Better Be Worth the Trip, over 200 novels have been published centered around gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning (LGBTQ) characters and conflicts (Cart and Jenkins, 2006, The Heart has Its Reasons: Young Adult Literature with Gay/Lesbian/Queer Content, 1969–2004. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press). In significant contrast to early texts, many authors in recent years have sought to promote inclusion of LGBTQ individuals and to present LGBTQ characters in a positive light. To do so, they frequently create antagonistic homophobic characters and situations that provide a sense of realism (Crisp, 2009, Children’s Literature in Education, 40, 333–348). In this paper, I present several representative examples from these novels that challenge homophobia, but ultimately leave it intact. Text excerpts are drawn from the numerous contemporary realistic LGBTQ-themed texts, published between the years 2000–2005, and marketed to young adults. I then contrast these texts with the novel Boy Meets Boy (Levithan, 2003). Through the novel’s blurred genres and inventive use of linguistic features, Boy Meets Boy is able to more effectively undermine heteronormative assumptions by presenting the unthinkable: children as sexual beings, hegemonic masculinity as in fact non-hegemonic and detrimental to success, and homosexuality as normalized and even ordinary.

Keywords

Gay and lesbian fiction Discourse analysis Young adult literature 

References

  1. Aston, J.R. (2001). Deconstructing Heterosexism and Homophobia in Schools: Case Study of a Hate Crime by an Adolescent Offender. Doctoral Dissertation, Texas A&M University. Dissertation Abstracts International, 62, 1372.Google Scholar
  2. Benduhn, T. (2003). Gravel Queen. New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.Google Scholar
  3. Block, F.L. (1989). Weetzie Bat. New York: Harper & Row.Google Scholar
  4. Butler, J. (1990). Gender Trouble. New York:Routledge.Google Scholar
  5. Butler, J. (1993). Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of ‘Sex’. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  6. Cart, M. (2004). What a Wonderful World: Notes on the Evolution of GLBTQ Literature for Young Adults. Alan Review, 31(2), 46–52.Google Scholar
  7. Cart, M., & Jenkins, C.A. (2006). The Heart has Its Reasons: Young Adult Literature with Gay/Lesbian/Queer Content, 1969–2004. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press.Google Scholar
  8. Chauncey, G. (1994). Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male World, 1890–1940. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  9. Connell, R.W. (1995). Masculinities. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  10. Connell, R.W., & Messerschmidt, J.W. (2005). Hegemonic Masculinity: Rethinking the Concept. Gender and Society, 19(6), 829–859.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Crisp, T. (2009). From Romance to Magical Realism: Limits and Possibilities in Gay Adolescent Fiction. Children’s Literature in Education, 40, 333–348.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Cummins, J. (2004). Understood Betsy, Understood Nation: Dorothy Canfield Fisher and Willa Cather Queer America. Children’s Literature, 32, 15–40.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Cuseo, A.A. (1992). Homosexual Characters in YA Novels: A Literary Analysis 1969–1982. Metuchen, NJ: The Scarecrow Press.Google Scholar
  14. Donovan, J. (1969). I’ll Get There. It Better be Worth the Trip: A Novel. New York: Harper & Row.Google Scholar
  15. Fairclough, N. (2003). Analysing Discourse: Textual Analysis for Social Research. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  16. Ferris, J. (2000). Eight Seconds. San Diego, CA: Harcourt.Google Scholar
  17. Fone, B. (2000). Homophobia: A History. New York: Metropolitan Books.Google Scholar
  18. Foucault, M. (1972). The Archaeology of Knowledge. New York: Pantheon Books.Google Scholar
  19. Freymann-Weyr, G. (2002). My Heartbeat. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Co.Google Scholar
  20. Friedrich, W.N., Fisher, J., Broughton, D., Houston, M., & Shafran, C.R. (1998). Normative Sexual Behavior in Children: A Contemporary Sample. Pediatrics, 101(4), E9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Hartinger, B. (2003). Geography Club. New York: Harper Tempest.Google Scholar
  22. Howard, J. (1999). Men Like That: A Southern Queer History. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  23. Howe, J. (2001). The Misfits. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers.Google Scholar
  24. Howe, J. (2005). Totally Joe. New York: Atheneum Books.Google Scholar
  25. Jessica. (2009). Boy Meets Boy – David Levithan. 28 January 2009. Jessica is Reading Blog Post. 4 May 2009. http://jessicaisreading.blogspot.com/2009/01/boy-meets-boy-david-levithan.html.
  26. Johnson, M. (2004). The Bermudez Triangle: A Novel. New York: Razorbill.Google Scholar
  27. Kidd, K. (1998). Introduction: Lesbian/Gay Literature for Children and Young Adults. Children’s Literature Association Quarterly, 23(3), 114–119.Google Scholar
  28. Kosciw, J.G., Greytak, E.A., Diaz, E.M., & Bartkiewicz, M.J. (2010). The 2009 National School Climate Survey: The Experiences of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Youth in Our Nation’s Schools. New York: GLSEN.Google Scholar
  29. Larsson, I., & Svedin, C.G. (2002). Teachers’ and Parents’ Reports on 3- to 6-Year-Old Children’s Sexual Behavior—A Comparison. Child Abuse and Neglect, 26(3), 247–266.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Levithan, D. (2003). Boy Meets Boy. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.Google Scholar
  31. MacLeod, A.S. (1994). American Childhood: Essays on Children’s Literature of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries. Hillsdale, NJ/Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press/Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  32. Myracle, L. (2003). Kissing Kate. New York: Dutton’s Children’s Books.Google Scholar
  33. Pandora. (2007). Review of Boy Meets Boy. 15 Feb. 2007. Powell’s Books Online Review. 4 May 2009. http://www.powells.com. Path: Boy Meets Boy; What Our Readers Are Saying.
  34. Pascoe, C.J. (2007). Dude, You’re a Fag: Masculinity and Sexuality in High School. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  35. Pattee, A. (2008). Sexual Fantasy: The Queer Utopia of David Levithan’s Boy Meets Boy. Children’s Literature Association Quarterly, 33(2), 156–171.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Pollard, N. (1993). The Small Matter of Children. In A. Assiter & N. Pollard (Eds.), Bad Girls and Dirty Pictures: The Challenge to Reclaim Feminism (pp. 105–111). Boulder, CO: Pluto Press.Google Scholar
  37. Peters, J.A. (2003). Keeping You a Secret. New York: Little, Brown & Company.Google Scholar
  38. Peters, J.A. (2004). Luna: A Novel. New York: Little, Brown & Company.Google Scholar
  39. Plummer, D.C. (2001). The Quest for Modern Manhood: Masculine Stereotypes, Peer Culture and the Social Significance of Homophobia. Journal of Adolescence, 24, 15–23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Pugh, T., & Wallace, D.L. (2006). Heteronormative Heroism and Queering the School Story in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter Series. Children’s Literature Association Quarterly, 31(3), 260–281.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Rabinowitz, R. (2004). Messy New Freedoms: Queer Theory and Children’s Literature. In S. Chapleau (Ed.), New Voices in Children’s Literature Criticism (pp. 19–28). Staffordshire, UK: Pied Piper Publishing.Google Scholar
  42. Renold, E. (2005). Girls, Boys, and Junior Sexualities: Exploring Children’s Gender and Sexuality. New York: RoutledgeFarmer.Google Scholar
  43. Reynolds, M. (2001). Love Rules. Buena Park, CA: Morning Glory Press.Google Scholar
  44. Ryan, S. (2001). Empress of the World. New York: Viking.Google Scholar
  45. Sanchez, A. (2001). Rainbow Boys. New York: Simon & Schuster.Google Scholar
  46. Sanchez, A. (2003). Rainbow High. New York: Simon & Schuster.Google Scholar
  47. Sanchez, A. (2004). So Hard to Say. New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.Google Scholar
  48. Sandnabba, K.N., Santtila, P., Wannäs, M., & Krook, K. (2003). Age and Gender Specific Sexual Behaviors in Children. Child Abuse & Neglect, 27(6), 579–605.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Sedgwick, E.K. (1990). Epistemology of the Closet. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  50. Shyer, M.F. (2002). The Rainbow Kite. Tarrytown, NY: Marshall Cavendish.Google Scholar
  51. Smith, F. (1995). Between Hope and Havoc: Essays into Human Learning and Education. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.Google Scholar
  52. Van Dijk, T.A. (2008). Discourse and Power. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  53. Watts, J. (2001). Finding H.F. Los Angeles, CA: Alyson Books.Google Scholar
  54. Wickens, C. (2007). Queering young adult literature: Examining sexual minorities in contemporary realistic fiction between 2000–2005. Dissertation Abstracts International, 69(1). UMI No. AAT 3296578. Retrieved 11 Feb 2009, from Pro Quest/ Dissertation Abstracts International database.Google Scholar
  55. Wyeth, S.D. (2004). Orphea Proud. New York: Delacorte Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Literacy EducationNorthern Illinois UniversityDeKalbUSA

Personalised recommendations