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Queer Lit: More Than Just Entertainment

Queer Lit Girl Reading
By , 17, Contributor Originally Published: June 11, 2015 Revised: March 30, 2017

I’ve always loved reading. In elementary school, I was often scolded for being the girl with a book hidden in her lap during a lesson. In fact, due to my constant reading, I quickly jumped from the easy reader section to the novels of the young adult collection.

It was in fourth grade that I stumbled upon a book whose plot was unique. “It’s so odd,” my friend Amanda whispered to me one day in class. She pointed to a book entitled The Bermudez Triangle by Maureen Johnson. “The girls date each other,” she said in a hushed voice.

I was intrigued by such an idea. The only time I’d encountered a same-sex relationship was when my friend from camp said she had two moms. I’d asked her how many dads she had. “None,” she had replied, “just two moms.”

Still, a book where a girl dated another girl was certainly something I’d never seen before. I checked out the book from the library. It wasn’t until later that I realized how important that book was.

I, having always been guided through literature, then needed books about queer characters that matched the new struggles I was going through.

Books About Queer Characters Like Me

In middle school, I started to like reading less. I had exhausted my picks of the teen section in the library. I could also predict the ending every time: the boy and the girl get together, and it may not all end up perfect, but they’re perfect for each other. I thought that I lingered around the Maureen Johnson section merely because I liked that all of her books had female protagonists or main characters. But then I realized why Maureen Johnson meant so much to me—it was because of the book I read in the fourth grade, The Bermudez Triangle, where the girl doesn’t end up with a boy. She ends up with a girl.

In middle school, I dearly wanted anything that could guide me through the turbulent time when I was forced to try to understand why I was suddenly feeling the same way for my friend who was a girl that I usually felt for a boy. I, having always been guided through literature, then needed books about queer characters that matched the new struggles I was going through.

Camaraderie in Queer Lit

My friend Eliana, 16, feels similarly. She told me she can’t identify with straight protagonists and yearns for queer literature. “The pursuit of boys is seen as the ultimate girl bonding experience, and it can get very lonely being out of that,” Eliana says. “Books about girls who love girls are an escape for me.”

Eighteen-year-old Amy, a fellow Sex, Etc. contributor, spoke in a similar fashion when discussing her favorite queer book, The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth. In the novel, the protagonist must deal with her identity, sexual orientation, religion and her immediate family.

“All of these things, I have personally struggled with,” Amy says. “Danforth writes with such emotion, such truth, that I felt as if Cameron Post, a character in the novel, were a long-lost friend of mine.”

To queer teens reading about queer teens, it’s not just about entertainment. There is also a need to feel a sense of camaraderie.

Reading List

Stuck in a mostly heterosexual world, it’s important for queer teens to find queer literature. Libraries should have sections clearly marked for books with queer protagonists. It can get lonely being a queer teen. We also need queer book clubs! My school’s gay and straight alliance (GSA) provides a space for the discussion of queer literature. These are some books we have discussed:

The Bermudez Triangle by Maureen Johnson

Bermudez Triangle Maureen Johnson
The book focuses on three girls who are best friends. When two of the girls start dating each other, how can the three inseparable best friends stay together?

The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth

Miseducation of Cameron Post Emily Danforth
Cameron constantly struggles between her interest in girls, her religion and her relationship with her family. She is sent to a conversion camp, a camp that is structured around the goal of making LGB people heterosexual. Cameron is forced to come to terms with many aspects of her life.

Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan

Boy Meets Boy David Levithan
The novel follows the classic “boy meets girl” plotline; however, the characters are both boys. The novel takes place in a world without homophobia, which makes the story more about two boys’ relationship and less about overcoming adversity.

Before I could explore my sexuality, I needed to see the journeys of others in books. In books, I found peers who dealt with the same issues I was dealing with. The camaraderie between LGB characters and questioning teens is empowering enough to ease tough circumstances.

Rachel Kisken is a contributor from Connecticut.

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