23 November 2008

Simon Doonan's Beautiful People

I'm reading Simon Doonan's wonderful recollection of growing up queer in Reading (and doesn't that capital 'R' make a difference? I think I grew up very queer in my reading, but it was nowhere near Reading...) and it occurred to me that there are very few books where gay teens have an angst-free adolescence. I suspect that, along the lines of all misery memoirs, there's more money to be made from the less cheerful aspects. As a sales pitch queer-bashing undoubtedly wins over 'moment of enlightenment when faced with realisation that mood-lighting exists and there are other boys who like it too'. Not that I want all pink frothy delight or all doom and gloom, but many of the 'gay teen' books that I love most are really quite happy, or have the doom and gloom laden on by life, not specifically by the fact of the protagonist being homosexual: Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan; Strange Boy by Paul Magrs; Baby Be-Bop by Francesca Lia Block and New Boy by William Sutcliffe... but I do love Dance on my Grave and the other Aidan Chambers that deal with sexuality in a complex way, and Hero by Perry Moore which is funny and sad and terrifying too.

Actually, just making a list makes me realise how few books there are out there about the whole coming out experience. There's much more choice in America - apart from Magrs and Chambers those on my list are American and the Doonan is really written for adults - and the GLT Teen genre seems to be growing fast there. I particularly want to try Alex Sanchez's books, and some more David Levithan, they may not speak directly of the UK experience, but at least they address many of the issues so many sexually conflicted / sexually different teens face. I wonder if there'll be an upsurge of queer writing for teens here too? And if so whether we'll head down the misery memoir road, or try for something a little more positive and uplifting!

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