Today we are looking at three recently released queer books aimed at young adults, all of which have many important messages behind them. One of these messages is what it means to be an ally to a minority group such as someone within the LGBTQ+ community.
The Prom – Saundra Mitchell
Based on the Broadway musical and telling a story that happens too often across America where teens can't attend their prom because they want to go with the person that they love. Emma and Alyssa just want to dance together at the prom. This is middle America however. Emma lives with her Gran after her parents kicked her out and Alyssa's super conservative mum is head of the PTA and is the one organising the prom. Emma is the only out person at school and is regularly bullied. As the news gets out that Emma isn't allowed to take a girl to prom Broadway stars Dee-Dee and Barry arrive to protest. Heartbreaking twists follow as events unfold and people's true colours come to light.
In this book Emma has an excellent ally in the shape of her Gran who will do anything for Emma, but only if Emma wants her to. Dee-Dee and Barry, however, aren't always great allies to Emma. Although they think they are, they have selfish intentions and don't ask her what she wants. This book examines life for queer teens in parts of America, the daily judgement and abuse they face, and is essential reading
Juliet Takes a Breath – Gabby Rivera
An excellent own voices book which blew me away. Juliet is a Puerto-Rican lesbian living in the Bronx in 2003.She has a secret girlfriend and the night she leaves for an Internship in Portland she comes out to her family which does not go as well as she hoped. Juliet gets to Portland where she is staying with Harlowe, author of Raging Flower: Empowering Your Pussy by Empowering Your Mind. Juliet suddenly realises that she knows nothing about being queer, about white privilege or life outside the Bronx. This book also explores women's oppression, body shame, what it is like to step outside our comfort zone and what it truly means to be an ally. As Juliet realises that she needs to be who she wants to be, and not what others expect her to be, she embraces her identity and finds her voice in a truly spectacular way.
Like The Prom this book has someone who is a misguided ally to Juliet, in the shape of Harlowe, and it shines a light on the fact that even if you belong to one minority or oppressed group you can be prejudiced against another. It also explores feminism and how the popular mainstream feminism is not what everyone needs and excludes huge groups of people. If you have people from minority groups in your life and you want to support them, please be guided by them and what they want. Acknowledge your privilege and be prepared to accept that you might be getting it wrong.
Rainbow Revolutions – Jamie Lawson & Eve Lloyd Knight
Reading the previous book made me realise that, like Juliet, although I know some queer history I don't know enough. Cue this wonderful book, which is easy to read with beautiful illustrations. It covers a whole range of queer history including the Stonewall riots, Harvey Milk and the ongoing fight for equality. If you want to learn about the meaning behind pride, the New York ballroom scene or why women are often left out of the pride movement then this book is for you. The fight for equality isn't over. With the United Kingdom having only just achieved equal marriage and with Northern Ireland finally catching up, there is more work to do across the world. This book should be in all school libraries next to the rest of the social history books.