Scope & Controlled Vocabulary
This website aims to create a comprehensive bibliography of Young Adult fiction with significant LGBTQ content published between 2000 and 2017 in the United States and some books published in Canada. This list aims to be comprehensive and the inclusion of a title is not a recommendation. In compiling this list we inevitably include books that are problematic for a number of reasons, not limited to but including extremely harmful portrayals of certain identities. We are working on adding notations to certain entries that have been identified as problematic so that everyone can be made aware of these issues prior to reading a book. If you have any titles you are concerned about please contact us.
While there are many recommendation lists out there, there are no comprehensive lists. A comprehensive list is an essential resource for anyone researching LGBTQIAP+ YA, analyzing trends, and comparing representation in various books. Initially we decided to only include books by major publishers but that would not be truly comprehensive and would leave out many fantastic books by self-published authors and indie presses that prioritize ownvoices. If you have a recommendation for a book to include please email us at email@example.com.
You might find books here that don’t exactly fit this focus. We included certain middle grade titles at our discretion because we felt a teen audience and those who serve teens would benefit from knowing about them. This project originally started with books published by large and small presses in the United States but has expanded to selectively include self-published material and Canadian books as well.
The website team created a controlled vocabulary to allow for searching among books. These facets were created with a combination of theoretical backing and practical interests. The facets are designed to allow users – whether teens, librarians, educators, or anyone interested – to find books that match a set of identities they want to read about, genres to explore, and a tool to warn for common trigger warnings and endings. The team welcomes feedback about our controlled vocabulary. Additionally, we are in the process of updating each entry to have more specific information about different aspects of the main characters’ identities.
Gender and Sexual/Romantic Orientation
As queerness in its current conception includes diversity of gender, sexuality and romantic orientation these three categories are our first facet categories. These are intentionally separate categories that can be combined however the user desires.
Eight highly specific categories for gender exist to highlight and uplift experiences of trans, gender-queer, and intersex stories, not to isolate. Genderqueer/nonbinary is used as an umbrella that includes other gender identities outside the binary; we celebrate and recognize the power of specific language for self identification and do not mean for the vocabulary used as shorthand to invalidate other identities. We separate out gender fluid. Transstudent.com has an excellent set of definitions for folks unfamiliar with any of these.
There was substantial debate about language for the sexuality categories, as identities are often fluid and not clearly defined in the text, particularly with bisexual, pansexual, and queer characters. The current facets use “Gay/Queer” as an umbrella for boys and men attracted to boys and men and “Lesbian/Queer” as an umbrella for women and girls attracted to women and girls. Very few books explicitly use the terms pansexual or asexual, but the team uses these terms where the characters fit a modern definition as a way of identifying stories that may resonate for people looking for them.
Note: We excluded romantic orientation in our first release – it was an oversight, but one that was a huge mistake and that hurt a lot of folks. We’re genuinely sorry. Thank you to all the folks who have reached out. We’ve labeled romantic orientations where information was available and encourage authors to make these distinctions clearer in their books.
Other facets of identity
Gender, sexuality and romantic orientation are placed in context of other social identities like race, ethnicity, religion, national origin, (dis)ability, and more.
This project focuses on books published in the United States and is developed by a group of librarians in the United States, although the tool is available for use around the world. Racial and ethnic categories are in an American context and, inevitably, imperfect. These are umbrella terms meant to uplift stories, and we welcome feedback. A few specific notes: Latinx is used as an umbrella term including all people of Latin American descent across all genders. Indigenous includes Native Americans, Indigenous people, and the First Nations. Multiracial includes all people of multiple racial backgrounds, and is not more specific because of the unfortunate scarcity of representation.
Religion has a complicated history with gender and sexual minorities. However, it plays an important role for many individuals and in culture at large; at least two members of the project team were enormously excited when they first found books about queer Jewish women that mirrored their religious and cultural experiences. These facets do not include all religions, but include all those which we found represented in the scope of the project otherwise. The facets mean that religion plays a role in the story, whether positively (as in Shira Glassman’s books) or as a negative pressure.
Physical ability and disability are difficult to categorize because each person’s body is unique. The website and tool have been tested to be accessible to screen readers, contrast, and color blindness; users who find areas where the accessibility of the site can be improved are warmly encouraged to contact the team and we will do our best. The team consulted extensively with experts and disability advocates in developing this vocabulary and hope it provides a useful tool. We note that HIV/AIDS could be included in other categories, but we chose to highlight it because of the major role HIV and AIDS have played in queer history. Autism, similarly, could be placed in various other categories, but we chose to include it as its own category.
The facets for locations are evidently non-comprehensive; we used the level of specificity available in the books that fit the scope of the project.
Stories about marginalized identities can be written by authors of many identities, but there is a growing movement to uplift stories by and about marginalized identities; the #OwnVoices hashtag on twitter was created by YA author Corrine Duyvis to describe books “about diverse characters written by authors from that same diverse group.” For more information, see Why We Need Diverse Authors in Kids & YA Lit.
Where it was easily identifiable, we include a note on whether a book is Own Voices; lack of this tag should not be viewed as a judgement on an author’s identity. We’ve tried to indicate in each entry what identities the author shares with their characters.