Posts Tagged ‘young adult literature’

I have sometimes mentioned my work as an editor on my blog, specifically my work with young adult fiction, so I thought those of you who follow my blog might be interested in checking out my website, which I have finally gotten up and running after months of dragging my feet: Jackson Radish Editing Services

If you or anyone you  know is looking for an editor for your manuscript, paper, or article, please feel free to send them my way!

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I was just quoted about trans YA fiction in an article on Buzzfeed!

There’s not much to say about it. It’s a review of a book that I have not read, so I can’t vouch for the book, but any press about any kind of trans YA lit is always exciting.

It’s been a while since I’ve updated my blog, as I’ve been really busy.

One current project keeping me busy that I have not shared about on here is that I am collaborating as editor with an author (Kyle Lukoff, the other person quoted in the Buzzfeed article) who is also a trans librarian on a new trans YA novel! We have a long way to go before we will be looking for beta readers or anything like that, but we’re aiming to have a manuscript we can start sending to agents/publishers this summer. The novel is funny and quirky and poignant. It also is about a trans kid who transitioned a few years ago, so his transition is old news and his life and his totally cute and fun group of friends who decide to start a GSA in their high school are the real story. It also focuses heavily on a couple of “allies” who are sometimes hilariously (and sometimes devastatingly) misguided and totally turn the trope of trans YA fiction that gives too much airtime to cis “allies” (think Luna and Almost Perfect) on it’s head. Very exciting and I am loving working with such a talented author as Kyle on this project. I can’t wait until it’s a little further along so I can start giving more specifics and promoting it!

A little over a year ago, I read this book that was so awful, it turned me off of reading for a couple months. The book was called Almost Perfect by Brian Katcher and I had been looking forward to reading it for several months.

I have an ongoing project involving young adult literature featuring transgender characters (or lack thereof), keeping track of what is out there, creating resources for librarians and encouraging the creation of new & better resources, particularly fiction. I’d been really excited about this book because so few of the books I’d read featured trans girl characters (most had trans boys instead) and also because the book has won the Stonewall Book Award, awarded by the ALA GLBT Roundtable for teen fiction, so it must be good.

The book was actively horrible and I was pretty sure it would do a good job of terrifying any young trans girl into thinking that no one would ever love her and that she sort of deserved to experience violence. It felt like the whole point of the book was to make readers sympathize with homophobic & transphobic dudes who can’t help being violent towards trans women–not explicitly condoning the violence but explaining it as an unavoidable learning moment.

Reading the book made me feel horribly depressed and uninspired to read anything at all for several months (normally I read a few books a month or sometimes as much as a book a week).

Flash forward to a month or so ago when I read With or Without You by Brian Farrey.  It won the same book award as Almost Perfect and I had similarly been looking forward to reading it for months. It dealt with HIV/AIDS, gay teens in a small town & the loneliness & isolation that sometimes brings teens that age to a point of engaging in risky behavior in an attempt to simply belong. It sounded great and like the kind of book that needs to exist much more in the world.

Again, though, the book was actively horrible. It painted poz (HIV-positive) characters out to be anywhere from a jovially irresponsible older man to a young almost-cult-leader type kid who (spoiler alert) literally stabs someone. It paints the kid who is lonely & looking for somewhere to belong as a hopeless case. And, in the one moment where the book had an obvious window of opportunity to at least provide some useful information by informing readers about PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis, kind of like a morning after pill for HIV exposure that they most certainly don’t tell you about in sex ed and about which most adults don’t even know), the author totally drops the ball & sweeps it under the rug, arguably giving inaccurate information about how to deal with an actual HIV exposure. The book was bad. Awful.

Once again, a book which had received this award that is supposed to give librarians access to a few books that are safe to recommend to LGBTQ teens without really closely reviewing them or being knowledgeable about LGBTQ issues has succeeded in being actively bad in a way that I actually fear will hurt teenagers. At this point, I’m not just mad at the authors and their publishers, I’m fuming at the ALA’s GLBT Roundtable, which is probably made up of a bunch of well-meaning librarians who are actually not very knowledgable of LGBTQ issues but who, by virtue of being on this committee, position themselves as experts in the field and put their seal of approval on books that actually hurt the LGBTQ youth who really need them.  I decided to set my sights on becoming a member of the book selection committee within the next few years and also wrote a letter to the chair of the committee expressing my concern.

But as a reader, I was left feeling really disillusioned. Much like happened a year ago after reading Almost Perfect, I have been going through a bit of a period of reluctance to being a reader at all since finishing With or Without You. I just feel frustrated with the publishing industry that it’s set up in a way that the kinds of books that need to be out there (like the books I was hoping for when I cracked the spine of Almost Perfect and With or Without You) don’t get published (because we all know they are being written–the people whose life experiences would lead them to write these kinds of books are vibrant and creative people who are writing amazing books that the world will never see! This is why independent publishers such as Topside Press are so important!) and I figure that if the media I consume is being censored even when it comes in the form of literature, I might as well sit around watching bad reality television instead.  At least “Dance Moms” has never tried to trick me into thinking it provides important or useful information.

I’m sure it will pass soon, I will find a book that’s completely outside of the realm of things I normally read and reaffirm my love as a reader, but for now, I am feeling let down by not only the publishing industry, but by members of my own profession who actually have the power to give a voice to lesser known books that do something great for LGBTQ youth and instead choose to honor books that are sure to make life a little harder for those LGBTQ teens who could really have used the friend they seek to find between the pages of a book the most.

For the last few weeks, I haven’t written much new stuff for this blog and I’m sorry–I do have stuff in the works.

 

In the meantime, though, in my latest article for PrettyQueer I review a book that every teen librarian should have in their collection, so librarians, you should probably check the catalog to make sure you own Hello Cruel World: 101 Alternatives to Suicide for Teens, Freaks and Other Outlaws by Kate Bornstein. Then, you should walk over to the shelf and double check that it’s actually on the shelf. Especially if you are one of the folks who was really on board with the “It Gets Better Project.”

#itgetsbetter

For folks who are interested in queer stuff, trans stuff, reading, or all of the above, I am not writing a weekly blog on PrettyQueer!

I am starting with a series of reviews of young adult books featuring trans characters or themes.  Every Thursday, should be pretty fun.  My first review came out today and was on Parrotfish by Ellen Wittlinger.

Next week I’ll be reviewing Luna by Julie Anne Peters, if anyone is interested in reading along.

I went to Allied Media Conference this weekend and it could not have come at a better time.

My head has already been swimming with ideas and urges to create some sort of project focused on collecting content focused on/for transgender/gender variant/two-spirit/aggressive/gender questioning (etc.) teens/youth. The idea of starting an independent press and publishing these books myself terrifies me, but I saw all these people who had independent presses at the conference and it got me thinking that that’s something a person can just do if they want to.

So, since my new attitude about things is centered around making conscious decisions to empower myself to do things that challenge and intimidate me (I’m not going to go skydiving any time soon, though), I have decided I need to do something along the lines of starting an independent press focused on publishing young adult books with trans* themes by trans* authors.

This will be a very new project for me and I’m going to have to learn some new things. I basically came to the conclusion that I cannot single handedly change the fact that there are not a ton of good resources out there for trans* youth by writing the books myself for a host of reasons. Hopefully this process will involve the publishing of some of my own work, but my story and point of view is by no means the beginning or end of the types of stuff that trans* youth want/need to read—no one person’s is. Also, while I am a good writer and I love to write, I know myself well enough to know that the skill I have that really stands out is my ability to organize projects with other people in communities. So why shouldn’t I be the one to get the ball rolling on a rad forum for trans* folks to get their voices out there to reach teens.

So I have a few contacts who are interested and I’m hoping to bounce some ideas off of them and come up with an initial plan. No doubt, this will include things like writing grants, coming up with a name (supposed to be a “fun” part, but I hate coming up with names, it’s stressful to choose the one name that will forever be associated with something), building a website (I’d love to have multi-media stuff on there, I met some cool folks at Allied Media Conference doing trans* media stuff that is more video oriented who expressed interest in including video and other multi-media stuff in the press, and I would love that, especially since multi-media stuff is really well suited for teens), figuring out what our first project will be (I’m thinking it would be good to kick off with some sort of anthology of short stories to publish and get out there, but also starting to put the word out for submissions of longer works.) Figuring out how we are going to deal with editing and selection—gosh, there is so much!

The idea of turning down someone’s story or manuscript when they are actually doing what people need to do which is write trans* related content for teens is horrible to think about, but I also would hate to put out something that really felt like it was going to make teens actively feel bad about themselves, and also will probably have limited resources to devote to publishing books, especially to start off. Where does the line between functioning as an editor/publisher and as a librarian fall? Taking on a project like this makes me feel like taking some classes on more of the archives side of the MLIS degree in addition to the young adult public library stuff I had thought would be my main focus would be a good idea.

Stay tuned for more information and updates about my journey into starting an independent press geared toward *trans youth!

If you are interested in contributing or being involved, please contact me at jackson[dot]radish[at]gmail[dot]com

*I’m using “trans” as an umbrella term to include transgender, transsexual, genderqueer, two-spirit, aggressive, and other gender variant folks, as well as those who are questioning their gender identities.

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