As soon as I became aware that the GLBT Round Table and the Rainbow List existed, I knew I wanted to be involved. I have always wanted to be a good ally and advocate for LBGTQ patrons of the library (and out of the library, naturally, but the library is my home). I have known that LGBTQ kids, teens, and families have been shamefully underrepresented in literature. It’s not as if a multitude of LBGTQ characters in children’s and YA books will fix anyone’s life or experience, but I’ve always believed in the healing power of literature. All children need to see themselves reflected in the books they read. This includes children of a variety of races, ethnicities, financial backgrounds, physical/mental abilities, geographic locations, religious affiliations, sexual and gender identities, and a number of other factors that I’m not clever enough to think of at this point. When a child (or teen, but I think it’s especially important in a person’s early years) reads about a character that speaks to their experiences, it can instill a love of reading and a sense of belonging in the world. We’re all looking for a witness. We all crave someone to validate our experiences and to say, “Yes. You went through this and you are not the only one.” Books can be so life-affirming.
This is why I am a proud Rainbow List member. I want LGBTQ kids and teens (and the children of LGBTQ-identified parents) to have the opportunity to see themselves in the books they read. I want to recognize and promote the authors who make this possible.
I know lots of librarians want to be involved with the Printz, Newbery, Caldecott or Alex Awards and that’s totally valid. The awards committees seem (I say “seem”, I’ve never been on one) very exciting and they’re certainly prestigious and impressive. However, there’s so much to be said for committees like Rainbow List. The Rainbow List is not an award. We’re a list of quality books for kids and young adults (birth to 18 years). The titles must contain authentic and significant LGBTQ content. The Rainbow List can include as many titles as the members would like, but it also includes a Top Ten list that features the best titles of the year. The Rainbow List, and other lists like it, are a tremendous resource for librarians, teachers, parents and readers of all ages. If you’re a youth services librarian, the Rainbow List is a valuable resource for collection development purposes. It’s not always apparent which books are LGBTQ-oriented and it can be difficult to locate them. The good folks of the Rainbow List find these titles for you, read them, and let you know which ones are worth including in your collection. I have cut-and-pasted entire Rainbow Lists into Baker and Taylor for ordering purposes, and this was way before I was involved with the list or the Round Table.
On Sunday, January 26th, the Rainbow List committee members made our final decisions concerning this year’s titles.
Here’s our committee with our Top Ten picks. That’s me on the left with the pink hair. I’m holding Kate Bornstein‘s My New Gender Workbook and The Culling by Steven dos Santos. Christine, right next to me, is holding Pantomime by Laura Lam and Better Nate than Ever by Tim Federle (the latter being one of the few exceptional submissions for young readers. Most of our submissions were YA books). Anna, in the scarf, is holding Sara Farizan’s If You Could Be Mine and Love in the Time of Global Warming by Francesca Lia Block (it pained me to not hold either of these titles. I really love them both. They hit me right in the gut. I should say that I’m honored to being holding Kate Bornstein and Steve dos Santos’s books. No doubt). Erin, who has the gorgeous curly hair, is holding Freak Boy by Kristin Elizabeth Clark (give this one to your hardcore Ellen Hopkins fans) and Leap by Z Egloff. Seated on the floor is my girl Naomi and she’s holding Branded by the Pink Triangle by Ken Setterington and Alaya Dawn Johnson‘s The Summer Prince.
Though they are not Top Ten selections, I’d like to bring some attention to some of my other favorites: Tyler Buckspan, Giraffe People, Rapture Practice, Archenemy (great for your not-so-advanced teen readers), If I Lie, The Waiting Tree, Calling Dr. Laura, and Blue is the Warmest Color, all of which I think would make worthwhile additions to your collection.
If you work in a library that serves teens and children, I would like to insist that the above titles are essential for your patrons. If you don’t think you have LGBTQ library users, you are wrong, I assure you. Also, these are great titles for expanding the horizons of all your readers, including those who identify as straight. A book that represents an unfamiliar voice can truly broaden one’s understanding of the world.
I highly recommend serving on the Rainbow List (Or any ALA book committee. I also think that the Amelia Bloomer book list looks like the jam and I can’t wait to work with them in the future). Here are a couple of reasons to get involved:
- Not to sound like a hipsterbrarian, but I read Better Nate than Ever before most people did. Being on the Rainbow List gets tons of ARCs/galleys delivered right to your door. Receiving all those books and getting that smug “I read it before you did” look on your face is truly priceless.
- I got so many nice emails, tweets, and Facebook messages from authors thanking me for getting them on this list. Seriously, it makes you feel so good.
- There’s not a much better feeling than participating in a committee that helps bring underrepresented voices to libraries everywhere.
Not convinced? Non-award committee meetings are open to anyone at ALA. Come on in. See what we do. See if it’s something you’d enjoy. We usually have chocolate.
Want to volunteer to be on the Rainbow List? You need to be a GLBT Round Table member, as well as a member of ALA. Click here to get involved.
I am serving one more year on the Rainbow List until I have to take a break. Here’s what I’d like to see in upcoming Rainbow List submissions:
- More books including and representing People of Color. Books about middle-class white boys are great and needed, but we’re failing a good deal of the population here.
- Picture books! Come on now! Todd Parr can’t be the only one knocking out books like this. More! More!
- More books for young readers. Hopefully Better Nate than Ever has opened the door for more LGBTQ children’s chapter books.
- More books featuring women.
- More books with trans* characters.
- More books that acknowledge that gender is a spectrum.
I hope you read through our list and order some titles for your library. Put these books on hold. Trot over to your local bookstore and purchase these titles. Go on Twitter and tell these authors that you appreciate them.
I love you, Rainbow List.
~Love and Libraries, Ingrid