Why are LGBTQ YA Books Disappearing from Library Shelves?

 

Interlude Press, the lovely people publishing Sideshow, are involved in an amazing new project, partnering with The Trevor Project. As a library professional and writer myself, getting books in the hands of those who need them is something I strongly believe in. Libraries giving me access to books got me through the hardest parts of my childhood, and honestly still get me through hard days now. Below is one of their posts about the challenge. I hope that you will support however you can. ❤

Why are LGBTQ YA Books Disappearing from Library Shelves?

We’re at the American Library Association Convention this weekend (#ALAAC16) talking not only about our upcoming IP titles, but also about The Thousand Book Challenge campaign in support of @thetrevorproject and public libraries. But we have also had a good opportunity to listen to librarians talk about what they see and what they need for their LGBTQ readers—especially at school libraries.

And they’ve had a lot to say, some of it heart-warming, some of it heart-breaking, and all of it reassuring us that we did the right thing when we launched Duet Books for LGBTQ-YA fiction one year ago.

There was the school librarian who said that it wasn’t uncommon for library staff  to remove security strips from LGBTQ titles, knowing that teen readers might feel uncomfortable checking the book out. “The books disappear—and then mysteriously show up on a table a week or two later,” she said. This little act of compassionate rebellion really made us smile. You rock, librarians.

Others told us about the challenges of securing funding for books about gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and other queer characters. Administrators argue that there is no demand for the books because they aren’t checked out as often as bestsellers. The LGBTQ YA titles are actually read to the point of disrepair—in the library. Several librarians told us that they assume that kids don’t want to bring the books home. “(The administrators) only look at the numbers,” one said.

Overwhelmingly, librarians told us that they need more: More LGBTQ Young Adult fiction; more quality books that are well written and treat the readers and subjects with respect; more cover art that is age (and school) appropriate.

These stories reaffirmed why we have undertaken The Thousand Book Challenge, a dual philanthropic campaign to raise funds for @thetrevorproject‘s life saving efforts on behalf of LGBTQ youth while donating one thousand copies of a new, special edition of @killianbbrewer‘s The Rules of Ever After. Interlude Press will not make any money off the donations made to this campaign. By sponsoring these books with your tax deductible donations, you will help add to library collections for teen readers and help The Trevor Project fund its crisis intervention and suicide prevention efforts.

LGBTQ YA fiction is important for LGBTQ youth. Interlude Press has been raising awareness about the lack of LGBTQ books in libraries and schools at the American Library Association Convention. Help @interludepress donate LGBTQ YA books to libraries & support our lifesaving work with the #1000BookChallenge http://thndr.me/5L46uR.

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The Birthplace of Rock & Roll & Abby Amaro: Cleveland in the 1950s

Starting this week, we will begin our look deeper into the world of Sideshow with explorations of the setting, plot, characters, and the research that it took to get them right. Enjoy!

Looking east down Superior Avenue from monument sector of Public Square, July 1950.
Public Square -1950 [Image courtesy of the Cleveland Public Library Digital Gallery]
Sideshow begins in Cleveland, Ohio. This seemed a natural choice to me. I honestly never even considered setting Abby’s beginning anywhere else. Continuing the world of “The Fire-Eater’s Daughter” meant continuing a story set in the 1950s. That was not a problem. As far as the writing of historical fiction goes, the 1950s have a ton of interesting themes to mine and I’ve only begun to crack that surface. Using Cleveland as a backdrop for the opening scenes just seemed to slip right into those themes seamlessly.

In the 1950s, Cleveland, like the rest of the world (and the Amaro family – I’m sure the reason for the gap between Abby and Leon is painfully obvious) was trying its best to move on from WWII. The world was still in turmoil, but Cleveland was trying to forget.

The post-WWII manufacturing boom definitely helped. Cleveland was, after all, a manufacturing city, for better or worse.

Abby’s father, like many other Cleveland fathers of this decade and decades prior, worked in a steelyard. It was hard work but would have provided well for the growing Amaro family  and allowed them to live in a house between the neighborhoods of Little Italy and Coventry Village (a one time “planned” community for Cleveland’s wealthy Protestant elites which began growing in ethnic diversity around this time). Natale and Abby both work and are concerned with money, but they would, unlike their parents, have been able to finish out their high school years in relative peaceful enjoyment. They would have likely attended a local Catholic School such as St. Marion’s (which would close in the 1960s, so the younger Amaro children would have to be sent elsewhere).

Cedar Lee Theatre
Cedar-Lee Theatre [Courtesy of the Cleveland Heights Historical Society & Cleveland Historical]

A critical intersection, both to Abby and Sideshow is that of Cedar and Lee roads. Abby spends her evenings after her music classes working at the fictional (though loosely based on a one time burger joint known as Mawby’s) Cedar Lee Diner, the existence of which was inspired by local Cleveland landmark, the Cedar-Lee Theatre.

The Cedar-Lee opened in 1925 and anchored the ever changing commercial center around it. It’s still there today, albeit a little different than Abby would have known it.  Though Abby and Marjorie likely preferred the East Side Drive In (especially during the summer), Cedar-Lee would definitely have held a special place in her social life.

Announcement of the Moondog Coronation Ball at the Cleveland Arena, March 1952. WRHS.
Announcement of the Moondog Coronation Ball at the Cleveland Arena, March 1952. WRHS. [Courtesy of Encyclopedia of Cleveland History by CWRU and the Western Reserve Historical Society]
Speaking of social life, Abby would likely have also frequented dances held by Italian-American social clubs and teen organizations. As a music lover, Abby’s adoration of everything from opera to folk to, of course, rock and roll would mean seeking out places where she could hear the music she loved. In Sideshow she mentions to Suprema that she listened to Moondog every night. This is a reference to Cleveland disc jockey Alan “Moondog” Freed often credited with coining the term “rock and roll” leading to Cleveland’s beloved moniker. [I will discuss this particular aspect of Abby’s life in further detail in a later post.]

The carnival the Amaro family attends on that fateful day in late July would likely have been held in Gordon Park on the lakeshore or somewhere similar to it. These areas were casualties of that manufacturing boom mentioned earlier as the lake struggled through environmental degradation. That would have allowed McClure’s Amusements the ability to rent their time on the land cheaply, however. As seen in Sideshow, they do not always get the choicest locations, but they make the best of it. (Gordon Park’s Beach is also where I envisioned Abby’s breakup with Frank.)

The 1950s in Cleveland truly do provide an incredibly rich backdrop in which to paint the story of Abby Amaro’s early life and launch her into her later adventures with McClure’s amusements. This real and vibrant city that is more than it appears on the surface was, in my mind, the only place to begin.

 

Writing at the Speed of Life

One of my mother’s favorite stories takes place when I was probably 2 years old, if not younger. We were at my grandfather’s deli and she was ready to leave. I, however, being small was moving slowly, distracted by what I could only assume were the ever so exciting sights and sounds of a small town deli. She was frustrated, but one of my grandfather’s customers smiled at her and said, “Don’t worry, things will speed up soon enough. Then you’ll wish that they stayed this slow.”

My mother enjoys relating this story every time I get frustrated with the pace of life: whenever I whine that things aren’t happening fast enough, I’m not making enough progress in my career or personal life, etc. I was never apt to listen because my life tends to move at a snail’s pace, but right now, I can not stop thinking about it.

Sideshow launches August 25th.  That date is so soon; I can’t even believe it. There is so much to get done before then! It’s exciting, but it’s also crazy making. I cannot believe that it is already June!

You guys don’t have to worry about that, though. You just get to sit back and enjoy as the ramp up to launch day begins. We’ve got a lot of interesting content on tap to get the party started, from snippets of research to backstory, deleted scenes, a Virtual Book Tour and a whole lot more. Stay tuned!