Update on the #YesGayYA mess (and yes, I'm calling it a mess)

I wish I could say I'm surprised.

It may be misguided to say that I had difficulty accepting the whole "truth" of the article referenced in my last post because what was detailed there was so counter to my own experience, and indeed I may be guilty of making my own generalizations because of said experience, but nevertheless, I did have a hard time buying that the story as it was laid out was true.  As willing as I was to give the authors of that article the benefit of the doubt, accept that something posted on the Publishers Weekly blog had been fact-checked, and not jump to conclusions simply based on my one case, with my one book, I had a nagging feeling at the back of my brain that there was more to the story.

And that turns out to be the case.

On the wonderful Colleen Lindsay's blog today, the truth comes out, a truth which makes it clear that, whether the authors of the original article simply took from that agent interaction what they wanted to hear, or whether different motives were at play, the agent in question - and the whole episode - were wildly misrepresented.  I won't attempt to repeat everything Colleen and her guest blogger, Joanna Stampfel-Volpe, say, I'll just urge you to go and read the post here.

I stand by my opinion that this kind of thing does happen, simply because we live in a world where, well, this kind of thing does happen, sad and unfortunate as that is.  Much of the impetus behind my first post on the subject, however, was my belief that it is dangerous, unhealthy, and sensationalist to bandy about labels like "homophobia" without incontestable grounds for it.  To do so is not just - to put it mildly - unfair to the person about whom it's being said, it also diminishes the power of such labels, and therefore they mean less in situations when it's justifiably called for.

Again, we need more of all kinds of realism in our YA, even in the fantastical, the paranormal, the speculative.  It saddens me that a false route was taken in an attempt to make that point.  That, too, diminishes something powerful.


Laura the MesserFan said...

You say, "we need more of all kinds of realism in our YA," and I heavily disagree on this.

This debate of putting more diversity into YA is important, but you cannot simply slap some gay characters into a story and declare it more LGBTQ focused. I say this because when writing becomes stagnant in form it no longer is consumed for its overdetermination and is instead, just read for entertainment. I think that in order for YA to make this evolution, traditional form needs to be broken.

So getting to this whole business about authors making up stories about their YA being rejected, yes, it's not the right thing to do, but what caught my attention wasn't so much the fault of the authors who lied--which I am still not condoning--but the way in which the editors told their side of the story.

It has become clear that it's something to both sides of this issue, that not only authors of YA need to reinvent the way YA is being written in order to address the question of more diversity, but editors, agents, and publishers need to be more informed on the way in which literature makes necessary transformations to be unlike anything that has come before it. Modernists wrote "realism" while the Postmodernists celebrated life's fragmentation and argued that there is no more realism. What we as writers need to do is invent what comes next.

Lastly, if YA wants to write LGBTQ conscious work, I recommend reading into what the theorists have contributed to the LGBTQ community and what they are ASKING for, not what we (or the writing business) think they SHOULD be reading.

*steps off soapbox*

Ementior said...

I'm not proposing that "more realism in YA" is one or even ten steps away, nor that it can be achieved by writing - as you say - what we think any given minority community should be reading. I'm saying that, as an ideal, we will hopefully one day have fiction that is more representative of a broad spectrum of humanity. The steps towards that are achieved in tiny increments.

I agree with your point that we need to write what comes next. A few posts back I made a similar one, about the relationship between society and the arts and how progress in one influences progress in the other. By writing what comes next, we can influence the *now* in tiny but not unimportant ways. Nevertheless, the general makeup of humanity isn't going to change in terms of minorities, sexualities, religions, and all the other classifications by which we put people into boxes. YA - and other categories of fiction - DO need a broader scope of characters within those classifications.

Do I think it should be forced? No. You write what's right for the story, and characters should evolve naturally in a writer's mind. Don't make one gay, or straight, or black or white or green just because you "don't have one of those yet" - do it because that's who they *are* and it's the only way they'll appear naturally on a page. I COMPLETELY agree that you can't simply drop a gay character into a book and call it LGBTQ-focused, and books where I feel that's happened annoy the crap out of me. (This past weekend I actually had a long discussion with someone over whether it was wise for JKR to state, after the fact (when DH was complete) that Dumbledore was gay. If that's not a necessary component to the book, what purpose does that knowledge serve? How does it help - or hinder - anything?)

As for editors, agents, etc needing to be aware of how literature changes, I do have to disagree with you there. I know more than a couple in both camps, some very well, and they're more intimately aware of those considerations than anyone.

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