Authors James Dawson and Julie Mayhew yesterday (29th July) celebrated the increase in LGBT characters in YA novels in an episode of BBC2's "Newsnight".
Dawson [pictured] , whose next novel All of the Above (Hot Key Books) features a girl who falls in love with a both a boy and her female friend, said: “This is a phenomenally positive time for the LGBT community, from gay marriage to the referendum in Ireland. It was obvious that these things were going to filter down and now we’re seeing [books with LGBT characters] appear on shelves.”
Whilst Dawson grew up seeing no LGBT characters in books, now “no young person would go into a library and not find themselves reflected in a novel”, he said. He also pointed out that it is not only LGBT writers who create LGBT characters, but straight writers, too.
Mayhew, whose novel The Big Lie (Hot Key Books), set in a contemporary Nazi Britain, features a girl dealing with her feelings for another girl, agreed, saying: “I didn’t sit down and think I’m going to write a lesbian or bisexual character, it’s just the way she evolved. I could say to myself ‘do I have permission to write that’ because I’m a straight, married mother of two, but then you have to say men can’t write about women and women can’t write about men.”
Newsnight presenter Katie Razzall interviewed a group of girls who are part of the Stonewall society at London’s Parliament Hill School, who praised the rise LGBT characters in books. One girl said it “makes you feel like you’re less alone”. However, another girl said other sexualities such as asexuality are still not explored in books, and another said young people would still find it hard to take a book with "gay" in the title out of the library because of what other people would say.
Dawson also warned publishers not to treat LGBT YA as a trend. “It’s not a flash in the pan, we’re not vampires, we’re not dystopias. Even if these books aren’t massive bestsellers, it’s really important that we continue to represent LGBT characters in years to come, not just while we are having a day in the sun in literature.”
Earlier this week (27th July), "Newsnight" also interviewed Blowing Up Russia (Gibson Square) co-author Yuri Felshtinsky about the role publishing the book could have played in the death of Alexander Litvinenko. The book has been put on a list of extremist material is Russia and banned.