November 2, 2010

ALA announces gay youth literature prize


According to an Associated Press wire story the American Library Association has announced a new category for one of their storied prizes on Monday and it will surely become one of the bigger controversies of the year (perhaps bigger than any stunts J-Franz has up his sleeves — though don’t count him out) . The Stonewall Children’s and Young Adult Literature Award has been added to the already prestigious list of ALA children’s literary awards that include the Newbury and Caldecott.

Founded in 1971, the Stonewall Prize is the first and longest running GLBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender) award and has been a part of the ALA’s award list since 1986. Typically divided into fiction and nonfiction, this addition of GLBT literature in the children’s and young adult category will without a doubt stir up some discussion.

So as Pat Robertson, Tea Party hate mongers and small minds the nation over sharpen their pitchforks it is important to note how important and timely this award is. Not to mention how gutsy its creation is. The ALA deserves applause for stepping into the breach yet again. Right wing anti-gay rhetoric is nearly as organized as anti-abortion movements and it is not hard to imagine the ALA encountering serious flak.

The award’s announcement comes in the wake of a recent increase in violence against homosexuals not to mention the shame oriented suicides and in particular a callousness on the part of the hosting institutions that speaks of deeply institutionalized homophobia.

Gay and lesbian youth literature is among the most attacked and banned in the country. The literature serves an important role in demonstrating the normality of homosexual lifestyles, especially for the million plus children growing up with gay parents.

The Stonewall should also provide some protection (or at least proliferation) of gay youth literature and help create a sense of belonging for children growing up gay or with same sex parents. Not to mention any tolerance that can be achieved via the books.

Paul Oliver is the marketing manager of Melville House. Previously he was co-owner of Wolfgang Books in Philadelphia.