Telling stories, Marie said, is an important act of creative expression and personal affirmation, but also a political statement. “Art is political and always has been, so my hope is that people and publishers can continue rallying behind queer authors whose works are being targeted, especially those who are trans and/or not White, and thus the most targeted,” Marie said. “Fighting the censorship of media that validates queer and trans youths’ existence is integral to protecting current and future generations of our community.”
And despite the onslaught of legislation and policies that are specifically aimed at queer youth, what Stamper feels is particularly notable about the current moment is that this creative expression continues, out loud.
“We’re still telling our stories and our experiences — stories of joy and pain — and you are seeing those different experiences on the shelf,” Stamper said. “As much as you can try to ban books, it doesn’t stop those books from existing, which is pretty incredible.”
As back-to-school season begins, here are some queer YA titles recommended by the authors interviewed for this story.
Amanda DeWitt recommends:
“Hell Followed with Us” by Andrew Joseph White
“It’s a trans horror story. I read it and thought, ‘Wow — I’ve never read anything like this.”
“The Trouble with Robots” by Michelle Mohrweis
“It’s a middle grade novel where one of the protagonists is bi and the other one is asexual. In middle school, you’re trying to figure out all of these feelings and identities, and it’s great to see middle grade books giving kids the words to describe themselves.”
Sierra Elmore recommends:
“I Kissed Shara Wheeler” by Casey McQuiston
“It’s an enemies-to-lovers story, which is one of my favorite types of books. The title character doesn’t even enter the book until the second half! The main character, Chloe, has to come to terms with, ‘OK, I really like girls.’ I like that the main character is sure in her sexuality. For a while, most of the YA [that] was coming out [were] stories about people being more tentative about their sexuality, but Chloe’s like, ‘I know what I am.’ I love that.”
“Ophelia After All” by Racquel Marie
“There’s this big queer friend group and lots of social support for someone being queer. Ophelia is figuring out who she is and it’s not exactly clear by the end of the book. And that’s OK. It’s not always going to be clear.”