Thursday June 9th I attended the School Library Association of South Australia’s Diversity in Literature event. The event was designed to assist librarians select and share resources that promote diversity. It was wonderful to share a room with school librarians passionate about diversity in their library’s resources for staff and students.
The first guest speaker was Fran Knight, a regular at SAETA conferences, who did her usual spin through an amazing list of books for young readers, this time with a focus on gender diverse and multiculturally diverse books. When listening to Fran I always feel the weight of all the wonderful books yet to be read!
Next was Emma Phillips, librarian at Wilderness School. She provided a genre guide for, and suggestions for sourcing, LGBTQ young adult fiction. There was certainly a wealth of resources, links, ideas, text suggestions etc. All incredibly thorough because they were her university assignments.
The final speaker was Samuel Williams, who will soon be coming to Cambridge to study sexual and gender diversity in YA literature at Queens’ College. He spoke about the history of YA fiction novels that covered gender diversity, and about why DSG (Diverse Sexuality and Gender) is a more appropriate term than LGBTQ and all of its forms. He also spoke about what librarians should look for in DSG inclusive YA novels:
- do not end in tragedy or pathologise sexual/gender diversity.
- have a gay or trans main character.
- are not (only) about coming out, being accepted and negotiating homophobia/transphobia.
- do not perpetuate myths about homosexuality and gender diversity.
- do not prescribe or generalise about the gay/trans experience.
- do not condescend to young readers.
- are well-written, original and a pleasure to read.
My favourite part of the night was this impassioned quote from David Levithan on the importance of students seeing themselves positively represented in the literature they read:
I have met so many amazing librarians in the past few years, staunch and strong defenders of expression and representation. I can say without a single doubt that many young readers’ lives have been helped and saved by their librarians’ open-mindedness and courage. (I have the e-mails to prove it.) (2004, p. 45).
Levithan, D. (2004). Supporting gay teen literature. School Library Journal, 50(10), 44-45. Retrieved from http://www.schoollibraryjournal.com