Author speaks about the rise of LGBTQ young-adult literature

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    Less than one percent of young-adult literature features a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning character, and those books are not found in classrooms, guest speaker and researcher Toby Emert told a full audience Thursday evening in Scharbauer Hall. 

    “Queer young-adult literature is sexy right now," Emert said. "The numbers are quite small, but publishing houses are interested in these books and people are reading them. Characters are more aware of what their sexuality is and that is changing culture.” 

    Emert, an associate professor of English education at Agnes Scott College, presented a lecture called “Aunties, Smurfs, Flamers, & Dykes: Straight Talk about the Market for Queer Young Adult Literature.” 

    The public talk covered the development of the young-adult literature market and why teachers are reluctant to share these novels in classrooms.

    Emert said events like the emergence of "Will and Grace" in 1997 popularized the LGBTQ literature market. 

    “Nine novels were published in the 2000s by companies advocating LGBTQ-oriented literature," he said. "The willingness to publish novels with these characters set the stage for modern literature for young adults.”

    Although the numbers of young-adult novels featuring LGBTQ characters are low, publishers understand that there is a market for this literature, and they want to have some of these books on their lists. 

     “Culturally, we are getting there,” Emert said. 

    After his speech, Emert spent 30 minutes answering student questions and engaging in audience discussion about the literary market and LGBTQ novels in school settings. 

    "Teachers want to bring a diverse range of texts into classrooms, but I think there is a fear of backlash from parents and deviating from strict curriculum,” he said. 

    Callie Kostelich, a graduate instructor in the English department, said she was fascinated by Emert’s focus on audience questions. 

    “I appreciated that he took so much time out of his formal presentation to answer pertinent student and faculty questions.”