Tuesday, July 24, 2012

11 Julie Anne Peters on LGBTQ and Controversial YA (Plus Winner of CRANK announced!)

Today, we’re welcoming the incredibly kind and talented author Julie Anne Peters. When we first worked with her for our “In Stores This Week” feature, she was amazingly sweet and personable. That’s why for today, she seemed like just the person to break down a difficult subject matter—controversial topics in young adult books, specifically those that include LGBTQ themes. Her interview is candid and thought-provoking. And just like the last time we had her on the blog, she was a joy to work with!

A little bit about Julie:
Julie Anne Peters is the critically-acclaimed, award winning author of more than a dozen books for young adults and children. Her book, Luna, was a National Book Award Finalist; Keeping You a Secret was named a Stonewall Honor Book; Between Mom and Jo won a Lambda Literary Award; and Define “Normal” was voted by young readers as their favorite book of the year in California and Maryland. Julie’s books have been published in numerous countries, including Korea, China, Croatia, Germany, France, Italy, Indonesia, Turkey, and Brazil. She is a member of The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, PEN America, Colorado Authors League, and The Author's Guild. Julie loves writing because she gets to be her own boss and doesn't have to work in an office cubicle. It's hard to think outside the box when you work in a cube. She lives in Lakewood, Colorado, with her partner, Sherri, and far too many cats. The cats are under the impression that they're creative geniuses, since they spend a majority of their day walking back and forth across her computer keyboard. They probably generate more words per day than she does, but who can read cat gibberish?

Find her online at her website, Facebook, and Twitter.

Why do you believe YA novels with LGBTQ content are deemed controversial by some audiences?
Even though society has progressed to the point where LGBTQ issues are out in the open, support and acceptance of "difference" or diversity is not universal. Messages are still being sent that being gay is sinful or wrong and those who choose to live as openly gay are condemned. Too many people believe that being gay is a choice.

What compels you to keep writing when you know that a portion of readers may view some of the content as controversial (whether it’s LGBTQ content or anything else someone may take issue with)?
I know how comforting and self-affirming novels with LGBTQ characters are for people who are just coming to terms with being gay and needing to fit in with the world at large. Feeling that you're normal, and that you have a community that loves and embraces you for who you are, provides the kind of emotional well-being that we all need to survive and thrive.

How has the public’s reception of your novels that include LGBTQ or other controversial topics changed over time, if at all?
I used to get at least one letter a week from a mother (usually) calling me a pervert and accusing me of turning her daughter into a lesbian. I even have a file folder labeled "Not a Fan." Those letters have decreased over the years, and now I can't remember the last time I got one. So I'm assuming Jane/John Q. Public are more on board with diversity or finding other outlets to express their rage. Thank God.

In your opinion, why is it important for teens (and other readers, for that matter) to have access to books that include controversial content (LGBTQ, sex, drugs, violence, bigotry, etc.)?
When people don't talk about their feelings or what's happening to them, they become isolated and estranged from other people. Harassment and fear eventually turn to depression, which leads to many young (and old) people taking their lives. Books are a safe place to explore topics that may be taboo in a particular culture, including one's own home, school or church. A subject may be uncomfortable to read or talk about, but consequences and choices can be life-changing. It's vital for people to consider options and to see how someone else might cope with a situation that may seem hopeless in real life. Books provide those avenues for alternative solutions to problems.

Thank you, Julie!

As promised, we have a copy of Ellen Hopkins' CRANK coming to...


We’d love to hear YOUR thoughts on controversial children’s/YA books. How have they shaped your life? Why do you believe certain topics are taboo? If you’re a parent, how do you handle books with controversial topics as your children select books to read? Go!


  1. As a teacher, I'm thrilled when a book comes out that can help a kid deal with personal feelings, issues, situations and anything else. It's so important for people to realize others have experienced similar feelings and have not only survived, but thrived.

    1. That's great, Jemi. It must be amazing to see a book genuinely impact the life of a child you work with. It's harder when you teach the little ones like I do-- you get to see them develop the ability to read and the love of it, but not as much the influence. Very neat!

  2. Considering I'm writing a YA book, this is definitely an useful read.

    I have one question: Considering the fact that books focused primarily in LGBT themes seem to not be as findable as more "mainstream" books, would you say the former is contained within a niche, or is it moving toward a wider demographic.

    1. Glad the post is helpful, Chihuahua Zero. Julie is amazing! That's an excellent question regarding a LGBTQ book's placement. I've certainly seen waaayyyy more mainstream YA novels feature LGBTQ characters in the last few years-- Mortal Instruments series comes to mind, as does Lauren Myracle's SHINE. But in terms of books where the main character is LGBTQ, I don't know that those have become "mainstream." I hope we can get Julie to stop by here later to weigh in on that great question.

  3. Weighing in on the mainstream question... I do think there are more and more books every year with LGBTQI protagonists and secondary characters. For publishers it has to come down to marketing and sales. As society becomes more progressive and accepting of gay people, books will follow that trend.

  4. What a great interview with an inspiring author! Thanks so much to Julie and the ladies of ACP...now I'm just wondering which of Julie's books to pick up first :)

    1. Thanks for the kind comment, Jess! Julie is a truly awesome gal :)

  5. Just saying HI! Long time no connect! :) J

    1. Hi, Jackie! Are you heading to LA? If so, you're lucky! Martina and I won't be able to make it, sadly :(

  6. You know Rosi - 4am the other morning I woke up with a smoother way to phrase the poppy line and by the time I was able to grab my phone to type it in I had forgotten it :(. I will work on that :)

  7. I do think there are other and much more books every year using LGBTQI protagonists and extra heroes. With regard to web publishers it has to depend upon marketing and advertising and sales. Since culture gets more intensifying along with open to gay men and women, books will observe which trend.




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