“Don’t worry,” we were told in schools, around the turn of the millennium. “They fear you more than you fear them.” A helpful reassurance if you’re talking about spiders, but the topic covered here? Lesbians.
His deliberate but clumsy breakdown fit a broader pattern of regressive messaging in schools at the time. In other all-girls schools, you can have a piece of Sellotape pressed into various arms, then held back when it loses its adhesion. The sad video is a reminder to ‘save yourself’ for a (heterosexual) marriage.
Cut to the 2020s, with the Proud Progressive flag (updated rainbow) hanging outside the school. A skeptic might wonder: which box does this check in the anti-bullying policy?
But other unthinkable things happen: school librarians display Pride, as do bookstores, and young people actually pick titles from them. In fact, they were in the bookstore in the first place trying to find Heart stops beating graphic novel, a series where almost no upright characters exist.
How do we get here? The era of representation for and for young LGBTQ+ people was made possible, in the Irish context, by the events of 1993. In the history of what was then simply ‘gay rights’ ‘, 1993 marked the year in which Victorian legislation criminalized gay men. the behavior has been abolished (thank you, David Norris). But it was also the year that Trinity scholar Pádraic Whyte called the first Irish gay billdungsromanor a novel for young adults, has been published.
The title mentioned is When love comes to the city by Tom Lennon (author died 2002, only ever published under this pseudonym). Ivan O’Brien, chief executive officer of the novel’s publisher, O’Brien Press, recalls that “using his real name would probably cost him his work” with as a teacher. Here, we can remember that prioritizing ‘religious identity’ over staff rights in schools will allow this to happen by the end of 2015.
Lennon’s book, like Emma Donoghue’s lesbian story Fry next year, published as an adult novel rather than specifically aimed at teenagers, although both are now relevant to the young adult (YA) segment of the market. Set up before analysis, it describes a Dublin where Catholic-informed homophobia is the norm, where the fear of being ‘catch’ by Gardaí is entirely justified.
As an upcoming story, especially one intended to enlighten readers, When love comes to the city is not officially radical in any way. American YA fiction has featured gay protagonists since the late 1960s, often referring to the emergence process as a ‘problem’ to be resolved by the end of the story. Lennon’s book follows many of the same stereotypes, but for Irish readers it presents a much more familiar world.
One might expect a small amount of Irish published material featuring gay protagonists after this, but no. The country did not change overnight. This happened before the divorce was legalized, before the last Magdalene laundromat closed, before bringing the Internet to smartphones.
The close relationship with the UK is also a factor. As Little Island publisher Matthew Parkinson-Bennett has noted, at this point “there is a sense that Irish children’s English reading – with notable exceptions – is dominated by English books, and there is a movement to publish more Irish books, which led to a lot of historical fiction”.
Video of the day
It was like a necessary counterweight to the British Empire’s focus. Along with books that explore the Irish uprising and the damage England inflicted on its nearest neighbour. This wave, including the bestsellers by Marita Conlon-McKenna The children of Starvation trilogy, is an important development for Irish children’s publishing in general, but much of the contemporary fiction available still comes from abroad.
England and Wales eliminated homosexual acts in 1967, but Margaret Thatcher’s government enacted Section 28, a policy that banned “encouragement of homosexuality” in schools between 1988 and 2005. 2003. Before that, it was rare to see a teen novel by a major UK publisher depicting same-sex relationships in a nonjudgmental way – one notable exception was that of Aidan Chambers. Dancing on my grave (1982) but the closure of the school bookcase market made it commercially unviable.
These books already exist, but they are few and far between. Lorraine Levis, now a buyer at WH Smith Ireland, which focuses on children’s fiction and YA, recalls: “When I was growing up in the late 1990s and early 2000s, there were weird books that would go on. found if you know where to look and you have a sympathetic librarian or bookseller. ” She admits this is not the case for many, who “rely on original internet forums and word of mouth in a community that is often fearful” and in which “level of secrecy” prevails.
Works by small newspapers, including those specializing in gay and lesbian literature (such as Alyson Books in the US), can be found in independent bookstores, which will then online. Mostly Americans; most of it is terrible. Irish-specific content remains scarce, and Irish-published content is even more so. Novels by Jarlath Gregory feature young gay protagonists, Snapshots (2001) and GAAY (2005) stand out at the moment, both published by Sitric (an imprint of Lilliput Press).
However, despite the expansion of both the children’s and YA markets since the late 1990s, thanks to popular franchises (Harry Potter, Twilight), Irish youth fiction was largely unaffected by these changes. (In 2004, Poolbeg Press published my fifth teen novel, Are the girls good?, has a bisexual heroine, only after much discussion; the impression of it being light and ‘feminine’ certainly had an impact here.)
And then in the last decade, something exploded. Writer Meg Grehan recalls that the odd YA could not be found until “late adolescence”, and then only by British or American writers. “Now, though! A lot more. Queer books by Irish authors are receiving a lot of love and support. It was a very pleasant thing to see. “
Grehan’s titles count among these, including her recent sapphic vampire novel Baby’s teeth. She is one of a number of Irish YA writers, whose frequent inclusion of protagonists and uncanny relationships has made it a hallmark of the field; others include Ciara Smyth (romantic comedy), Moïra Fowley-Doyle (magical realism), CG Moore (contemporary novel/memoir), Helen Corcoran (high fantasy), Adiba Jaigirdar (romance). romance) and Caroline O’Donoghue (urban fantasy).
To put it bluntly, all of these writers have gone through post-non-nominal adolescence and certainly benefit from greater LGBTQ+ representation in global media.
The impact of the 2015 marriage equality referendum also cannot be underestimated. Though it doesn’t create an utopian rainbow overnight – as brilliantly observed in Jarlath Gregory’s What does love look like? (2021), his first book labeled as YA – has another cultural twist.
Even 10 years ago, books with LGBTQ+ themes could hardly be promoted in spaces that could be visited by younger readers. However, in recent years, as children’s bookseller MaryBrigid Turner notes, “parents are coming in for books” with LGBTQ+ themes, often to “explain those types of families” to their own children, who have classmates with gay parents. (Of course, openness about different family structures, rather than their existence, is new.)
The role of positive representation here is not simply to promote tolerance. British-born Bob Johnston, whom many book lovers will know as the owner of Gutter Bookshop, “grew up with the belief that I could never be as happy or settled as a gay person. male”, in the shadow of Season 28. He wishes that books like his recent Our big dayillustrated by Michael Emberley, “was there to show me that LGBTQ+ lives can be as happy, fulfilling, and valid as any other”.
It is fitting that the picture book of a married same-sex couple, after the referendum, published by O’Brien Press, moves from Lennon’s rather grim novel to a joyful celebration of love. . Across the ages, the “rather bleak future” that Grehan recalls from her childhood reading was supplemented with “more hope and happiness lit up on store shelves.”
Johnston notes that “there is certainly a lot more work to be done in providing positive role models, especially for transgender, non-binary and bi youth.” It’s a familiar refrain in children’s books. The question of who is ‘right’ to tell these stories remains a conundrum, especially in an age of our outrage-loving society. Illustrator Margaret Anne Suggs, currently working on a picture book about a family going ‘home to vote’ in the 2015 referendum, worries: “Am I the place to tell this story? are not?” For her, locating her own ally helped clarify the story and the message, that “everyone believes it’s worth it to go home and vote.”
And that becomes less of a concern as the field of children’s fiction and YA fiction expands, leaving any single book or writer with no duty to represent a broad and diverse community. diversity. Question changed from “why is there a weird character?” as we move closer to such inclusion to reflect the world we live in, to “why not?”
https://www.independent.ie/entertainment/books/how-irish-ya-and-childrens-authors-embraced-lgbtq-themes-41822008.html How Irish YA and Children’s Authors Accept LGBTQ Themes +