- Karen Frost
Want More Queer Fiction? Here's an Easy Step to Get it.
Updated: Feb 5, 2020
When I was a young adult, there were NO YA fantasy books that had queer female characters. Tamora Pierce's "Will of the Empress" (2005) and Malinda Lo's books "Ash" (2009) and "Huntress" (2011) wouldn't come out until I was already in college. That means that to the best of my knowledge, the first time a mainstream publisher released a book with a queer female protagonist in this genre was when I was twenty years old. I read all three immediately, but even then it was hard. Lo's books were only accessible when I requested them through the inter-library loan process, because my library system didn't carry either of them. For a genre that brought the world "Harry Potter" and "Percy Jackson," I had...nothing for the first twenty years of my life. So when I wrote the Destiny and Darkness series, it was to help change this representational deficit. I wanted to get more queer YA fantasy books on the shelf. I wanted as much LGBT YA fiction to fill libraries as I could help make.
I know kids these days don't go to libraries. I know they're all about Kindle or e-books or whatever, but to me, libraries still matter. Libraries, whether through their hard copy offerings or their access to e-books through things like Hoopla or Overdrive, represent a world of opportunity and freedom to readers. Keys to much of the creativity and knowledge in the world, all for free. As I've mentioned in a previous post, I submitted "Conspiracy of the Dark" to 17 literary agents. I wanted a major publisher to take the manuscript because only then would it have a hope of making it onto library book shelves. Four agents wrote back to turn it down. 13 didn't even bother responding. When Ylva finally snatched it up at the final moment, I was thrilled, but I also knew that meant "Conspiracy" wouldn't make it onto book shelves. Ylva is a fantastic company, but as an indie lesbian publisher based in Germany, it wouldn't be able to get the book onto the bookshelves of American libraries.
But there's a way to do it.
I believe in representation. Whether you're a person of color, disabled, Muslim/Jewish/Buddhist, whatever, you deserve to see yourself on screen and read about yourself in books. While mainstream publishing is slooooowly getting better (yay! Now minorities can be the sidekick friends of white, straight, able bodied protagonists!), we have to beg, borrow and steal every forward step of progress that we make. We have to work 1000x harder to get our content on shelves. So here's something we can do that costs absolutely nothing but may make a world of difference to anyone with a library card: go to your local library website and request they order diverse books. It costs you nothing. For my library, you can request up to 60 books a year. Imagine 60 more diverse books a year hitting your library shelves!
The thing is, you don't have to love "Conspiracy" or any of the other books in the series. You may think they're marginal and wish they were better. That's okay. But the thing is, we can't have minority content without being willing to fight for it. Right now, "Conspiracy" has sold only six books on Amazon. That tells publishers that no one will read queer YA fantasy and they shouldn't publish it anymore. That there's no market. I refuse to believe that. There was a market when I was a teenager and there's a market now. So yes, I'm asking you and all your friends to request your library get the book. Not for me, but for all of us. We have to show there's a market and we have to give kids the opportunity to access books like this. Otherwise, all our lamentations about lack of representation are hollow. If we won't even read/buy it ourselves, how can we possibly expect the white, heterosexual majority to read and buy it?