Thanks to a generous grant from the fine people at Oregon Humanities, we'll be spending the next few months exploring identity and sexuality in young adult literature here on the Bitch blogs. This series is part of an interactive program called "Beyond Judy Blume: Identity and Sexuality in Young Adult Literature" that will take a look at how gender and sexual identity are portrayed in today's young adult lit, how YA lit reflects changing cultural views on youth identity and expression, and how YA lit can be used as a tool to promote diversity and social change. This blog series will coincide with three monthly book clubs here in Portland, Oregon, leading up to a community forum featuring a panel of YA lit experts and enthusiasts in Portland on November 8th...more about those on our events page.
Let's start by talking a little bit about Judy Blume. We here at Bitch are big fans of Blume's work. We've run a couple feature articles on the queen of young adult fiction (see: "Judged Judy: Judy Blume's 40-year fight to tell the truth about sex, religion, and turtles." in the Old Issue and further discussion in "Ya? Why not?—It's a new golden age of young-adult fiction. Five contemporary authors tell us why." in the Loud Issue). Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret was the first book most of us ever read that mentioned menstruation, and I'd be lying if I said we didn't have a copy of Blubber sitting in the office bathroom right now. We love what Judy Blume stands for: boundary-pushing, freedom of expression, and a good sense of humor.
Judy Blume is known for writing about topics like teen sex, masturbation, and menstruation before it was cool to do so, and she's often credited with redefining young adult literature as we (or our parents) knew it. Fast forward to 2012, and we're in the middle of a young adult lit heyday. YA lit sales are way up and publishers and book stores are catching on. As the book business continues to invest more money into bringing YA lit to the masses, we're seeing more and more books that are pushing the boundaries of YA lit in really exciting ways, exploring issues of teen identity and sexuality while remaining honest and challenging. During this series, we'll talk with authors, teachers, librarians, and teens who are dedicated to making sure that every teen is able to find books whose characters they can relate to and be inspired by.
We've come a long way since Forever was first published in 1975, but we've also got a long way left to go. We're looking forward to discussing the current state of identity and sexuality in YA lit with authors, teachers, librarians, and youth during this blog series. We hope you'll join the conversation—please let us know if there's anything you'd like us to cover!
This program was made possible in part by a grant from Oregon Humanities (OH), a statewide nonprofit organization and an independent affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, which funds OH's grant program. Any views, findings, and conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of Oregon Humanities or the National Endowment for the Humanities.