Viking Says Yes to #YesGayYA Book

Rachel Manija Brown reports that she and Sherwood Smith have sold their post-apocalyptic YA novel Stranger to Sharyn November at Viking, for publication in winter 2014. This is the novel that set off the #YesGayYA storm almost exactly a year ago, when Brown and Smith reported that an agent had offered them representation on the condition that they make their gay protagonist straight or remove all references to his orientation (and his boyfriend). Intriguingly, Brown’s post on the sale makes no mention of an agent–but the sale is certainly proof that major houses are not averse to publishing YA with major non-straight characters, so hopefully the agents who believed the book unreppable will reconsider their approach to similar works.

EDIT: Brown has updated the post to reflect that Eddie Gamarra and Ellen Goldsmith-Vein of the Gotham Group were the agents for the sale; she says they came on board after Brown and Smith had begun discussions with Viking.

10 thoughts on “Viking Says Yes to #YesGayYA Book

  1. Rachel Manija Brown

    The lack of mention of an agent was an oversight. Sorry, my wonderful agents! Brian DeFiore still represents my nonfiction, and Eddie Gamarra of the Gotham Group represented this book. I would also like to thank Ellen Goldsmith-Vein of the Gotham Group.

  2. Laer Carroll

    Great! This widens the doors for all authors.

    Was it le Guin who wrote an SF series where the humans could voluntarily changes sexes? Or were BOTH sexes?

    And I seem to recall John Varley wrote stories of a future where sex change overnight was routine.

    And I vaguely recall other stories from way back which were far more progressive about alternate sexuality than in other genres. So this seems like an expansion of a long-standing nascent use of LGBT motifs.

  3. Kevin A. Lewis

    Although it’s fine that gay kids get depicted in YA, this rather neatly sidesteps the question of how boys of the straight/mainstream persuasion have been systematically disappeared from the genre over the past decade or so. Nobody appears to miss them much, so I’m sure not going to waste my time trying to bring them back into the fold, but it still winds my clock somewhat that the only way a boy can be a central main character without being gay is if he’s hooked up to an IV drip in the Intensive Care Ward or has Aspergers or something. Not that this trend hasn’t been great for Manga and video game sales, of course….

    1. Rachel Manija Brown

      Kevin, you will be happy to hear that our novel, which has an ensemble cast, also has a central main character who is a straight boy. You will also be pleased to hear that absolutely no one objected to us having a straight boy as a protagonist. In fact, several agents suggested that we cut all other POVs and only keep the POV of the straight boy. And no one ever suggested cutting his POV or making him gay.

      For more recent YA novels with straight male protagonists, I suggest the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan, the Kane Chronicles by Rick Riordan, the Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordan, the Artemis Fowl series, The Maze Runner, the Gone series by Michael Grant, the Leviathan series by Scott Westerfeld, the Knife of Never Letting Go series, The Keys to the Kingdom series, all YA novels by Walter Dean Myers, Wolf Mark by Joseph Bruchac, Ship Breaker, Thirteen Reasons Why, Octavian Nothing, The Monstrumologist, Rot and Ruin, The Obsidian Blade, Unwind, The Hunt, Incarceron, I Am Number Four, A Confusion of Princes, Going Bovine, and many more which you can find by browsing the shelves of any bookshop.

      I am surprised that you weren’t aware of any of those – most of the ones I named were bestsellers.

  4. Michael Walsh

    “Was it le Guin who wrote an SF series where the humans could voluntarily changes sexes? Or were BOTH sexes?”

    You’re probably thinking of “The LEft Hand of Darkness”.

    “And I seem to recall John Varley wrote stories of a future where sex change overnight was routine.”

    While I don’t recall the process being overnight, it was certainly was routine.

    His 4 collections are well worth tracking down, even if there are duplicated stories: The Persistence of Vision (1978)
    The Barbie Murders (1980) (republished as Picnic on Nearside, 1984)
    Blue Champagne (1986)
    The John Varley Reader: Thirty Years of Short Fiction (2004)

  5. Kevin A. Lewis

    Hey there, Rachel et. al. and thanks for livening things up-(after a brief pause) and you’re right in that I was painting with very broad brush strokes, but although I’m of course aware of all the works you mentioned, for some reason almost all of them (at least in most of the mainstream bookstores I’ve seen over the past 10 years seem to display them exclusively in the Intermediate section-even such obviously YA authors as Rick Riordan, who’s one of the few who bucks the not-quite-trend I was talking about. I worked in Borders for 15 years and heard a lot of feedback from soccer moms about the shortage of positive role models for boys in YA, and they do seem to be second-class citizens in that section, although Manga seems to have taken up the slack quite well. By the way Mange has a special line specifically for gey kids, so it’s ahead in that area as well… And by the way, I’m suspiscious of Percy Jackson’s ADHD; was this a real author concern or a bribe for the PC police? Only the Shadow knows…

    1. Rachel Manija Brown

      That’s odd, Kevin. I see them in YA where I am. I would also recommend China Mieville’s “Railsea,” which is unquestionably at the older end of YA.

      More seriously, though, while there may be more YA with female protagonists than male at the moment, there really are far, far, far more YA novels with straight male protagonists than with gay male protagonists. A statistical study of all YA novels published in America over the last 40 years showed that less than 1% had any LGBTQ characters whatsoever, even minor supporting ones. A follow-up study, looking only at 2011, showed that 1.5% of all YA novels published in the USA had any LGBTQ characters at all, even minor supporting ones.

      Speaking of positive male role models, the reason Percy Jackson has ADHD and dyslexia is that Rick Riordan wanted one for his son, who also has those conditions.

      Is it so hard to imagine that anyone would want to read or write about a kid with ADHD, unless it was “a bribe for the PC police?” Some real people have learning disabilities. Do only heterosexual boys without disabilities deserve to read about boys like themselves?

      I see that you feel very strongly that straight boys need to have at least as many YA novels as straight girls do. Try to put yourself in the shoes of kids who aren’t straight. They get far, far fewer books than straight boys do. If straight boys deserve to have as many books as straight girls, shouldn’t the non-straight kids get some representation too?

  6. Kevin A. Lewis

    Afterthoughts, then presumably we’re off to other stuff, (& sorry about the spelling and disconnect in yesterday’s post-PW’s website kept cutting out on me) but Rachel’s experience with her clueless agent (who obviously doesn’t get out much or he’d know there’s a definite niche market for gay YA) reminds me on my side of the table of a writer I met in Borders awhile back who was rash enough to try to sell a YA book about a artful-dodger teen boy who stayed one step ahead of scheming mean girls and their thuggish boyfriends, and after various wacky adventures “won the fight and got the girl”-the agent who read it complained that “there wasn’t enough story” and then suggested a wishlist of trendy disabilities the kid should acquire “to make it more beleivable”… Not so different, eh, what? As for me, I’m shopping my historical thriller with a female heroine that I very much believe in, with a couple of strong supporting boys in the tale that I refuse to insult by burdening them with any of this stuff. However, I’m quite aware of the way the prevailing winds blow on this subject, so I made sure they were safely dead or offstage by the end of the book… And by the way, once you get past upper-level Intermediate authors like Riordan and into deep YA land, you’ll find lots of “protagonists” (battered survivors might be a better term) but nary a hero in sight… So I hope your gay heroes are strong, funny and confident, Rachel-when Libba Bray came out with her mad cow disease boy character a couple of years back, our mall was jammed…With boys fleeing in the opposite direction……………………..

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