Teen book club a safe place to discuss LGBTQ themes in fiction
What: Little Naturalist story time
When: 10-11 a.m., Monday, Jan. 7
Where: Swaner EcoCenter, 1258 Center Drive at Kimball Junction
Katrina Kmak, Park City Library’s youth and Spanish services librarian, and Kate Black, a library assistant, wanted to begin to facilitate dialogue around the LGBTQ themes that have become more and more present in young adult fiction as public conceptions of gender and sexuality identity have changed.
So, they formed an LGBTQ+ book club geared toward teens that meets the second Wednesday of each month at Lucky Ones Coffee, located at the library. The next meeting will be from 4:30-5:30 p.m. on Jan. 9.
“We wanted to create a club where people can come with a book or graphic novel that they have read,” Black said. “People don’t even have to have a book in mind or to have read an LGBTQ book to come and participate.”
The goal is to create a safe space place to discuss LGBTQ literature, she said.
“I would love this club to be diverse and include books from a wide array of LGBTQ voices,” Black said. “And it’s always a bonus when the books we talk about are written by an LGBTQ author.”
During last month’s meeting, Black shared Emily M. Danforth’s “The Miseducation of Cameron Post,” a novel that spawned a film adaptation of the same name that made waves at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival.
“I also brought in a few adult fiction books and graphic novels, and introduced them to the club,” she said.
In addition to discussing the books, the topic turned to classic literary figures who identified as LGTBQ, whether openly or not.
“So many of them – Alice Walker, James Baldwin, Virginia Woolf and Oscar Wilde – are LGBTQ, but you wouldn’t really know it,” Black said.
Other topics discussed included “queer coding” and “queer baiting,” concepts derived from reading works between the lines.
Authors use queer coding when their characters are written with attributes that allude to LGBTQ traits without explicitly referencing their sexuality, according to Black and Kmak.
They both feel queer baiting is more negative and quoted the LGBT Fiction Guide (lgbtfiction.com) as a resource for the following definition.
“Queer baiting is a term coined for a relatively recent socio-cultural phenomenon in which people in the media (usually television and films) add or play up homoerotic tension between two same-sex characters to attract queer viewers and others interested in seeing more LGBT representation with no intention of ever giving the characters a romantic or sexual relationship in canon.”
An example of queer coding is the relationship between Idgie Threadgoode and Ruth Jamison in “Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe,” a novel published by Fannie Flagg in 1987, according to Kmak.
“The relationship insinuates a lesbian relationship without naming it — most likely due to the era in which it was published,” she said.
Queer baiting examples include the Sherlock Holmes fandom that include movies, books and TV, especially the BBC TV version, Black said.
“(They have) taken issue with the homoeroticism played up between Sherlock and Watson to increase ratings,” she said. “They are doing it for sensationalism or to exploit the LGBTQ community.”
While the idea of creating an LGBTQ+ book club had been percolating in Black’s mind, she was spurred on by her interactions with some of the Park City Library’s patrons.
“I’m part of the LGBTQ community, and people have come in and ask if there would ever be an LGBTQ+ book club here,” she said. “So I know it’s been on people’s minds.”
Kmak said the club fits in with the Park City Library’s mission.
“Libraries strive to support intellectual freedom, and we give people the opportunity to read anything they want at anytime,” she said. “We also strive to have our patrons to get educated about anything as well. As someone who isn’t LGBTQ, I think this is a wonderful opportunity for members of our community or visitors of our community to learn about diverse populations.”
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