On Shelving LGBT Books

I was in Word Bookstores the other day to price the next novel in the series that I’m reading and noticed they had an endcap dedicated completely to LGBT authors and 19228914_1909548795968371_7131675044752654336_nbooks. It brought up the same internal (and sometimes external) debate I’ve had for awhile now.

I’ve thought a lot about how to shelve LGBT books–whether to give them their own section or just integrate them in with all the other books. And I think I’ve finally come to a decision on that.

While I agree that there should be an even 50/50 split of books (gay vs straight) in every book store, I think my final position in this matter is that I prefer LGBT books to have their own section. Just because it makes them easier to find.

As a teen who was questioning her sexuality I would comb the shelvesΒ for LGBT books and come away empty handed. That is until I found the LGBT section. Then I had books galore to read (though admittedly a lot of them at the time were porn, which I didn’t really want). Even these days it can be hard to find a book with a lesbian MC in the store unless you know authors to look for. But if you’re looking for a book with a queer character for the first time it can be really daunting and very disheartening. My search when I was a teen led me to believe LGBT books just didn’t exist and that saddened me.

So I think until a time comes that we truly have a 50/50 split of straight and queer literature, it’s better to have a section where LGBT books are prominently displayed. (Note that I say prominently. I don’t mean some dark corner of the bookstore.) As bookstores often stock more than one copy of a book–especially more popular books–it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world if they put one of those copies on the shelves with the straight fiction.

What are your thoughts on this issue?

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3 Responses to On Shelving LGBT Books

  1. That bun is fab (roll? Baguette? I suck at this)

    It’s a hard question to answer… Stacking them all in one spot does make it easier to find them. Then again… if you’re a young teen, questioning yourself, even facing the cashier with the ONE book you chose might be tough. Would you be able to move to the section containing that? You’d probably be worried at people thinking things about you. And then there’s another aspect about this – we’re supposed to include LGBT. To make them okay, to make them normal. Shelving them separately… I’m not sure, if that achieves that? Doesn’t that create more division?

    Definitely a very tough question though.

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    • Raven says:

      It’s a really hard one to answer. I was a queer teen and could find ZERO books containing characters like me. I go to a bookstore today and still can’t find hardly anything. There are books that are mixed in with the straight fiction, but I wouldn’t know about them without having already read something by that author. And if it’s an author that’s new to me then I completely overlook it (if looking specifically for queer books, which I often do). Especially if there isn’t anything in the blurb on the back to indicate it’s a queer book. I know a lot of authors are trying to make the books ‘blend in’ with straight fiction (not just shelving them together) so that parents don’t get upset by them or the book doesn’t out the teen before they are ready. But that just makes them even harder to find.

      I don’t know, I go back and forth with it. As of right now, until I have the exact same chance of picking up a queer book (preferably a lesbian book) as I do a straight book, I prefer them to be easier to find. I totally get what you are saying about normalizing though, and that’s why this is a topic I continually toss over in my head. Shelving them with straight fiction does help normalize, but if these books were written for teens–specially queer teens who need them–then what good are they if those teens can’t find them?

      (I use teen because I primarily read/write YA, but it goes for non-YA fiction, too.)

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      • I guess that’s why we blog then. Because being in the blogging sphere, it seems like there are so many queer books! But that’s probably just because we know all the new releases and we just focus on them. I’ve seen sooooo many… but yeah, I guess you’re right, before googling about it or reading in a blog, you wouldn’t really know it in the store.

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