Thanks to the generosity of *authors, editors, agents and publishers, we received nearly 300 LGBTQ books for the HiTOPS/GLSEN NJGSA Forum.
Here’s an overview of how these books were given to queer youth in need.
Roughly 100 books were added to the HiTOPS Adolescent Health Education Center’s LGBTQ Lit Library. This permanent collection will be available for all young people who take advantage of programming at the drop-in community center in Princeton, New Jersey. HiTOPS hosts weekly LGBTQ support groups that draw youth from all over New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Many aren’t out to their family and peers, which makes it challenging for them to buy or check out LGBTQ books from their school or public libraries. HiTOPS provides a safe space for them to enjoy stories that speak to them.
All NJ GSA Forum attendees got a free raffle ticket and 50 books went out as prizes for superexcited winners of the drawings. Approximately 75 books were surprise takeaways for the youth, allies and educators who attended my LGBTQ Lit Story Time workshop. Another 25 were a special thank you for the passionate, hard-working members of the Perth Amboy High School GSA who volunteered many hours in preparing to host the forum. The remaining books were set aside for future forums, including the 3rd Annual NJ Trans Youth Form to be held in early Spring 2017.
The election was a heartbreaking blow to the LGBTQ community. A shadow loomed over the room on Saturday, a palpable heaviness that I hadn’t felt in past forums. These kids are scared about the impact the incoming administration will have on their rights to live and love like everyone else.
And yet, I was also a witness to such beautiful optimism. I lost count of the number of teens who rushed over to my table, brightening at the sight of LGBTQ books on display. They gushed about their favorites, snapped pics for their TBR lists, made confessions about the “secret” novels they’re already writing. When my story hour was over, many told me it was the highlight of the forum. I know they could have spent the whole day losing and finding themselves in new words and worlds.
I’m a writer because I’m a reader. Books have always helped me better understand myself and others. I truly believe LGBTQ literature can change—and save—lives. Thank to everyone out there trying to make a positive difference in the world. Your work matters now more than ever before, so please keep doing what you do.
*Thank you: Dahlia Adler, Jessica Anderson (MacMillan), Becky Abertalli, Meredith Barnes (Soho Press), Jaye Robin Brown, Rachel Cohn, Danielle Dreger, Kate Evangelista, Jeff Garvin, Donna Gephart, Brittani Hilles (St. Martin’s Press), Shaun David Hutchinson, C.B. Lee, David Levithan (Scholastic), E. Lockhart, Carolyn Mackler, Ann-Marie McLemore, Alison McDonald (The Rights Factory), Patricia Ready (Barry Goldblatt Literary), Caleb Roehrig, Riley Redgate, Meredith Russo, Kristin Seim (Candlewick), Robin Talley, Lindsay Smith, John Corey Whaley and if there’s anyone I accidentally omitted PLEASE LET ME KNOW.