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Author David Levithan: LGBT representation in books is important for gay youth

Author David Levithan
Author David Levithan
Photo credit: Facebook

Books are an important part of a child’s development. They are the nourishment the mind needs to fulfill an understanding of the world. Books help a child learn and become more cognizant of themselves and their surrounding. David Levithan, author of “Boy Meets Boy,” feels books based on LGBTQ-related themes are of more important to young people. In an interview with The Associated Press published Tuesday, Levithan talks about that importance and how books can help parents form a connection.

Last year marked the 10th anniversary of Levithan’s romantic teen comedy. In “Boy Meets Boy,” gender identity takes focus, as the homecoming queen in the story was once a guy. The book was one of the first to feature LGBTQ people and started a trend of books that have opened up the line of communication for parents of LGBTQ youth and also parents who are not involved in the community. His latest novel, “Two Boys Kissing,” further exemplifies the type of narrative that can drive communication.

In the interview, Levithan says books with LGBTQ characters can help parents teach tolerance at an early age and allows them to articulate awareness through the characters as they relate to real life. He says, “It’s never too early to foster kindness and equal treatment, for whatever group. So much of the pain that LGBTQ kids go through is because they feel distanced from all of the narratives they’ve been given.”

Books help start a conversation and help parents relate the kind of support a child may need in a world where they may already feel lost in. There have been many books written since “Boy Meets World,” but there is a need for more because LGBTQ youth need to find the same type of connection a straight child finds in the early stages of development. They need to identify and find solace in characters that are just like them.

Levithan says in today’s age, the hesitation to write book featuring gay characters have all but disappeared and there is more of a freedom to introduce these stories. He tells the AP, “There is constantly a need for diversity within the representations. It’s just as limiting to say there’s only one kind of gay story, just as it’s limiting to say there’s only one kind of straight story. As for how much being gay is central to the character’s identity or story – as in life that totally depends on who the character is and what he or she is going through.”

He does highlight the importance of the characters feeling real and also being “given the humanity they are due,” meaning gay characters have to be explored in literature and represent as much of the spectrum as possible. Parents can help their child navigate that spectrum by exploring with them. The full interview can be read here.