The male closet
Compiled for young people, youth workers, parents and
by the Community of Women and Men in Church and Society
of the Methodist Church of New Zealand -
Te Haahi Weteriana o Aotearoa
1st edition November, 1996
2nd edition May, 1998
3rd edition April, 2001
© 1996, 1998, 2001
The Community of Women and Men in Church and Society
P.O. Box 36468, Merivale, Christchurch, New Zealand
Young people coming to face their sexual development can find through appropriate fictional characters in credible situations an avenue to assist in their coping with inner conflicts.
In the area of sexual orientation high quality fiction is required which can provide a mirror to young readers' uncertainties and which might go some way towards proffering positive guidance.
Many teachers, youth workers, and parents are unaware of the growing number of high standard novels being written for the teenage / forms 1 to 5 market on or around the topic of homosexuality. What follows is an annotated list of contemporary novels for this group which deal with the topic of male homosexuality or 'gayness' as it is also termed.
Together these titles cover the range of issues involved - gay friends, parental reaction, self-doubt and self-awareness, plus the AIDS question and the difficulties of establishing satisfactory gay relationships at this age in life, and without many public role models. These novels do all this unobtrusively in the context of strong, interesting, and enjoyable story lines with highly relevant characters. As the annotations will show, in some books the 'gay theme' (and characters) is secondary.
Also it is emphasised that these are not 'sexy' novels. There is little, if any, sexual description to be found; rather the authors explore more the emotional and mental aspects of homosexuality as it affects the diverse group of people who are 'involved' when a young person begins to wonder about sexual orientation.
This is not an exhaustive list, but comprises books known to be more easily available.
At the conclusion of the annotations there is a bibliography of periodical articles which will provide further information on both the topic and some of the individual authors listed.
The books listed are not all in print, nor available in every public and school library. They are, however, available through the interloan service provided through your local public library. The National Library is the other main source for schools in New Zealand.
This list is a companion one to "Not
just a schoolgirl crush: an annotated book list of teenage novels
on the issues of being lesbian", published in 1997, and also
available on this site.
High quality and specialized bookshops will order titles still in print
from overseas, where market regulations permit. In New Zealand
and Australia such shops include:
Auckland Campus and City Branch
Fax to both: (09) 309 4278
19 High Street
Fax (09) 373 4883
75 Taranaki Street
Free Phone 0800 755 355
119 - 125 Willis Street
Fax (04) 385 4956
|Palmerston North||Bennetts University Book Centre
Phone (06) 354 6020
87 Victoria Street
Phone (03) 366 5274
Fax (03) 366 4506
107 Cashel Street
Phone (03) 377 8250
Bookshop Otago Ltd|
378 Great King Street
Fax (03) 477 6571
207 Oxford Street
New South Wales
Phone 0061 2 9331 1103
Fax 0061 2 9331 7021
135 Commercial Road
Phone (03) 9824 0110 or 9602 1392
Fax (03) 9670 4440
The Little Bookroom
185 Elizabeth Street
Phone (03) 9670 1612 (03) 9602 1392
Fax (03) 9670 4440
435 Portrush Road
Phone (08) 379 7022
Fax (08) 379 5884
Murphy Sisters Bookshop
240 The Parade
Phone (08) 8332 7508
Fax (08) 8331 3559
Sisters By The Sea
14 Semaphore Road
Phone (08) 8341 7088
Fax (08) 8242 4100
Publishing houses and dates are as on the editions seen by the compiler. Titles can change with publishers; and foreign editions may be more readily available than the original UK, US, or Australian ones. Also paperback editions are often issued by other publishers. (Any good bookshop or library will check this.) Thus no ISBN numbers are given, as these change with new editions.
An anthology of sixteen short stories devoted to gay and lesbian themes
especially written for young adults. Contributors include M.E.
Kerr, Francesca Lia Block, Jane Yolen, and William
Sleator. A publishing first!
Eleven finely crafted short science fiction and fantasy stories
by acknowledged writers of these genres. Although not
strictly written for teens, this title is found in many
Young Adult Library collections. It is great that
gay/lesbian teenage SciFi fans have access to appropriate stories
in this genre. Brief notes on the authors and their
other works are included.
Twenty-one short stories by mainly U.S. writers about teenagers
coming to terms with gay and lesbian issues. Here are sensitive,
well written self-awareness experiences, coming out stories,
and accounts of family members coping with the homosexuality of
one of their own.
Editor Mark Macleod offers teenagers 20 penetratingly sharp
accounts of Aussie youngsters navigating the difficult passage
towards self-acceptance of a homosexual orientation. Some cartoon
clusters contribute to the book's appeal, along with the
larger-than-usual print style. Ready or Not clearly
reflects the excellent handling of gay and lesbian themes for teenagers by
Eighteen Aussie authors who have previously shown their ability
to effectively tackle homosexual themes here produce a fine
gallery of short stories which, in a variety of writing styles,
offer us many of the issues and situations facing gay/lesbian youth.
The collection is somewhat more senior teen orientated than Marion
Bauer's Am I Blue.
Eight fine new stories about gay and lesbian teenagers facing
all the vagaries of life. This is the first such
British anthology, so the inclusion of two New Zealanders,
Margaret Mahy and William Taylor, along with American
Jacqueline Woodson -- comes as a surprise.
This sparkling bracelet of vignettes whirls us through the
personal odysseys which have assembled an ordinary cluster of
graduating Eighth Graders at their Junior High's Graduation
Dance. The pupils' backgrounds include parental
abandonment, being labelled "Trailer Park Trash",
cruel Religious Right abuse and even date rape on the night.
Yet there are experiences of excitement, expectation and
ultimate self fulfilment. Overburdened in "Starbears"
with an inner question, Cub Tanner can barely articulate the
issues which seem to have centralised as mysterious feelings he is
experiencing towards his new friend Trent.
A hard-hitting short story anthology for Australian teenagers
which includes Dead love. While pursuing a
class project in the local cemetery, the uncovering of what
appears to be the joint grave of two 19th century gays provides an
outlet for the homophobic machoism of 16-year-old Callum.
This pivotal incident in the story is set within the wider
interplay of intimate heterosexual relationships.
These nine brief tales, by the inimitable Francesca Lia
Block, feature female characters with New Age pizzazz and more than a
little guts. Winnie and Cubby is a mellow tale of a
teenage romance in which, during one of life's more intimate
expressions, Winnie discovers that Cubby is gay, and so their
friendship must remain forever just that. For Cubby, his
agonising "coming out" does not invalidate his need of Winnie's platonic
love. First published in a slightly different format in Am I
blue by Bauer. Dragons in Manhattan, the
collection's longest entry, contains a discussion on the growth of
AIDS by two mourners at a memorial service.
In this fine batch of stories, a dozen American writers for young
adults push boundaries to open up issues long debatable as suitable for this
readership. After each story the authors provide personal
reflections on book and library censorship in the American High School
scene, with Judy Blume herself contributing an excellent
In Chris Lynch's "Lie, no lie" Oakley, a junior High pupil, is unwittingly taken by his best friend Paul to a gay gym and sauna where he undergoes an initiating gay sexual experience. One suspects that Paul is homosexual and the trip is an attempt to discover, or uncover, Oakley's "preferences". In any case, here is a perceptive, if muted, portrayal of such an establishment.
"Something Which is Non Existent" by the late Norma Klein captures teenager Ben, a loner who recoils from the macho and Bohemian varsity life around him. He finds a safe harbour with a friend Mike, whose room becomes Ben's study. But Mike fails to provide the type of unexpressed companionship Ben seems to be seeking. Appreciating the original publication date, 1959, here is an astute, if muffled, treatment of a young man's closeted gay feelings towards another. The musical and literary references may, however, find little recognition in contemporary teens.
"Heartbreak" and "troubled" are operative
words in this realistically readable - if often
depressing - miscellany, with roses scattered
but sparsely through the varied teenage experiences. The
editors allow the probably genuine teenage dialogue and emotive
feelings to remain close to the surface in these vignettes.
We meet broken, uncaring families, abused (in
every sense) young people, and date rape, along
with all kinds of failed and insincere youthful relationships.
In Undercover love Seth's self-discovery of his
gayness is recounted, minus much of the detail found elsewhere in this
volume, while there is a final element of hope completing the
story - a smell of roses among the ashes. This
book appeared in the "Oprah" TV show.
Two stories from Crutcher's collection featuring sporting
adolescents are appropriate for this bibliography. The
somewhat amusing "A Brief Moment in the Life of Angus
Bethune" concerns a boy handicapped not only by his
gross overweight, but also by a gay dad and a lesbian mum.
On a more sombre note "In the Time I Get"
recounts the friendship between two teenagers in which Loui,
a High School graduate, overcomes his homophobia to be a
support for Darren who is dying from AIDS.
Sixteen exemplary tales from both sides of the Tasman. In
William Taylor's Who Are You Taking to the School Dance,
Darling? the news is out! Young Luke is off to the
local High School 'hop' partnering his male friend Robin.
Why? Because, as Luke puts it to his family, Robin
is the best dancer. Mother is on the war path for details about
Luke's sexuality, and the rest of the family scurry for
cover. A delightful piece of writing.
Durant gives us 12 accounts of teenagers experiencing periods
of intense personal trauma. The Queen of the Ruck
centres on 18-year -old Nick, the macho king of the school's
rugby scrum. We follow Nick's inner replay of his last few
tortuous years, and his decision to finally leave the gay
closet on reaching University. But Nick can't quite find
the strength to tell his best friend now.
Eleven brief accounts about the skeletons knocking around in
family cupboards. Bruce Coville's "The Secret
of Life, According to Aunt Gladys" recounts how Randy
discovers he has an Uncle George when that relative turns up prior
to an operation which will render him Aunt Gladys.
Randy's Mum tries to keep the facts from Randy plus George from
the neighbours. She is, however, forced
from behind the facade of "the Perfect Family" to acknowledge
that there are more black sheep than white in the family flock.
From all this, Randy learns that there should be no secrets within
families. A rather delightful tale in which the unusual
misconcepted links between transgenders, paedophiles and gays are
These sixteen short stories about teenage athletes include the
Kiwi writer Tessa Duber's "Sea Changes" in
which a young lass sails from Auckland as chef par excellence on a
yacht odyssey through the Pacific. The wealthy boat
owners are two gay men, one of whom had been a famous pop
star. The girl's matter-of-fact acceptance of the pair
makes for refreshing reading.
These brief, sometimes minuscule, vignettes sure
'make you squirm, laugh and think' and are a mix of 'X
Files' and 'The Twilight Zone'. In "Love at First
Byte" teenager Jon is confronted by a gay computer which
'comes on' to him.
Perceptive reflections about being young in Australia fifty
years ago. The first off the block is
"Dance", a wistful account of Louis's glorious self
discovery of, and involvement with, music and dance at
the age of three. On breaking the delicate 78 record
of his favourite piece, Handel's 'Largo', the boy
discovers 'grief, guilt and loss'. When he is six a stage
musical electrifies Louis to dance's rhythm. While allowing his
body to meld with the music he is observed by philistinic relatives and
labelled a freak, sissy kid. This is when Louis painfully learns
that he must endure the life-long burden of being regarded as
different. A scenario many gays identify with.
In 5 raw stories, Nette Hilton charts the personal annals
of 5 spirited if disfunctional Aussie teens. For Bill,
in the tale which bears his name, the journey both to a
self-acceptance and to a concurrence with his father's
homosexuality takes him to a temporary residence among flatmates
who are either stoned, drunk, or Satan worshipers.
Steve May's Together qualifies this book for
our list, and of what stirrings in the school fowl yard the
tale tells! Tasha loves Tim; but Nathan wants Tasha
so he spreads the gos that Tim is gay. Nathan wins Tasha
while Tim, after flirting with suicide, teams up with the female
recounter of the saga. Told through highly credible
dialogue, this story effectively conveys the plethora of
positive and negative reactions to (unjustifiably in this case)
someone's suspected gayness.
This corpus makes for a gripping read, even if an
occasionally disturbing one, as Australian teens grapple
with a myriad of school weirdoes on top of family dysfunctions.
"He Played Unforgettable" is a tale of internalised
homophobia. The unnamed hero is teamed up for a school
project with Wayne, leader of the school's band of
bullies. When working together on their shared task,
Wayne turns out to be a classical, music-loving, New
Age type of guy who initiates a mutual gratifying kiss between the
two. Later, when observed thus by his "gang",
Wayne leads the homophobic beating of his former "friend".
Some fifteen Australian short stories focussing on the joys and
pains of first love. "Outside Collarenabri"
by Alan Close is a tight, tense piece of writing presented
mainly in dialogue form. Willy, an artistic
teenager, listens to his parents and brother arguing outside
his bedroom door. The family has learnt that Willy is
gay and while his homophobic father disowns him, his
sympathetic mother still desperately hopes the news is not true.
Coober, the first story is this raw collection about
often-alienated teenagers, explores the utter confusion as to one's
sexual identity which a surprise incident can spring on a person.
Vince is a young student of ballet, Gary your basic footy playing
Aussie teen. While recovering from knee injuries they together cycle
the 860 km from Adelaide to Coober Pedy as a physio exercise. En
route Gary is "touched up" by a truckie and finds, to his
incomprehension, that he "sorta liked" the experience. In his
resulting uncertainty Gary adopts some personal-sculpture-through-dance
techniques Vince had shown him earlier on. A unique item, and
the natural friendship between the two very different lads is deftly
drawn - as is a discussion on gay stereotypes.
Truly, as one reviewer states on the book's cover,
this is a 'molotov cocktail in the field of children's
literature'. Here is a no-holds-barred, slightly
recast, gathering of initial sexual encounters.
New Zealand's William Taylor, in his delightful
"Supper Waltz", introduces us to teenager Richard.
Our hero is being sexually aroused by various girls, plus
the sight, smell and voice of his friend Mike who is busy chasing
Richard's sister Annie. The dance floor is a russian
roulette of passionate chances, and Richard escapes the
dreaded Wilma only to lose his manhood down Merle's dress.
This tale twistingly footnotes with an adult Richard hearing from
Annie that Mike is, and always has been, gay,
and that as a teen Mike had the hots for Richard. A
book often found in non-fiction sections of Young Adult library
Here are 16 outstanding stories about young adults caught up in
the complexities of "family" - its mysteries,
conventions, realities and joys. The final narrative
The passing of Aunty Erl is a poignant account of how an
elderly lesbian fares after the death of her partner. The actions and
reactions of Erl's partner's family are reflected on at her funeral by
18-year Pip, now secure in his own gayness. Pip's memories of
the earlier funeral 8 years ago sharpen his, and the readers',
A dozen Australian writers have produced this collection
centred around telephone conversations: tales of alternative
realities, death embarrassment, love and futuristic spaces.
Jenny Pausacker's Crowded Wires narrates phone
communications two High School seniors, Damien and John, share
as they carefully avoid reference to their spontaneous erotic kissing one
evening while working on a school project. Damien's rather unstable
Mum adds a richness to the mixture.
Among these nine ghostly yarns from Britain is found
"Beautiful" a homoerotic tale of Derek, a nighttime
cleaner in a mall. Derek develops a strange dependence on a
mysteriously ephemeral vampire who irregularily drains his wrist.
These fourteen sagas all highlight some facets in the concept
of 'sin'. "Home Truths" by Nigel Grey is
a letter from teenage Jamie to his absent sixteen year old boy
friend. Through the epistle we encounter one Aussie
family Yuletide which becomes a nightmare for all involved as
Jamie progressively reveals his homosexuality, an Aboriginal
lover, and their shared HIV status. Although too much
tragedy can sometimes verge on comedy, Jamie's distress at his
family's rejection, and especially that of his beloved sister, is
A clutch of nine tales for teens by acknowledged Australian
crime fiction writers who here often transport their 'pen' sleuths
back in time to their adolescence. For Season Geason,
however, in her "Totally Divided"
Detective Syd Fisher retains his adult condition.
Commissioned to trace a runaway girl named Skye, Fish
locates her with Ricky her seaman father. Ricky is dying of AIDS
and bailed out from Skye's Mum when he finally had to live honestly as a gay
In this general collection of Australian short stories for teens,
two feature gay and lesbian themes. Off the Wall by
Jenny Pausacker centres on the lead character's lesbianism, but Joel
her 'got-it-all-together' gay school peer provides a positive
role model. Bron Nicholl's Only Two Hours by Train
has a minor incident when Kevin inwardly debates the state of his friendship
with Theo if the latter were gay.
A dozen offerings by a fine Australian writer for teens in
which the various characters face multiple choices in life.
"The Most Unforgettable Character I have Ever Met" is
a poignant incident in which a thirty-five year old married man
recalls the seemingly mutual attraction he shared with a male
school peer years before. There came for them both a
fork in the road to be travelled. The man who now
remembers married to become a 'gay exile' in the straight
world. His friend reached a successful status while
openly homosexual. Their eventual reunion twenty years
on is a shattering experience for the closeted man who is left
with the tormenting consequences of his earlier decision.
A powerful warning about the spread of AIDS among straight
youth. After a sexual binge during his varsity's
Orientation Programme, Jack becomes infected with HIV.
The virus is then passed on to Ellen, his hometown
girlfriend, during her High School Prom Night.
Arrick presents the devastating effects on the lives of these
young folk and their immediate families. Also sharply
brought into focus are local homophobic prejudices against both
the disease and homosexuals in general.
Discovered to be living in a gay relationship, Mr Foster,
a sixth grade teacher, is pressured to resign by parents. Set
in 1950s America, the story is told from the viewpoint of Louis,
one of Foster's pupils, whose personality growth the teacher has
On a visit to her Granny and Uncle Barry, teenager Anna
discovers a boyfriend and uncovers a raft of intriguing family
secrets. An aunt calls Barry a 'dried out old fag',
but Anna's mum can offer no proof either way as to her brother's
possible homosexuality. Both mother and daughter agree
that it doesn't matter if he is gay, while Barry's portrayal
throughout the novel reflects their positive position.
An enjoyable Kiwi novel, with just a hint of a time shift
and set on the South Island's West Coast.
Following his father as his school's football legend loads
teenager Ben with a formidable legacy to maintain. For
Ben reality centres on his dad's new, gay, live-in
relationship beyond the family home. Within the world
of American High School gridiron football Ben successfully lessens
the wounds his father's lifestyle inflicts on him.
While accidentally falling in love, Molly and Jess (a
male classmate) research a series of hard-hitting articles on AIDS
for their High School magazine. Censorship by school
authorities intervenes but the final denouement is Molly
contracting AIDS through an earlier, first-ever sexual
encounter with Jess's best friend, who, in the
concluding pages, is uncovered as gay.. Told in
the form of typescripts of taped conversations between Molly and
Jess, the novel develops a pace of its own through the
twisting plot. One of the best novels on AIDS
Delightfully zany with surreal new-age characters, these
companion novels explore the experiences and expectations of an extended
family of unrelated 'characters' in California. Tolerance
through love is a constant theme. Dirk and Duck, two
effectively portrayed secondary players, are gay partners.
A powerfully whimsical presequel to Weetzie Bat in which Dirk at 16 says OK to his being homosexual after some surreal story telling experiences. Duck, his lover-to-be, appears off-stage, also working through similar confusions. Possibly this novelbest captures the agonizing inner turmoil a gay teen faces as he wrestles with his sexuality.
Other novels by Block cover the adventures of various
characters from the above series and although sometimes Duck and
Dirk only appear off-stage there is a positive attitude to homosexual issues
in all this author's writings.
Unwillingly hustled towards a modeling career by a self
ambitious mother, eleven year old Barbie has already been
sexually abused by a photographer. Barbie finds and
cultivates a mother-sister-friend substitute called Mab, a
fairy who is obviously the girl's own ultra-ego. Later
Mab injects the now teenage Barbie with the insight to mutually
support Griffin, a gay lad who earlier suffered at the hands
of the same photographer. Griffin has made his own
tortuous path to self acknowledgement in much the same way as
Barbie. With its serendipitous blend of fantasy and
reality, this novel is a further maturing of Block's
Controversial upon publication for its explicit coverage of
straight teenage sex, Forever . . .
charts the love affair of 18 year old Katherine and Michael during
their final High School year. Artie is a secondary character whose
struggles with his sexual orientation lead to a failed suicide
attempt, then entry into a private psychiatric hospital.
Failing to handle his plight, Artie's friends do not refer to him
Two subtle novels set in immediate post-war Britain, which
follow 17 year old Andy's growing friendship with Duncan, an
adult, and homosexual, journalist. In Thin
Ice, after meeting Duncan's gay friends, and Duncan's arrest
on homosexual charges, Andy is shocked into realising this path is not
Troubled by an alcoholic father, 17 year old Stephen
finds real friendship and emotional empathy with Charlotte,
a classmate who has been abused by her Dad. Despite a
growing love for Charlotte, Stephen is confused by his
developing feelings towards another school peer -
Rolf. The sensitive and deftly handled novel ends with both
boys accepting their homosexuality.
Completing his first year at an American College, Andy,
18 years old and academically successful, reflects on some
very painful but powerful events and people from his growing
years. Such memories include a bibliophile grand-uncle,
his physically abusive alcoholic father, and his own
self-motivated compulsion to remain thin by running. All
these aspects touch on Andy's desperation to open up his gayness
to himself and others. In this perceptive novel we observe
a youthful outsider whose quest for love brings unexpected
A well crafted story about an extremely intense gay relationship
which unravels to a tragic conclusion. The emotional costs are
A freshman at his American High School, Charlie is an
outsider to his peers with his companions all being older
students. The recent suicide of his best friend is not
the underlying cause of Charlie's deep withdrawal from any real
intimacy. Charlie's new best friend is gay, and
the issues from this supportive abuse relationship thread through
the novel. It is Charlie's awareness of the sexual
abuse, perpetrated upon him earlier in his childhood by a
now dead aunt, which finally enables him to live as a whole
person. A most rewarding novel.
Bigotry surfaces at Minitown High when a popular male teacher
sexually assaults a delinquent 15 year old girl and the only
witnesses are a black boy and a gay student teacher.
Forced to vacate his prestigious school and home life style on
Sydney's wealthy northern shore when his parents divorce,
Link has difficulty adjusting to the raw environment of
Westlands. No Standing Zone is included
here because of Johnno, Link's best friend in the earlier
third of the book. Johnno is also among the walking
wounded from family break-ups, but in his case the bombshell
was Dad's going off with a boyfriend. Ever since then
Johnno has feared homosexuality could be inherited.
Besides bringing his pain up constantly in class discussions,
Johnno goes out of his way to disprove his theory. The
humour of Johnno's reactions makes a very telling point.
Published in 1980 and set in 1960, Fat Jack
is dated as to its cultural references, but can still be
found on some NZ young adult library shelves. Honour is the
theme of the novel, and the play Henry IV part One
that the characters, a group of small town American High School
pupils, stage. They work under the stimulating, if
dictatorial, direction of Mr Sharf, the school
librarian. Sharf draws out the latent talents in all
participants, but he lives with another man, Vic,
who owns an antique store. The veiled manner of Sharf's
forced resignation from the staff at the book's conclusion
strongly hints to the contemporary reader that the librarian is
gay. Homosexuality is never mentioned, however,
but the inference is obvious.
Despite being close friends since early childhood,
Melanie finds her love for schoolmate Paul is not reciprocated to the same
intensity. At 16, Paul confesses his homosexuality and Melanie
feels her world has ended until she recognizes the real friendship still
possible between them, and stands by Paul as he comes out to his
When Crystal is forced to attend a remedial reading class at
her Elementary School, her family are most supportive
-- especially Uncle Joe. But Uncle Joe is dying
of AIDS, and the novel recounts Crystal coping with the
final stages of the illness and Joe's inevitable death.
Beauregard (Bo) Brewester expresses an attitudinal
problem in rages and outbursts which cost him a place on the
football team and earn him a slot in a before-school Anger
Management Group. Here a skillful teacher/facilitator
draws out the sources of underlying anger from some hard-edged
pupils. Young Bo has his sights on the Ironman
Competition and is supportively encouraged by Lion Serbouseh,
another teacher and swimming team coach. On
discovering that Lion is gay, Bo needs to undergo further
coping techniques to overcome an initially hurtful reaction to his
mentor. A well handled treatment of the effects on
both sides of the 'coming out' issue.
In an earlier novel Stotan, Crutcher
tabulates Lion's early experiences as a teenager in a swimming
endurance team termed a 'Stotan'. No mention is made of
the boy's orientation, but the adult Lion portrayed in
Ironman is plainly forecast in the teenager of
At 13 Lucy is vigorously training for the Regional Swimming
Finals, but the return home of her 25 year old lawyer
brother, Jack, who is dying of AIDS, more than
puts Lucy off her stroke. She writes a Health Project
Report on the effects of the disease emphasizing not just the
graphic details of Jack's condition, and how her parents
want to keep the truth hidden, but also her father's early
homophobia. Courageously Lucy shares her experiences with
her school class.
While taking care of an elderly man, Rose realises that they are
being watched, and becomes caught up in a mystery going back to
Elizabethan England, involving Shakespeare, Marlowe, and
an extraordinary black slave.
A relatively early tackling of the topic. A lonely victim of a
dysfunctional family, Davy at 13 establishes a close friendship
with Altschuler, of similar age and situation. An over-the-top
reaction by Davy's mum to a misunderstood incident tests this friendship
more than their earlier kissing. The happy conclusion,
unsatisfying in the 1990s, is still understandable for the late 1960s.
In the mid 1970s, the final year at High School is an
eventful one for Johnnie Ray Rousseau, an academic seventeen
year old Afro-American. Along with a case of teenage
pregnancy and self-abortion, a peer suicide and general
racial distrust, Johnnie has to deal with his own
homosexuality within his school, a narrow-minded community
and a fundamentalist Baptist home. Johnnie proves to
be a fine youth whose talents include acting and singing
(his theme song is Blackbird from which the novel's
title derives). We share Johnnie's initial sexual
experience overtly, but acceptably.
At 12 years of age, fatherless Gary is developing his
basketball skills and falling for the charms of Shanna, his first
girl friend. But his world crumbles when it is revealed to him that
his beloved role model, Uncle Rob, has AIDS and is gay.
Gary's changing relationships with Shanna, his best friend
Sam, and with Rob, are convincingly sketched in a book suitable
for Form 1 onward. Rob's final days and death are, though
starkly shown, still appropriate for the reading level.
During his penultimate High School year the vague awareness of his
difference crystalises for 16 year old Mike. This movement to both
the understanding and recognition of his gayness is assisted by a supportive
father, his best friend Tod (on whom Mike's romantic desires
have ever been focused despite a long-term girl friend), various
family friends, and a teacher with a gay son. Possibly this
novel is a little too satisfactory, yet the issues are
unobtrusively integrated into the plot. Independence Day
has been sighted
in several N.Z. libraries' Young Adult collections.
Published as an adult novel, this title is found in many public
library young adult collections. Billy at 16,
'graduates' from the unsatisfactory dating of girls to a rather baldly
tabulated affair with a slightly older fellow male worker for the 1968
American Presidential campaign. Often things seem too easy to be
credible, but the tone is positive.
Liam's father has AIDS, and his family cannot talk about it
until Liam reveals a secret that he has tried to deny ever since he saw his
father embracing another man at the beach.
A paperback edition titled The Gathering Darkness is available, publishers Dolphin/Orion.
Often to be seen in both the fiction and non-fiction library
shelves, this is the true account of how Aaron won the right,
through the US Federal Court, to attend his High School prom with a
When he is unjustly accused by a local street preacher of being
gay, 16 year old Walker "outs" two lesbian classmates
- though the experience of a homosexual teacher meant the
boy knew the likely fate of the pair in a homophobic Florida town.
The girls attempt suicide with one actually dying,
leaving Walker with unremittable inner guilt for failing to have
the courage to do right. The novel can be over-the-top in
An American novel in the mould of Hentoff's "The Day
They Came to Arrest the Book." Jaimie, a Senior, tries
to edit the Wilson High Newspaper with integrity. Wrestling with
an increasing appreciation of her own homosexuality, she is supported
by her friend Terry, who contributes sports articles. But
Terry is gay, and has an on-again-off-again partnership with a class
peer called Ernie. Jaimie and Terry's families are
supportive of their homosexualiy, but Ernie's is not and his brief
attempts to become heterosexual cause Terry considerable pain.
Jaimie's own need for a lesbian friend is not met in her small Eastern
Seaboard community. The 'Telegraph' spearheads a fight
against a challenge to the school's liberal health programme, plus
action against all Public and School Library material featuring
homosexuality and other alternatives to celibacy for teens. It
is a challenge mounted by locals within the Religious Right who are backed
by national interests.
Garden writes about a common problem for educational and library professionals and users, with insight, experience and a balanced approach.
Laurie invites his school friend, Carlo, to a
family Christmas at the ancestral manor deep in the English
countryside. Just like an Agatha Christie mystery,
the party becomes snowbound, and over a few days many
personal secrets seep out into the festivities. In
Laurie's case it is his homosexuality and love for Carlo;
an attraction which, although not reciprocated, is
still declined with affectionate understanding.
A book for readers Standard 3/4 and above, in which
12 year old Colin is sent from Australia to Britain to escape his
brother's death from cancer. The 'Queen' is Ted,
visiting his lover who's a terminal AIDS patient in London. In
befriending Colin, Ted helps the lad appreciate the time he has left
with his sibling back home.
Set in America's corn belt during the 1950s, A Summer's
Exile allows young Mickey, barely into puberty,
the chance to slowly recount a tale of puritanical and
unsympathetic parents, learning disabilities and resulting
personality disorders. All this trauma has led to
Mickey's expulsion from school. Enter Stephen,
a new boy on the next door farm, whose supportive friendship
helps Mickey take the first tentative steps to healing and
self-acceptance. Both lads are on the verge of sexual
adolescence, so as their bond gently finds such an
expression Mickey's inner feelings and turmoil over Stephen are
softly, yet vividly shared with us. Ultimately
tragedy shatters the idyll and in the final chapter a now adult
Stephen is seen grieving over Mickey's suicide along with the cruel and
ignorant adult world which broke into the boys' Eden late in that
summer. Possibly most suitable for older teens, but a
serious contender for purchase.
A brutal insight into American small town homophobia as
exhibited in a personal vendetta waged by Andy Harris against
Stephan and Frank, a gay couple in their twenties. Andy is a
vicious upper-middle class 18 year old whose actions cause Stephan to
drown, yet his resulting suspended sentence for manslaughter is
greeted with applause from most of the town's residents. Told through
the experience of Andy's girlfriend Carla, daughter of the area's
ultra-liberal librarian, The Drowning pits Carla's need
of a boyfriend against her belief in natural justice.
The characters often appear wooden caricatures - possibly they are over-used by Greene to enunciate various viewpoints. The novel does air the harsher elements of homophobic ideas, even if the author overstates and confuses the wider church's role in homophobia.
At fourteen Dandelion (or Danny as she prefers)
discovers the father she's never met and finally accepts that her solo
mother's propensity for embellishing events is not the way to handle life's
vagaries. Her mum is a delight -- part
actress, part drama teacher, part waitress, while Danny's
second mother is a gay neighbour, Gary, whose partner has
recently died of AIDS. Gary is a gently caring support,
providing an essential element in Danny's well-being. Here is a
novel which is very emotionally satisfying, completed by a heroine in
the Judy Blume, Beverly Cleary tradition.
A somewhat difficult novel, despite Grimsley's highly
sensitive coverage of young Nathan's tortuous life journey.
A family secret linked to his guilt-ridden, whiskey-drinking
father compounds the teenager's own gay issues.
Trapped between paternal sexual abuse and maternal compliance,
Nathan is solaced by a developing friendship with Roy, a
school peer from the next farm. Set in the glades of
the Southern United States Dream Boy has a mysterious
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil touch about it.
There is, in fact, more than a suggestion that his
emotional and sexual affiliations with Roy are escapist fantasies
born of his own terrible position. The hard back
edition found in most libraries is not enhanced by the dull cover.
An interesting tale of friendship between a couple of
teenagers; the gay Trosky and the initially straight Cody. The
relationship eventually becomes sexual, but it is the intellectual
side of the bond which is the novel's main thrust. Trosky and his
folks are totally at ease with his gayness which, while showing
homosexuality in a positive light, injects a slightly unreal
Recently isolated in a small American town, Tom's last high
school year is lonely until meeting up with Ward, a homosexual
discharged from the Army. The story is really about how gossip and
prejudice can destroy lives. There is no sexual relationship,
and Tom is always seen as 'straight'.
Homeroom teacher, 45 year old James Hicket, despite
his hunger for emotional affection, resists the temptation
to cross the boundaries between teacher and pupil and reciprocate
the loving crush of a student, Mary McNeil, 30 years
his junior. The story is told from Mary's standpoint and,
though she records rumours that Mr Hicket is gay, the novel is
included here due to James's acidic 85 year old mother who lives with him.
Twenty years earlier this crusty old lady ended her son's chance of
happiness with his high school sweetheart by informing the girl,
wrongly, that James was gay, and wanted to marry her to cover
his tracks in the teaching profession.
Pithy offerings in which a mixed group of American teens from a Gay and Lesbian community centre successfully sleuth some fairly life-and-death mysteries. Although the series is in the Carole Keene / Hardy Boys adventure mould, the Pride Pack story lines throw into sharp perspectives entrenched homophobia. More importantly it is positive for gay/lesbian teens to read of themselves in what is a highly popular younger teens genre.
Who framed Lorenzo Garcia?
Boston, AlyCat, 1995 (Pride Pack: 1)
The Pride Pack discover who is trying to discredit a homosexual policeman.
The case of the Missing Mother
Boston, AlyCat, 1995 (Pride Pack: 2)
Straight Rebecca lives with her lesbian mum and mum's girlfriend,
Mica, an outspoken advocate for homosexual rights. The Pride
Pack help Rebecca free her "other mother" when Mica is kidnapped
by a homophobic group out to silence her championship of AIDS
education in schools. A less self-conscious book than Who Framed
Lorenzo Garcia, and more lesbian focused.
Again, peer prejudice against gays affects a friendship,
this time between 15 year old Denny and a homosexual
schoolmate, Stephen. The novel realistically portrays the
strife of being a gay teenager within the milieu of straight Aussie society.
Surrounded by her 'crazy' family a cheerful Bernice Plunkett
keeps her gran out of the 'home' her dad has earmarked.
Our gutsy teen is aided in the battle by her gay and down-to-earth
Uncle Paul and his partner 'Uncle Chris'. The latter
is gifted with a fabulous drag-act persona which overflows the
stage into ordinary life. Hines impeccably launches
onto teenage fiction a superb portrayal of a camp gay male.
Fourteen year old Charles, also from a dysfunctional
family, develops an increasingly close emotional attachment to the
disfigured Justin - an adult loner who coaches Charles for a
school entrance exam. Events cover one summer, and after
Charles experiences a crisis at home his bond with Justin becomes fleetingly
sexual. Justin dies just after this and later Charles accepts the
incident as a passing phase. The recent movie omitted the homosexual
Here we explore the modern concepts of a 'family'.
Aware, prior to his 16th birthday, that his absent father
is 'gay', Jack now has to accept that he is part of a
unique 'family' consisting of himself, his dad,
Bob, his father's promiscuous lover, and Bob's teenage daughter
Maggie. Meanwhile, the seemingly stable family of his best
friend, Max, collapses. The resulting plethora of
feelings Jack works through is gently expressed.
A modern '1984' type thriller about state surveillance.
This time a disillusioned teenager, Julian, is
investigated by an intelligence agent called Jamie. Betrayed after a
mutual homosexual affair with Jamie, Julian enters a crushing downward
spiral. The novel's themes are about true relationships, along
with the relevance of personal selfhood and purpose, rather than gay
Not specifically about homosexuality, nevertheless an important book
to offer teenage boys uncertain as to their orientation. It's
an 'eternal triangle' novel about three older teens
- Paul, Anne, and Graham - coping with
loneliness and the search for friendship and love. In Graham's
case, the needs for a sexual lover and for an old-fashioned
friend get confused in his initial relationship with Paul.
Complete with a girlfriend, at 18 Jumbo is the school macho
hero. Puzzled as to his sexuality on falling in love with a male
peer, Jumbo decides labels like 'homosexuality' and
'heterosexuality' are not useful descriptions for people.
A convincing story about 16 year old Mike and Susie who,
on discovering their homosexuality, "come out" to
themselves, each other, peers and parents.
Through their mutually supportive friendship they establish
- but not without homophobic opposition - a
gay/lesbian group in the High School. Ultimately the pair
find true love, each in their own small corner of the homosexual
scene. A difficult book to review as there is a tendency
towards subjectivity from a writer so closely involved with
gay/lesbian youth. Also, a high proportion of
dialogue, coupled with a tight type face, could make
for an off-putting read.
Charlie is a teenage loner, contentedly living with his
older brother, Trent, since their parents' deaths.
An unexpected friendship with school peer, Brandon,
leads to the wider community knowing about Trent's homosexuality
and to a crisis of family loyalty for Charlie. An
exceptional novel about loyalty, friendship's costs,
and general maturing in difficult circumstances.
So far (August 2000) Laurie John has written eight
novels in the popular Sweet Valley University series in which he
includes a gay character, Neil Martin. The
sequence chronicles an ongoing tale of the banal doings of a
group of trendy young personalities who are akin to flat, TV
soapies. Several equally important plot sequences run side by
side throughout each book. This said, Neil comes across
rather well although naturally stereotyped: he makes his own
curtains, keeps his room so tidy, and is a warm sensitive
male. But Neil's gay issues form honestly presented sub-plots.
In No Rules (No. 48) he joins an already established group in a car rally. Pursued romantically by Jessica, Neil finally admits his homosexuality to her. Stranded (No. 49) deals with the consequences of his revelation: Jessica is bitter, and Neil fears she will out him. His concerns continue in Summer of Love (No. 50) until he eventually shares his orientation with the rest of the accepting gang.
Living Together (No.51) and Fooling Around (No. 52) see the road trip team sharing student life at SVU, with Neil flatting with Jessica and her twin sister. Here Neil takes a back seat plotwise, though he takes centre stage again in Truth or Dare (No. 53) when standing for Student Presidency. Not only is his gayness a campaign issue, but Neil himself must come to terms with his leaving his first university after an affair with a staff member.
Virtually absent in Rush Week (No. 54), Neil pops up irregularly in The First Time (No. 55) until his star appearance during a party when his new love interest, Jason, causes Jessica problems -- problems which further develop as a main plot device in Dropping Out (56) and Who Knew (57). Neil and Jessica hold firmly conflicting views as to Jason's orientation -- as does Jason himself. Although finally claiming the gay card, Jason is too raw to form a relationship, so Neil is left lamenting. Absent in The Dreaded Ex (No. 58) Neil resurfaces briefly in Elizabeth in Love (59) where, as he is searching for new 'digs' it seems Neil is quitting the series.
Once again, gay/lesbian readers have a popular genre featuring identifiable characters.
A group of male teens find their lives and friendships change as
school ends. From his friend Azhans's affair with an older man,
Charles learns to see beyond the anti-gay attitudes he's been surrounded
with at home and school.
When his father joins other parents in demonstrating against a
teacher who is HIV-positive, Kevin is torn between his loyalty
to his father whom he has always considered a hero and his admiration for
his favourite sixth grade teacher.
Wally, a 'straight' high school senior, wants
to escape his small home town and the prospect of working in his family's
undertaking business, and his best friend Charlie becomes the key to
his escape. Charlie, with his gay lifestyle and problems is
sympathetically and naturally conveyed. A delightful novel.
At 17, Erick discovers his 27 year old brother Pete is a homosexual
with AIDS. This is a warm story of the family accepting
responsibility for loving and caring for Pete and also a tale of straight
friendship in the sub-plot of Erick's longstanding comradeship with
Lang is 17, still at school, gay and in a closeted
relationship with Alex, a young actor on the way up.
During a summer spent with his mother on the estate of a famous
rock star, Lang temporarily falls in sexual love with
Anguille, a young female visitor of the famed musician.
Lang's inner confusion is highlighted by his difficulty in
"coming out" to his childhood friends whose frustrations over
Lang's relationship with them is a strong plot element. The
reader can become irritated with Lang, but Kerr clearly
conveys his mixed emotions.
Ostensibly Family Secrets is a novel
centring on family disruption which accompanies divorce and
remarriage. As two teenage friends, Peter and
Leslie, begin an affair, both sets of parents divorce
with Peter's father remarrying Leslie's mother. Family
Secrets sports several gay and lesbian characters,
while discussions about homosexuality abound in school and home
A borderline inclusion, but this merry tale of 14 year
old Evan's establishing of a male cheerleading squad for the
school's female softball team includes some relevant cameos. There
are the stereotypical accusations of being gay hurled at Evan's best
friend, and the surprising, for Evan, revelation that
his father knows and has friends who are gay.
As she works through her relationship with a physically
disabled male school peer, Augustine is helped by her best
friend Claudia who is lesbian, and by Gordon who is gay.
Aged 13, Nina must face both her parents' divorce and her dad's
gay relationship. Klein tackles the issues with care and credibility.
A gentle but humorous novel about Billy's Arizona holiday where he
stays with his gay Uncle Wes. Billy becomes sexually involved with
the lovely Cara Mae, but supports Wes whose friend dies of AIDS.
Billy's straight teenager acceptance of Wes and his non-conventional
circle is part of his growth as a person while 'out West'.
Cloe is 18, when she finds the body of Janey, her
best friend - gang-raped and murdered - in a car
wrecker's yard. This compelling Australian novel reveals
both Janey's life of family sexual abuse and the stabilizing
influence Cloe and her family provided. A gay
family friend who's lost his partner from AIDS proves a solid
prop for Cloe as she slowly sifts through the issues of Janey's
life and death.
1957 is the year that 14 year old Dave Ryan's parents split,
his older brother joins the US Marines, and Gene Tole is employed to
landscape the garden. Gene proves to be a father/brother substitute
for Dave - and much more. As this slow moving but
emotionally satisfying novel unfolds we realise that Dave's growing
attachment for the older man is possibly the initial stirrings of a gay
self-awareness. Yet nothing "happens" between Dave and Gene because
Dave himself "doesn't understand [his] feelings or know what to call
them, all tied up inside". Also, Gene's gayness is
revealed only after he's all but exited the scene, leaving a confused
Dave to struggle with the appreciation that despite there being many kinds
of love, he will discover the one appropriate for him.
Gawain (Wain) is at a new school, his father
is "missing" from the Falklands War, while his domestic life
is a tad unpleasant. He copes by writing three versions of
what is happening to him now and what people say about his family
past. With grand-parental help Wain unravels the truth
about his Dad, and his home situation eventually brightens.
Also, Wain rescues Keith, an older, gay,
school mate who is being tormented by peers. Wain's
appreciation of difference - a theme of the novel
- is sharpened by this new bond with Keith: a
friendship which causes him to be labelled gay by association.
Gays were people in distant cities, and AIDS was only something
in the news. That's what Sarah believed until both came close to
Janie, our teenage heroine, has many emotional hurdles to
overcome in this novel - including the sexual attentions of her
mum's live-in boyfriend. The young gay couple next door, who
are portrayed very matter-of-factly, provide Janie with a supportive
In the league of Ruth Park's Playing Beattie Bow
Lucashenko's Killing Darcy is a brilliant
time-shift drama set in the Australian bush. The plot
involves indigenous people's rights, an early settler's
mysterious death, plus contemporary teens from a broken
home, and with everything focusing on a weird camera whose
developed photos portray the past, not the present.
Young Darcy Mago is an Aboriginal youth attempting to survive his
parole restrictions. On his becoming involved with the
liberal thinking McKenzie family, who accept his unobtrusive
homosexuality, all the threads begin to coalesce.
Darcy is somehow connected with the family, while his Dream
Time awareness helps unravel their dimensional shift mystery.
A fine read.
In company with the bulk of her Junior High class, 14
year old Janice is more than content with Mr Padovano, their
charismatic form teacher. It is no big deal,
therefore, when rumours circulate that Mr P. is gay.
Janice's mother goes against the supportive tide, however.
She is a home-centred matron who, with a genuine nervousness
to change, clings to conservative values. The
collision between mother and daughter, with its accompanying
family pressures, forms a dynamic vein in the plot.
Also crucial is Janice's friend Kevin, whose anti-gay
activism against the teacher stems from bitterness that though his
older brother is dying from AIDS Mr Padovano is healthy.
A very positive picture of teenage homosexuality as seen through the
relationship of Phillip and Ben who attend a Sydney high school. A
teacher provides an affirming role model, both as a gay and as an
educator. Humorous incidents abound, including a class
discussion on the possibility of Hamlet being gay.
Set against the desperate English winter of 1946/47
Cuckoo in the nest charts the ultimately successful
efforts by 17 year old Ralf to commence an acting career.
Working class Ralf has spent the war years evacuated to a middle
class home in Wales, but the main thrust of his father's
continual opposition to the theatre is based on the man's belief
that the profession is one of "poofs", "pansys" and
"nancy men". No homosexuals appear in the novel.
Six schools in eight years, with all the attendant heartbreak
of broken friendships, have created in 11 year old Ali a
resistance to her mother's constant need to move on. A year in the
country with her mum's friends - the caring Simon and the
photographer Angelo - helps Ali mature and accept change and the
permanence inherent in true friendships. Slowly we, and
Ali, appreciate that Angelo is dying of AIDS; yet his illness
and death are a catalyst for the house and countryside affecting the growth
in Ali. This is a story of relationship - between Simon
and Angelo, Ali and her mother, and Ali and her old friend
Fiona - all are deftly portrayed and inter-related. A
short, gentle book for readers Standard 3/4 upwards.
First published in 1957 when the author was but sixteen years
old, Aubade has surfaced in many Young Adult library
collections. Very autobiographical, Martin's
novel takes us through the summer a teen called Paul spends
between High School and Varsity working in a shop. He
develops a relationship with an older medical graduate he calls
"Gary". One fails to warm to Paul as he starkly
recounts his pilgrimage to self approval. Paul's
comments are hard hitting, while his actions at times,
to his weak dad, overbearing mum, and
tossed-aside-after-being-sexually-used girl friend, verge on
the brutally egotistical. In fact Paul sends everyone
apart from "Gary" over the top. Martin
writes as a teenager because he is one and is sorely lacking any
mellowness of mature reflection. However, teen
readers obviously still connect to this novel which also
introduces them to the homophobic pre Reform Bill era.
Through the memories of an unnamed 15 year old girl we trace an
interconnecting business and political scandal which finally unwinds to
cripple her family and an Australian State Premier. The narrator is
incarcerated in the Young Adult Ward of a Psych hospital. "Checkers"
her pet dog is the vital key to the exposure of the total affair and the
pup's hasty despatch unhinges our heroine. Daniel, a strongly
presented patient, with a compulsive cleanliness disorder, is
gay. His comments along with the explanations as to why he makes
jokes against his own orientation are revealing. A compulsive novel
which reinforces Marsden's top ranking among Australian writers for
Said to be the first positive gay novel from the US, Better
Angel gives a never surpassed insight into the struggles a teenage
boy has between his being both gay and a Christian. Kurt, from
a small town in the Bible Belt with a fundamentalist Methodist family
background has some high hurdles to overcome, before a happy
Fatherless, 14 year old Win finds a cultured and single
niddle-aged friend named Elliott through an organisation designed
to provide supportive adult male role models for teenagers like
him. This relationship increasingly "works" for Win and is
crucial in assisting his coping with the gang rape of his girl
friend which he is forced to witness. Paul, Win's
best friend, constantly tosses out accusations that Elliott
must be gay, but his discovery that his natural father
is homosexual causes a crisis in Paul's life. Elliott's
sexual orientation is never revealed.
A novel in the Beverly Hills 90210 genre with no
gay characters, but in which Alex, the all American heterosexual
teenage hero contracts AIDS through a blood transfusion. We trace
both his friends' and family's reaction to this situation, and
the boy's uncertainty. However, Night Kites is by
far the superior tackling of the AIDS question.
Angry at her parents' inexplicable separation and her dad's
consequent disappearance, twelve year old Angelica finds
distraction in helping a maltreated dog called Triller.
Actually this involvement with Triller leads Angelica to her
father who, she discovers, has exited his closet to
live with another male. Our heroine is a survivor,
with a vivid vocabulary and deep sensitivities, all of which
makes for a most humorous book.
Twelve days in August change a 16 year old soccer player's
perceptions of himself, his family, girls and gays.
This companion volume to Twelve days in August
lacks the overall excellence of the earlier work. Blue
Coyote is set on the fringes of California's surfing scene.
17 year old Alex discovers his gayness while searching for his
best friend Tito who has been disowned by his family on "coming out".
Taunts from Alex's school peers hint that Alex has
recognized his situation before he himself does.
We empathise with 14 year old Slim as her father's condition
inexorably proceeds through the closing stages of AIDS, with
the various effects honestly outlined. The tension inherent
in the situation leads us to share the unrealistic sense of hope posed by a
supposed miracle man - though the miracle proves to be emotional
peace for Slim's dad and his lover. A fascinating secondary character
is Isaiah, whose pregnant mother has AIDS while his late father died
from the disease. Both Isaiah and Slim belong to a group for
relatives of AIDS patients run by a liberal church. There are no
"happy endings", yet Earthshine reflects the force of human
love, the diverse meanings of "family", and the resilience of
the human spirit.
The year when 16 year old Mully proves herself a real 'little
Aussie battler' by running both her home and her family when mum falls
ill. Among the traumas, her boyfriend and her brother have a
homosexual affair. This is no Sweet Valley High
stuff, but a sincere, often amusing and fully rewarding novel of
contemporary Australian life. A sympathetic gay adult teacher is but
one of a finely drawn supporting cast.
Hiding his real age, 15 year old Sydney-sider Rod
McKenzie joins the Australian Forces and is decorated for service
on New Guinea's infamous Kokoda Trail. Here he re-encounters
"Prick Head" Hillyard, a former school teacher who, as an
actively predatorial homosexual, enlisted before being sacked.
Both soldiers mutually agree to keep each other's secrets. This is a
masterful insight into a teenager's maturing in the framework of a brutal
jungle war, where the enemy, when confronted, does not
always fit the propaganda stereotype.
Emma's famous ability to develop a strategy for all
eventualities life can throw her way fails on her birthday
-- a day when she's dumped by the beguiling Neil who then
takes up with Emma's best friend. Emma's resulting
depression continues as she doubts that a deepening relationship
with the handsome Lachlan will come through for her. A
sturdy male peer, Wolf, proves a tower of strength in
assisting Emma to get her life back on track. Slowly
the reader, along with Emma, sasses out that Wolf is
homosexual, and his own unfolding troubles of the heart and
societal acceptance form an important sub plot.
Through a series of linked vignettes written in various "styles"
for his Senior High School English teacher, Rhett Foley
unfolds to us his life, hopes, family, and
friends. Although he is desperate to appear "cool" and
enigmatic, this autobiographical experience actually transforms Rhett
along with his appreciation of others close to him. Rhett's
involvement with his oldest pal Justin, who is gay, provides
some enlightening incidents and insights, and not a little
Moly and Will are in their early teens when, due to family
crises, they are forced to live both next door to each other and with
elderly relatives. Will's father is dying of AIDS,
while Moly's mother is a drug addict. Home is now a
small mid-West American town where social prejudices necessitate
the youngsters keeping 'mum' about their respective situations.
Here is a positive, yet touching, story of two growing teenagers
feeling socially isolated and trapped in an alien environment, but
with nowhere to go.
If this novel is a fair guide (and other titles in this
list support the assumption) then some teens in western
Sydney experience a variegated existence as they cope with
drug-related complications, gang and ethnic conflicts,
plus sexual abuse. Among the varied characters is Max
who drops out of Year 12 after the revelation of his homosexuality
prompts a vicious homophobic gang fight. This Is How
It Is is the work of three young writers who convey the immediacy
and language of their school days. A must.
Not actually a "gay" story per se, but this tense
psychological thriller set in a respected English boys' boarding
school which has just commenced enrolling girls in the senior
forms, illustrates where a teenage male's infatuations can
centre in a basically female-scarce area. Robinson,
an unpopular master, seemingly commits suicide, but Senior Boy
Jonathan Meredith has witnessed Charles Hugo, a successful
teacher, with Robinson just prior to the "accident". Jonathan's
problem is his serious crush on Hugo who provides for the otherwise
heterosexual youth a needed emotional focus. Three other people stalk
Jonathan after learning what he has seen on that Midsummer's Night.
But all ends successfully, and our hero's deepening friendship with a
female classmate enables him to adjust to Hugo's eventual
While on a sea-side holiday with their vicar father, Paul
and his older sister Amy continue to grieve over their mother's
recent death. Paul is the one most wanting a friend,
and the wealthy, charmingly handsome Christo seems all Paul
could ask for. In fact Paul becomes obsessed with the
other boy to the extent of experiencing intense bitterness when
Christo and Amy become an item. Although not a gay
novel per se, Paul's need of love and resulting attachment
to Christo hint that in certain cases love will cross gender
lines without either person necessarily being homosexual.
The novel is a companion in theme to Timothy Ireland's To Be Looked
For earlier in this bibliography.
Provenzano's title stands for "Persons in Need of
Suspension" while also being a jock catchphrase in American
High School wrestling. The hero, Joey Nicci of
Italian Catholic descent, is deeply involved in both meanngs
of the term as he struggles with competitive wrestling and his own
gayness. His awakening sexuality is centred on his
team mate, Dink, with whom there is ample opportunity
for close bodily contact. Needing to turn States
Evidence after witnessing a gay bashing by his peers, and
enduring loving pressures to be straight from Catholic parents who
fear for his soul's future torment, render Joey feeling very
isolated. Yet he works toward a positive self
perception despite Church dogma and community expectations.
Finding she has a white half-brother makes Ginny realise there's a
lot for her to discover about her family. A self-centred,
arrogant teenager, she still copes well with a further crisis
- Andy, her heart throb, is in a gay relationship with
another of her male friends. Stuart, a third friend, is
Sighted in some New Zealand Public Library Young Adult
collections, The Colour of His Hair is listed with
some reservations. David Rees writes of the gay
relationship between Mark and Donald, firstly as final year
High School students in 1976 and then a decade later, as
their love disintegrates in bitter recriminations along with
Donald's AIDS related death. The book's adolescent
period is a worthwhile introduction to the feelings,
parental attitudes, friends' opinions and school policies
which are all inherent in theteenage gay experience.
The novel's second section is really for senior teens and might
well carry some younger readers out of their comfort zones.
Increasingly aware of his gay inclinations, 17 year old Tim
takes a pivotal walking holiday with three school friends. Holed up
in a tent by rain and fog the party interacts, while Tim explores his
inner tensions through a fantasy immersion into the English Civil War
period. A satisfactory conclusion ends a tightly written
A difficult book to place in a secondary school library for,
although it presents a clear insight into young Ewan's gradual acceptance of
his gay orientation, the author places strong emphasis on the lad's
physical experiences. The cover picture is consistent with the
Thirteen years after his father left home when Mark was three,
contact is resumed and the boy finds his parents' marriage foundered on his
father's homosexuality. Time with his dad - who is
painted positively - helps Mike in his own growing up.
In their final year at Secondary School, 18 year old Luke
and Cheryl begin a sexual affair just when Luke's widower father
dies suddenly. The novel focuses on Luke's self-awareness
as a person alone without a family. Luke's reaction to the
discovery that a brother of a school friend is gay, and
later contact with a gay couple, are interesting interludes
in his inner development. The same characters, along
with some from The Tent, re-appear in a sequel
The Estuary, but teens would probably find this
latter novel an unsatisfactory read.
Weakened by rheumatic fever, and afflicted with bad
dreams, young Carlo is sent to live with his Italian
grandmother when his widower father leaves America for World War
II. A friendship with Joey J, a retarded boy/man,
helps Carlo regain his self-confidence, but also spurs the
homophobic neighbourhood youths to treat Carlo mercilessly.
Young Amelia is separated from her lesbian mother by the Court
which has awarded her father custody upon her parents' divorce.
She escapes to live secretly in California with her mother and
partner Jenny and where Amelia must adopt a fresh identity.
One of her school mates living openly with her father and his male
partner gives Amelia much encouragement.
Sixteen year old Camilla spends a troubled summer when a male peer
closest to her and her new boyfriend Phil establish a gay relationship.
The reactions of Camilla and others in the group lead to Phil
and a girl being killed in a car crash.
An adult novel with a special place in this list for older
teens. Like the cover photograph, Travis Scott
evokes the barren environment of America's suburban Mid West in a
tale which captures the confusion of young Seeger King's last
months at High School, and that in-between limbo prior to
University. Seeger's problem is a struggle with his
sexuality -- caught as he is twixt love for his girl
friend and a new boy at school. Further complications
are provided by his hallucinations of apocalyptic type
calamities, and we wonder if these are triggered by Seeger's
drug intake and/or a rather offbeat Mother Dearest.
Actually the visions, plus a slightly erratic narrative
sequence, could cause some readers their own
complications. But a must for mature teen levels.
Long secreted letters tell 18 year old Willie that his father,
who left his mother without knowing she was pregnant, broke
up the marriage when he owned his homosexuality. Willie's
personal growth as he gradually unearths the family skeletons
while systematically reading the epistles in a single sitting is
movingly conveyed. A tensely dramatic novel.
A teenage amateur sleuth, Carter Colby,
investigates ominous acts of violence against those trying to
instigate a secondary school sex education curriculum.
Homophobic attitudes to gays and lesbians, with AIDS seen as
a Divine vengeance on homosexuality, are freely aired
within the local community. One lass, fearful she is
lesbian, attempts unsafe heterosexual sex and then
contemplates suicide. Although the cover has the
appearance of a Nancy Drew look-alike, this is a novel which
faces up to the effects flowing on from a lack of effective sex
education programmes in an American High School.
Since birth 13 year old Harper has moved with Kitty, her solo
mother, from one housekeeping position to another, but only in
the home of a gay man, Eric, has the girl ever felt happy.
This readable New Zealand novel centres on the mother-daughter
relationship and how Kitty's probable marriage will affect that bond
- especially from Harper's perspective. The lass learns that
Eric is her natural father, though her feelings are complicated by
comparing him to Ted, her future step-father. Eric has been
kept at bay by Kitty for some years, and he is a somewhat
stereotyped, flamboyant Gay. Harper decides to stay with Kitty
and Ted, but keeps open potential avenues of contact to Eric,
and his boy friend with whom she felt a rapport.
How true to the title runs the plot of this novel! A
group of American High School youngsters put on A Midsummer
Night's Dream and while it isn't strictly a Kiss
Me Kate scenario the students find their various
emotional entanglements do knot and twist akin to a Shakespearean
play. Although told from Bechy's viewpoint, and thus
centring on her changing feelings for Nehemiah and Blake,
the plot has two gay secondary characters - Richie and
Craig. The boys' evolving affair is accepted by their peers
and forms an interesting subplot.
Dated now, but still a readable inoffensive and gentle tale
about the growing friendship between two Aussie teenage boys,
Justin, the all round lad, and Rudi, from Central Europe.
In the face of peer pressure the straight Justin breaks with the
suggested gay Rudi. Justin later realises he could have better
understood and respected his friend as a person.
Earnestly seeking the most basic of information about her unknown
parents from ultra-secretive grandparents, 14 year old
Jamie's quest is highlighted by grandpa's fatal heart attack and
gran's resulting mental breakdown. A lass of fierce
practical determination, Jamie struggles on to a successful
homecoming which includes a supportive gay older brother and the
knowledge that her grandparents were really her parents.
The ongoing pain suffered by her brother - also called
Jamie - over his brutal expulsion by a cruel
fundamentalist father is movingly tabulated.
Briefly but breezily, Coming Out chronicles the
strife Freemont High's Seniors endure once they advocate holding a
Debutante Ball to celebrate their exit from school and entry to
the real world. Not only do they achieve their vision but, in this
humorous encapsulation of contemporary Aussie social attitudes,
young Tom seizes the day and uses the presence at the Ball of the
State Commission for Equal Opportunity to "Come Out"
in a way beyond the expectations of ye olde British society and
the School Board.
Seemingly happily in love with his girl friend, Sharon,
London teenager Phil gradually understands his sexual orientation
as his emotions for, and relationship with, Matthew,
another peer, develop. Escaping to the Coast
together, the boys continue to explore the implications of
both their sexuality and society's misconceptions.
Originally a film in BBC TV's "School Scene" series.
A superficial holiday story about a family holiday in France where
teenagers Kathy and Claire double-date Steve and Val who they later perceive
are a gay couple. Unfortunately for Claire, Steve can also be
A highly tuned ear for credible dialogue is employed by the author to
explore the attractions and tensions in a growing gay friendship between
streetwise 16 year old Theo and country town David who is 15.
The same technique fails in the sub-plot concerning Theo's
grandmother and her Jewish-Polish refugee story. For all this is a
New Zealand book, The Blue Lawn lacks really believable
characterisation and is second rate when compared with most other entries in
Young Jerome's suicide unites his two beloved friends,
the macho Marko in New Zealand and Kate, on school exchange
in America. Via email, faxes, and on-line
communications, the pair grieve and comfort each other as
they chart the mysteries behind Jerome's death. Kate alerts
Marko to her and Jerome's homosexuality, coupled with
Jerome's abiding love for Marko which the dead boy could never
speak of in life. Out of the mists within his own
self, Marko comes to appreciate his own gayness and mutual
love for Jerome. Taylor has gifted us an authentic and
strongly crafted novel which is a fine advance on his earlier
The Blue Lawn. Although one could wonder if
three homosexuals is coincidence pushing, this is a must
Chosen as typical "Middle American Youth" some High School
students are aggressively courted by a national Burger Chain to
front a TV advertising campaign. In the process the
teenagers learn plenty about personal priorities, business
ethics, and everybody's corruptibility levels. One
"promo" features a pupil who is derogatorily labeled as gay by his peers.
The defence mounted on his behalf by a classmate emphasises the
stereotypes held by much of society.
This coming-to-terms-with-my-gayness novel is highly suitable
for secondary school readers. The central character,
Mark, seems rather younger than his stated twenty years,
and his gradual acceptance of his homosexuality is very
credible. Mark's experiences will help those gay teens
who, despite attractions to girls, have still
harboured over-riding sexual feelings towards other males since
early puberty. The youth's ambivalence towards,
then slow awakening to, the joys of being freely himself are
wellpresented. The novel's latter section, where
Mark's home life disintegrates on his coming out, is convincingly
reflected to us through other family and friends.
The last two volumes in a trilogy which follows the fortunes of a
group of arts and drama students at a sixth form college in Britain.
Trouble with Vanessa, the first novel in the series, has
no mention of homosexuality, but the ones above do, with one
character, Alan, contracting AIDS, while the orientation
of another, Josh, is a plot factor. Jean Ure reconstructs
convincing teenage dialect.
Bonny, street smart and 16, teams up with the young and
wealthy Richard. The resulting bond seems to answer her emotional
problems, but slowly she and the reader appreciate Richard is in
conflict with his parents over his live-in gay relationship.
Isolated in an intensely exclusive friendship which is characterised by a
shared sophisticated inner world, 17 year old Christopher and Nick are
assumed by families and peers to be gay. Not only are they
straight, but the boys are quite dissimilar to each other.
Christopher's growing affinity with Sal triggers a crisis for Nick who
attempts to kill himself and Christopher in a fast car. Although with
similarities to Chambers's Dance on my grave this title
isn't a gay novel, but the reactions of other characters to the
friendship warrant its inclusion.
A sequel to A Proper Little Nooryeff. Now Jamie
successfully pursues both a ballet career and sexual kudos with the opposite
gender. En route, however, Jamie's seduction skills are
copied by a male classmate eager to 'make it' with
Originally published in Germany, this novelistic account
of a World War II homosexual friendship sensitively illuminates
for young readers a special period in gay history and highlights
the legalised horrors gay teenagers have faced. A teenager
in occupied Poland, Stefan owns his gayness before entering
into an intense emotive bonding with Willie who is a member of the
German occupation forces. A naive letter from Stefan to
Willie incriminates both youths and we follow Stefan's
imprisonment and torture under the Nazi anti-gay regulations.
Although the book suffers in translation, with Stefan and
Willie somewhat flat and unengaging to the reader, some aspects of
their trauma come over sharply.
Tommy's traditional Mexican-American culture adds extra
complications to his taking on board his gay sexuality. His
guilt and self-loathing heightens a drinking problem, while
peer abuse finally prompts a suicide attempt. Slowly Tommy
develops a calmer awareness of himself as a total person through the support
of a female classmate and an empathetic counselor. Although
illuminating the universality of youthful homosexual issues, this is
inclined to be a stolidly paced novel with a liberal sprinkling of Mexican
words and phrases explained in a glossary.
A tight novel with several levels of imagery. Jonathan and
Henry are inseparable teenage friends until Jonathan's cousin David arrives.
A Jewish refugee from Hitler's War, David monopolises his
cousin's time and very being. A prologue and epilogue set in the
Vietnam War zone provide guidelines for the reader's appreciation of the
main plot. Henry's teenage jealousy seems to be based on his
homosexuality, though one wonders if he can acknowledge his
orientation even to himself.
At 15, Peter's orientation uncertainty is increased by an
attraction to David, a friend of his older brother. Taunts from
peers, the attempted seduction by a girl, and his dad's response
to specific smears against Peter in local graffiti all lead to Peter
doing considerable self-evaluation. He decides he'll let the question
lie open for a few years - whatever, time will tell.
A compelling Australian adolescent novel, though Peter's
open-ended attitude to his sexuality might not impress some
Self centred, yet gifted, fifteen year old Albie
attends a select summer course on Method Acting.
Besides his dramatic range, Albie's knowledge of the changes
inherent in human relationships is also vastly extended.
Mitch, a fellow student, takes him to a Gay Pride
March as a way of coming out to Albie. While there the
two boys observe that their drama instructor is also gay and
having an affair with the course's most macho male member.
The gay issue is but one in Albie's summer of "new growth"
An early, slightly daunting, but still highly
effective Wersba title, detailing the intense bond between
two older teenage males. David is the perfection-seeking,
affection-starved, son of a self-made business man,
while Rick with his inner freedom offers David stimulative
companionship and wider horizons. Threatened by the
relationship, David's father tries to break it when he
stumbles on an incident which he thinks validates his belief
in Rick's homosexuality. In consequence David leaves home and,
at his dad's early death two years later, the pair are still
unreconciled. The novel is David's working through his feelings about
the years spent growing up. The pivot of this inner wrestling lies
in his father's calling Rick "a queer". A novel of the period
(late 1970s) set in the late 60s "scene".
A gentle novel about a loving straight friendship founded in
photography between 14 year old Tyler and an inner-directed
15 year old lass called Mitzi. The relationship helps Tyler
accept his brother Cameron whose gayness has disrupted the family.
Another superb Wersba novel! Heidi Rosenbloom is guided to a
state of positive self-acknowledgement through the friendship of
Jeffrey, a young, gay tap-dancing busker. Jeffrey's love
of life persuades Heidi to accept his view of her rather than buy into her
parents' frustrated expectations.
Toli is 17 with alcoholic and shop lifting problems, plus an
inability to communicate with her parents. Her intense love affair
with a classmate, the popular,
god-like, T.G., offers Toli an emotional lynch
pin until she gradually appreciates that all is not developing
smoothly between them. T.G. is gay and so cannot give Toli
the consummative bond she craves. This is more than a yarn
about star-crossed lovers and doomed passion. Wersba is a
most competent writer in this field, and in revealing T.G.'s
struggle and sexual turmoil she possibly gives the sharpest insight into a
gay teenage male's anguish at his ability to provide only platonic love
across gender lines.
The colourful tapestry of life at Melbourne's Vistaview
Secondary College provides another peep into contemporary Aussie
teenage culture. Loose Lips follows the
adventures of a cluster of sixteen year olds. We have
Matilda who was protected by dingos when younger and Zeyne's
obsession with tidiness, while the entrepreneurial Chel
utilises her unsuspecting male peers as 'escorts' when she
establishes her own teen escort agency. Finally there
is gay Joshua whose cross is his 'born again' Christian parents.
The fortunes of the group are intricately and often amusingly
interconnected, and the myriad tensions endemic within Australia's
ethnic components are vital to the plot.
The green struggle against logging in New South Wales with all its
public conflict is the main theme of the novel. However Colum,
the main character, has inner conflict as to his sexuality, and
the older Garry, from the Ministry of Conservation, is able to
assure Colum he isn't gay. Though a minor element in this worthwhile
story, the gay element is well handled while Garry and his lover Rick
are positively drawn.
Possibly Watersky might prove rather heavy going for
some readers. There are too many sub, yet
interlocking, plots and characters -- each of which would
make an interesting novel in itself. Brodie is nineteen and the
death of his girlfriend in a car accident for which he is responsible leaves
Brodie struggling to find meaning to his life. Helped by
Heather, a colleague and friend of his girl, Brodie succeeds in
passing through his despair. A secondary character,
Jeremy, is a confident and contented homosexual. In a
delightful interlude, Jeremy both outs himself to his parents
AND introduces his theatrical-director boy friend over family afternoon
tea. The parental response is standard, but for
Heather, Gerry and Brodie, Jeremy is always treated as a friend
who just happens to be gay.
A.J. Brandiosa becomes the bad boy of the Cyclone hockey team,
and learns that his best friend is gay, as he tries to cope with his
own sexuality during his senior year in high school.
Ostensibly Foolish Fire is published as an adult
'biographical' novel, but it is admirably suited for
inclusion here. Willard charts the coming-to-awareness
of his gay sexuality during his pubescent High School years.
Various friends help and hinder his self discovery.
There's the annual visit from cousin Bobby, a slowly
deepening of sexual feelings centred on his best, but
hetero, friend Jack, while the lovely Vanessa proves
to Guy that 'the love of a good woman' is not always
the cure for what is not just a passing phase.
Although there are some sharply centred sexual experiences recounted,
these are consistent both with a male teen's struggle to contextualise such
incident within his widening self-appreciation, and with what is
occurring in contemporary teenage literature. Well worth
considering for purchase.
What? A Sweet Valley High gay novel!
Yes, and the topic is sensitively, if rather
unrealistically, tackled. Everyone's desired boyfriend Tom just
doesn't seem to be able to hold a relationship with a girl until one of the
group, Enid, has her gay cousin Jake to stay. Jake and
Tom hit it off and Tom begins his journey into self discovery, with
his earlier 'problems' explained. There is little
judgement by the other characters, and that this popular
'cult' series should handle homosexuality and in
such a positive manner is a very great plus.
A realistic account of tough inner-city Australia centring on John
and Eric, two teenage friends, who find different fates by the
book's conclusion. Two gays appear as secondary characters
- one a peer, another a teacher. If this novel's
treatment is a guide, gays in that culture fare better than women.
Louis is thirteen, black, and lives in lower-class,
1960s New York. We follow his relationship with a
devoted but flawed mother and a step-father who despises him.
A growing attachment to an older peer, Ray Anthony
Robertson, draws Louis into the first stirrings of
homosexual longing. This is a novel about people on
the margins, mentally, sexually, economically
and racially. Wright highlights the ignorance most
youth in the 1960s had towards all aspects of sexuality.
Outside his lovingly supportive Jewish American family,
12 year old Jason's enabling mentor is Evan Carr, the
Headmaster of his Elementary School. Carr is the model
educator to his pupils, snd he encourages Jason's talented
violin playing. When the rumours about Carr's AIDS status
become reality, Jason's family stand by the teacher in
contrast to others. For Jason his Principal's terminal
status is devastating, not just for himself, but
for the school as a whole, and so he writes wonderfully
supportive letters to his teacher and friend. A richly
rewarding book about family love, growth towards maturity,
artistic strength, and the honouring of innate goodness.
For Std 3/4 upwards.