LGBTQIA+ Books Fly in the Face of Bans

More than 47 percent of the titles targeted [for book bans] represent LGBTQIA+ and BIPOC voices and experiences. Publishers are responding to book challenges by endorsing Right to Read acts, contributing book résumés to the Unite Against Book Bans initiative and continuing to prioritize titles representing LGBTQIA+ individuals and families.


“I feel like we can’t talk about LGBTQIA+ right now without talking about book bans and challenges,” says Laura Lutz, children’s school and library marketing manager for Hachette Book Group. Censorship attempts hit an all-time high in 2023, according to the American Library Association. And more than 47 percent of the titles targeted represent LGBTQIA+ and BIPOC voices and experiences—despite a recent Gallup poll showing the number of Americans identifying as LGBTQIA+ has doubled in the last decade and includes more than one in five Gen Z adults.

“During this time, as a publisher, I think the most important thing is having a pulse on the conversation, continuously having a listening ear, and continuously advocating,” says Allison Pond, chief marketing officer of Mad Cave Studios.

To that end, publishers are responding to book challenges by endorsing Right to Read acts, contributing book résumés to the Unite Against Book Bans initiative, and continuing to prioritize titles representing LGBTQIA+ individuals and families. In short, they’re doing anything but shying away from or dialing back LGBTQIA+ inclusion.

“It’s one of the most popular categories that we publish,” says Mark de Vera, sales and marketing director at Yen Press. “A lot of our titles are well-executed romance stories that happen to be told from the perspective of gay characters. And I think that’s why we see so many fans of all identities gravitating toward these books.”

Here, four publishers share new LGBTQIA+-inclusive titles to watch for.

Mad Cave Studios

Established in Miami in 2014, Mad Cave Studios publishes a range of comics and graphic novels across three imprints. “We really believe that every story should have diverse perspectives,” Chief Marketing Officer Allison Pond says. “All three of our imprints seamlessly weave LGBTQ+ characters into all our stories. And they don’t have to be the main character of the story to be included. I think that's also important.”


Two of Mad Cave’s new titles do, in fact, put LGBTQ+ characters center stage. In Navigating With You by Jeremy Whitley, illustrated by Cassio Ribeiro, August 2024, ISBN 9781952303609 (Maverick), two high school girls in North Carolina, Neesha and Gabby, form an unlikely friendship upon discovering their shared love for a manga series. When they learn that neither has been able to finish the series because they couldn’t find the final chapters, they hit the road together in search of the missing volumes. “It explores the intersectionality of Neesha and Gabby’s identities, including disability activism, the new kid experience, and adds depth and complexity to these topics,” Pond says. “There’s diverse representation, a beautiful romance, and a focus on friendship over a shared passion for reading and manga.”

King Arthur and the Knights of Justice by Joe Corallo, illustrated by Gaia Cardinali, April 2023, ISBN 9781960578600, is a licensed property and extension of the popular ’90s animated series from 41 Entertainment. In this update on the classic Arthurian legend, Merlin the wizard needs help to free King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table from the Cave of Glass, where they’ve been imprisoned by the evil sorceress Morgana. Seeing the names of American high schooler Arthur King and his football team, The Knights, as a sign, Merlin transports them from the present day to medieval England to become the Knights of Justice.

“Getting to revisit a show from my childhood and having the opportunity to update it through a queer lens while keeping true to the intention of the source material will always be a point of pride to me,” Corallo says. “Delving into Arthur King’s thoughts and feelings on what he and the Knights had gotten themselves into was not only a way to ground the story but ground me as a writer when I needed to focus on pushing the plot toward.”

Running Press Kids

Philadelphia-based Running Press Kids publishes about 40 titles a year, ranging from board books through young adult titles. “We are very concerned with making sure that readers see themselves and our very colorful world reflected in the books that we create,” says Editorial Director Julie Matysik.

This May, Running Press Kids is publishing three titles that stand out for their LGBTQIA+ representation. Just Like My Family, created by Ashley Molesso and Chess Needham, May 2024, ISBN 9780762484508, is the second picture book for readers ages 4–8 by queer stationary duo Ash + Chess. This book is a celebration of what it means to be a family, expanding beyond the nuclear unit and traditional family roles to include gender-neutral terms for family members. Breaking down gender expectations and stereotypes, one spread reads “I like to wear pearls just like my daddy.”

The inclusive messaging is vibrantly illustrated by bold, colorful artwork. “The lines are very fluid and wavy,” Matysik says, “which gives this really nice visual reinforcement of the concept that we live in a very fluid society with lots of different people.”

My Guncle and Me by Jonathan Merritt, illustrated by Joanna Carillo, May 2024, ISBN 9780762485611, celebrates the very special role “guncles,” or gay uncles, can play in their nieces’ and nephews’ lives. In this picture book for ages 4–8, a guncle helps his nephew navigate some big feelings he has around his identity. The little boy confesses that he doesn’t fit in and doesn’t think anyone understands him. “The guncle allows his nephew to be creative and express himself,” Matysik says. “He listens, and they have a very heartfelt conversation about embracing who they are, which sparks some confidence in the child.”

(Image #4 – My Family cover. Upload at 250 to right of paragraph above)

In We Mostly Come Out at Night: 15 Queer Tales of Monsters, Angels & Other Creatures, May 2024, ISBN 9780762483198, editor Rob Costello has collected short stories from queer- or trans-identifying writers from genres including speculative fiction, horror, and romance. The common thread through all the stories in this anthology is that they address the question, “what does it mean to be a monster?” “This book takes on monster story tropes and turns them on their heads,” Matysik says. “There are Mothman sirens, a Bloody Mary story, and other creatures, angels, and things from folklore and mythology. It gives the teen reader transformative stories about various monsters.”

Yen Press

One of the leading publishers of Japanese manga, comics, and graphic novels in the U.S., Yen Press titles have long featured strong LGBTQIA+ representation. “Manga and Korean comics, as well as Japanese light novels, have a lot of this kind of content,” Sales and Marketing Director Mark de Vera says. “And in recent years, they’ve become some of the most popular titles in the categories that we represent.”

Yen Press will release its debut boys’ love Korean comic series this May, for readers ages 13 and up. Tied to You, Vol. 1 by Chelliance, May 2024, ISBN 9798400901591, is the story of a boy who develops a crush on his friend, as well as insomnia. Through researching online, he discovers his sleeping problems are linked to his crush. Based on an Eastern spiritual concept of a red thread tying soulmates together, he learns he can’t sleep well unless he’s near his soulmate. Over time, he realizes his soulmate is not his crush, but rather his crush’s older brother, creating a complicated love triangle.

In She Loves to Cook, and She Loves to Eat by Sakaomi Yuzaki, October 2022, ISBN 9781975348823, a relationship between two women blossoms over the food they share. Nomoto loves to cook but always makes more than she can eat. So, she invites her neighbor Kasuga to join her, and the two begin to get to know each other. “When I read the first volume, I wasn’t even sure if this was a girls’ love title,” de Vera says. “It’s one of the best stories of adult friendship that I’ve seen. I know how hard it can be to meet new people as an adult.”

The two women do eventually become a couple. And while the characters are adults, de Vera says the story is appropriate for younger readers ages 16 and up. “Because of the portrayals of friendship and the themes addressed,” he says, “I think it tells the story of a very universal human experience.”

Hachette Book Group

The ever-growing Hachette Book Group’s dozens of imprints allow for ample diversity on HBG lists; in fact, it’s part of the company’s annual goals. “We have a really robust LGBTQIA representation in the books that we’re publishing,” says Laura Lutz, children’s school and library marketing manager—including the work of prolific author Nicole Melleby. “We say in-house that she’s the Judy Blume of LGBTQ literature,” Lutz says.

Winnie Nash Is Not Your Sunshine by Nicole Melleby, April 2024, ISBN 9781643753133 (Algonquin Young Readers), for readers ages 9–12, is the story of a middle schooler who’s always known she’s gay and has very supportive parents. But spending the summer with her less-than-accepting grandmother on the Jersey Shore basically means going back into the closet. “It’s a queer story,” Lutz says, “but it’s relatable from any sort of female-identifying perspective. She wants to be the perfect daughter even as she feels like the world’s tightening around her.”

Another title from Melleby, The House on Sunrise Lagoon: Halfway to Harbor, May 2024, ISBN 9781643753126 (Algonquin Young Readers), is the standalone third book in the middle grade series about a blended family with two moms on the Jersey Shore. Each book focuses on a different kid. The main character of the third book, Harbor, is an aspiring WNBA player who spends every summer with her dad going to basketball camp. This summer, she develops a crush on a girl and then gets invited to stay and play on an elite basketball team. Will she stay or go home? “Being gay isn’t the issue,” Lutz says. “It’s the family relationships and how to talk about them.”

The ABCs of Queer History by Dr. Seema Yasmin, illustrated by Lucy Kirk, April 2024, ISBN 9781523518548 (Workman Kids), is the second in the “ABCs of” series. A picture book for readers ages 5 and up, Queer History features alphabetized inspirational messages, such as A is for ally and B is for belonging, which are supplemented with history. “Dr. Yasmin does a really nice job of mixing the iconic people in queer history with contemporary names of activists and important voices we know in queer history now,” Lutz says. “Like Harvey Milk, Marsha Johnson, but then also Janelle Monáe, Lil Nas X, RuPaul.”



Be the first reader to comment.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing