Pride and Prejudice: Seeking LGBTQ+ Titles to Diversify Collections

School librarians know that representation matters. Seeing themselves reflected in the books they read is empowering for LGBTQ+ youth. But it’s just as important for other students to hear LGBTQ+ voices amplified.



Undaunted by opposition, librarians seek new LGBTQ+ titles to diversify collections

Public school librarians nationwide are facing an unprecedented number of challenges to the books in their collections—and books by, for, and about LGBTQ+ individuals are among the most widely contested works. In fact, the top three most challenged books in 2021 were LGBTQ+ related.

Despite these concerns, librarians remain committed to giving students diverse choices that reflect their lived experiences. Adding LGBTQ+ content is fundamental to this goal. ALA reiterated the importance of presenting students with a wide range of voices and stories.

“We support individual parents’ choices concerning their child’s reading and believe that parents should not have those choices dictated by others,” said ALA President Patricia Wong in a press release. “Young people need to have access to a variety of books from which they can learn about different perspectives.”

She added: “Despite the organized effort to ban books, libraries remain ready to do what we always have—make knowledge and ideas available so people are free to choose what to read.”

An infographic from the American Association of School Librarians shows the importance of including LGBTQ+ titles in school library collections. About 8 percent of U.S. high school students identify as LGBTQ+, the infographic reveals—and these students are significantly more likely to feel safe and respected in schools with an LGBTQ+ inclusive approach to the curriculum.

School librarians know that representation matters. Seeing themselves reflected in the books they read is empowering for LGBTQ+ youth. But it’s just as important for other students to hear LGBTQ+ voices amplified.

As librarians seek to diversify their collections and ensure that all students feel seen and welcome, here are some notable new LGBTQ+ titles and resources to be aware of.

The WNET Group

Public media organization The WNET Group, which serves the New York metropolitan area, has developed a collection of free online materials called Understanding LGBTQ+ Identity: A Toolkit for Educators. Created in partnership with the New York City Department of Education, with funding from the New York City Council, the toolkit includes digital media resources to help teachers, administrators, guidance counselors, librarians, and other professionals understand and address the complex issues faced by LGBTQ+ students.

The collection includes short video segments from The WNET Group’s LGBTQ+ series "First Person," which delivers candid personal narratives about gender, sexuality, social norms, and identity development, that are intended for use in teacher professional development. It also includes a growing set of curriculum resources designed to integrate LGBTQ+ stories and perspectives into high school U.S. history and English classes.

“At The WNET Group, we do a lot to include underrepresented groups in U.S. history education,” says education director Sandy Goldberg. “LGBTQ+ history is American history. We want to make it easy for teachers who are interested in using this content in appropriate contexts, to bring LGBTQ+ narratives into their teaching.”

The curriculum materials are aligned with a curriculum guide developed by the New York City Department of Education’s Social Studies Department, called “Hidden Voices: LGBTQ+ Stories in United State History.” “Hidden Voices” explores important individuals who broke from expected norms of gender and/or sexuality and whose stories are often not included in the traditional record.

The curriculum materials include short videos introducing high school students to these figures from American history and literature, as well as questions for discussion and related primary sources for further exploration.

For instance, as educators teach about the U.S. Civil War, they might introduce students to Albert Cashier, an Irish immigrant who enlisted in the Union Army in 1862, fought in more than 40 battles, and retired as a war hero. Cashier lived his entire adult life as a man, but after he experienced a serious injury, it was revealed that he was identified as female at birth. When the government took away his pension after this discovery, his fellow soldiers wrote petitions on his behalf, ultimately convincing federal officials to restore Cashier’s pension.

The discussion questions prompt students to consider why women might try to pass as men to enlist in the armed services; what living as a man might have allowed Cashier to do that he couldn’t do as a woman at that time; whether the government acted ethically in taking away Cashier’s pension; and how Cashier’s story relates to contemporary efforts to reform the military. Students can also read the actual petitions from Cashier’s fellow soldiers that are preserved in the National Archives.

Other profile subjects include James Baldwin, Walt Whitman, the poet and activist Audre Lorde, and Pauli Murray, an American equal-rights leader. All the resources are aligned with state and national standards and can be integrated into Google Classroom.

“The guiding concept in creating these resources is that talking about LGBTQ+ figures fits into the regular curriculum,” says Daniel Hurewitz, an associate history professor at Hunter College who consulted on the project. “As a teacher, you don’t have to set aside special time to talk about LGBTQ+ narratives. You can integrate these narratives to enrich the content you’re already teaching.”


Yen Press

Based in New York City, Yen Press is an American publisher of manga, graphic novels, and light novels. Some of the most popular and best-selling manga titles being published today feature LGBTQ+ characters, says sales and marketing director Mark de Vera—and there are even subgenres devoted to LGBTQ+ relationships.

For instance, there is a category of manga called “boys’ love” featuring gay male relationships. An example of boys’ love manga aimed at young adults is the “Sasaki and Miyano” series by Shou Harusono, about two high school students who bond over their common interest in boys’ love manga. As their relationship develops, they discover they’re living in their own boys’ love story. The latest book in the series, Sasaki and Miyano Vol. 5, ISBN 9781975341909, was released in April 2022.

“Yuri manga” focuses on lesbian relationships. A new yuri manga series for teens launched in March 2022 with the publication of Catch These Hands!, Vol. 1 by murata, ISBN 9781975340056. It’s the story of two former female rivals, Takebe and Soramori, who got into many fights back in high school. When they meet up in the present day, they square off again—but Takebe is surprised by Soramori’s challenge: If Soramori wins, then Takebe must agree to date her. Volume 2 comes out in June 2022.

"The Executioner and Her Way of Life" by Mato Sato, illustrated by nilitsu, is a fantasy light novel series with a lesbian lead character. Menou is an executioner tasked with killing “strays”—beings with supernatural abilities who can hurt others. As Menou gets close to a stray named Akari to kill her, she ends up falling for Akari. The Executioner and Her Way of Life, Vol. 4, ISBN 9781975336455, will be released in May 2022.

James Lorimer & Company

Toronto-based publisher Lorimer has been publishing adult books since 1970 and children’s and teen’s books since 1975. “We have found enormous success with our approach,” says co-owner and President James Lorimer, “which is to look for realistic fiction that a wide range of kids can relate to.”


Of the 25 to 30 new titles that Lorimer publishes per year, about 15 to 20 of those are for children and teens, from early chapter books through young adult novels. The company’s “Real Love” collection of short, accessible YA novels is a good example of its focus on real, relatable stories for teens.

The “Real Love” books are romance stories that are “more reflective of today’s reality,” Lorimer says. They feature characters who are racially and culturally diverse, including LGBTQ+ youth trying to understand who they are as they navigate new and existing relationships. The books “open up reading to a lot of teens who aren’t natural readers,” Lorimer observes.

In a Heartbeat by Markus Harwood-Jones, ISBN 9781459416291, is a “fish out of water” story about a 17-year-old trans teen named Lucien who moves to a small town. While life is an adjustment at first, Lucien eventually finds a place in the community and discovers love in the end. “It’s about the trials and tribulations of finding acceptance and learning who you are,” says acquisitions editor Allister Thompson.

Walk This Way by Tony Correia, ISBN 9781459416338, is about 16-year-old Joshua, who’s passionate about drag. The trouble is, Joshua is dating a guy who isn’t into the drag scene at all and considers it a turnoff. The story follows Joshua as he finds not only his authentic self, but also someone from whom he doesn’t have to hide his identity.

The Love Code by Mette Bach, ISBN 9781459415867, is about a girl named Astrid who’s reeling because her girlfriend just dumped her—for a guy. Looking for an outlet, she joins her high school robotics club, where she finds friendship and a new romance.

All three books were published in the United States in January 2022. In telling three different stories about three very different LGBTQ+ youth, the books show there is a lot of diversity within the LGBTQ+ community, Thompson says. However, a common thread running through them is the confidence that comes from finding your place in the world and learning to accept who you are.

Running Press Kids

Based in Philadelphia, Running Press is part of Perseus Books Group. Its children’s publishing arm, Running Press Kids, publishes about 40 new titles per year across all age ranges and genres, from board books through titles aimed at young adults.

“Our aim is to be a publisher of joyful books that speak to a diverse range of people and promote inclusion,” says Editorial Director Julie Matysik. “We are a society of diverse people, and we should celebrate that.”


Cinderelliot: A Scrumptious Fairytale by Mark Ceilley and Rachel Smoka-Richardson, illustrated by Stephanie Laberis, May 2022, ISBN 9780762499595, is a retelling of the classic fairy tale for children ages 4–8. Cinderelliot loves to bake, and his fairy godfather helps him win a competition to become the new royal baker—and win the prince’s heart.

This picture book is “a complete normalization of another way of life,” Matysik says. “It shows that fairy tales can happen no matter who you are.”

If You’re a Drag Queen and You Know It by Lil Miss Hot Mess, illustrated by Olga de Dios, May 2022, ISBN 9780762475339, is a sing-along picture book to the tune of “If You’re Happy and You Know It” for children ages 4–8. Written by a founding board member of Drag Queen Story Hour, the book is a playful celebration of expressing your brightest and boldest self.

“Children love to dress up. It’s part of their imaginative play,” Matysik says. “Why aren’t we celebrating this for everyone?” She adds: “My hope is that we’re putting books out into the world that spark a little bit of joy in a child’s life.”



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