Thursday 3 October 2013

Q&A-Shelving of Queer Lit

Something I noticed while going round a few of my larger local libraries and some big bookshops is that LGBTQI fiction is often shelved separately in bookshops/libraries. How do you feel about this?

Suzanne: I think it's silly and I'm hoping that as LGBTQIA characters become more prevalent across genres, that these books will simply be shelved according to their genre (romance, SF/F, thriller etc.), instead of their main character's sexual identity.

Harriet: This separation is a microcosm of what we experience everyday.
The question is, should we separate ourselves because we are different in how we act/ behave/ dress/ feel/ etc?
If you want to become accepted by anyone, you should treat yourselves like you are not different from anyone. After all, aren't we all of the same species?
This separation is the no-mans land between people wanting to be different and separating themselves, and between people who truly just want to be seen as a normal, everyday human beings.
This is a separation we've created ourselves. We can also be the undoing of the this separation.

Daniel: On the one hand, I can understand why it’s a good thing to keep them separate. How else are our LGBTQ youth to find these books, if not given their own section? Otherwise, they’d have to slog through the blurbs of every book, and sometimes, even that isn’t enough to identify them.But at the same time, I keep thinking that the sexuality of the characters shouldn’t matter. Why should these books be segregated from the rest of fiction? Why can’t they have the same chance to be picked up by non-LGBTQ readers as other books? To me, it seems like this kind of labelling could be negative toward our community. Like black people having to drink from a different water fountain.In the past, I was opposed to separate shelving for exactly these reasons. Nowadays, thinking back to my adolescence, I can see why it makes sense the way it is. Overall though, I’m now firmly on the fence about the issue.

Illjolras: It makes it easier to find but it's also othering.

Charlie M: On the one hand I think it makes books discoverable for those who are specifically seeking them out, on the other it makes readers who aren't out feel anxious to be seen looking for the fiction and also makes the subject matter seem 'other.' I would prefer to see the books integrated into the main market on shelves.

James: I understand why you'd want a gender theory or gay theory section in a book shop. I also understand why you might have a gay erotica section, anything else should be in fiction, right? Most bookshops wouldn't segregate Hollinghurst, Maupin or Waters. I hope. Most YA fiction with LGBT* characters just goes in the YA section which is quite right.

Megan: It's wrong. It's making it seem like being LGBTQI means you're something 'other'. Everything should be mixed together, showing that everyone, no matter their sexuality, is equal and shouldn't feel alienated.

Caitlin: Wrong. Sorry, but wrong. It should be shelved with the other books of its genre. If it's YA, in the YA section. If its fantasy, in the fantasy section. We should not be encouraging segregation.

M: Ha! Usually next door to erotica? Let's go back to little boy blue and she girl pink, and maybe white/black, rich/poor - how low can we go!

Sean: I think that it's a way to catalog books. Everything is cataloged by it's nature at bookstores and libraries. You don't see cookbooks mixed in with romance novels.

Zoe: I hate it. HATE IT. Burn it with fire. Part of the wonder and joy of YA fiction and part of the reason it is so exciting to work in that category is that there are no boundaries, everything is welcome. It's YA fantasy or YA romance or YA thriller or YA historical. YA with QUILTBAG elements should be in there with all the rest, where all kinds of kids can pick it up without even meaning to and either see themselves or their friends or family reflected, or see characters of a kind they've never experienced before on the page and get an insight into how to empathise with people who aren't Just Like Them.

Ashley: I don't think there's anything wrong with it having its' own section. LGBT is its own genre that people may look for.

Rie: Separating the two is saying one is inherently different. This is wrong and can make LGBTQI teens feel even more ostracized. Although, it may be good to have displays so people can readily find books about the subject, but no it's not acceptable to have them separated.

Alfie: Whoever made that decision can go fuck themselves, the discriminatory twatwaffles. Sorry.

LH: I don't think I've actually seen a segregation of YA fiction in any of the libraries I've worked at.

Ria: it's both good and bad. Good, because having it in a spotlight can build some more awareness instead of letting it easily sink into the background. Bad, because it doesn't do anything to actually blend in with more mainstream fiction and leaves people with the impression that LGBTQIA characters and novels have to have a separate place and can't blend in. It's a double-edged sword.

Me: I think that part time displays work. It's like what I'm doing now-a feature to spotlight, display, and raise awareness for something. But I seriously hate it when it's a full time thing,  separate shelving, and so on. Partially because the YA stuff is shelved there (at least the LGB romance), along side all the erotica. I don't want to have to go through p4wn to find my representation.    I understand that it can help people looking for those things specifically, but nowadays, that's what the internet's for. Or, shock horror-ask a person for recommendations!  In my opinion, LGBT is not a genre. Genres are romance, or history, or fantasy, or sci-fi. Genres relate to the kind of story, not the characters.  Also, the beauty of non-segregated shelving is that you can just stumble across things. Easily find things that can open your mind. Segregation in any context, of anything, won't do that. 

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Thanks for taking time to read this!
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Nina xxx

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