The list, which was last revised in 2008, contains more than 7,800 books categorized by grades K-2, 3-5, middle school (6-8), and high school (9-12). This is the first time the state has included books that won the Stonewall Book Awards, a gay-centered award for literature celebrating the homosexual lifestyle.
“We have titles in the list for the LGBT community for multiple recommended grade levels,” Roxane Fidler, the CDE’s education programs consultant, told the San Jose Mercury News. “There are books from the Stonewall Book Awards, which has not previously been on the list.”
Fidler told the Mercury News that there were “no controversial books” on the list. But the database itself would seem to disagree.
Browsing through the “Gender and Sexuality” category on the reading list website, the most frequent warning in the book summaries reads, “This book addresses controversial issues of interest to many adolescents and includes scenes and language that reflect mature content.”
Below is a sampling of gay-friendly titles recommended for children in California schools, followed by their descriptions, taken directly from the California Reading List website:
- Huntress, by Malindo Lo. “Kaede and Taisin are part of a group on an important journey to the city of the Fairy Queen. Their homeland is slowly dying, and nature is wreaking havoc on the villagers. The members of this party are dying and leave Kaede and Taisin to fulfill the mission alone. But their friendship begins to develop as their dependence on one another turns to love. This adventure novel features strong female characters who are also lesbian.”
- Ash, by Malinda Lo. “This Cinderella retelling details the story of Ash, who lives under the control of her evil stepmother and longs to escape. Ash finds freedom only through reading and by wishing a fairy will come one day to save her and take her away. This wish comes true, and she is taken to a new world where she falls in love with Kaisa, a huntress. Their friendship grows, and Ash begins to think everything will work out. But there are always obstacles. This well-told fantasy story will appeal to teens who are looking for strong female characters and especially to those looking for lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) characters.”
- Freak Show, by James St. James. “Teen drag queen Billy Bloom transfers to a conservative prep school where he knows life will not be easy. In this funny and poignant tale of his adjustment to the school where he faces torment each day, Billy decides to run for homecoming queen as a form of protest. The story will appeal to those who have faced their own personal dilemmas at school.”
- I am J, by Cris Beam. “J, born Jennifer, finally decides to accept the fact that he was born into the wrong body: a female one. J originally tried to hide the physical changes of puberty, ran away from home, and entered a high school for gay and transgendered students. The author articulates J’s struggles to find his place in the world and to find love and friendship where some say it cannot be found, successfully conveying the emotions and difficulties experienced by transgendered teens.”
- Boy Meets Boy, by David Levithan. “This unique novel tells the story of Paul, who lives in a town where homosexuality is accepted, and of Tony, who lives in a neighboring town where religious beliefs are strict and being gay is not embraced. Rumors begin to fly about Paul and Tony, and Tony’s parents are the most concerned. Eventually the friendship is forbidden. But things get more complicated as Paul falls for Noah, and the confusion of adolescent love and friendship comes to a climax. This coming-of-age novel depicts the emotional experiences of teenagers while also tackling issues of parental control and how communities influence the ways in which people define themselves.”
- Totally Joe, by James Howe. “Funny and introspective, Joe is a gay seventh-grader whose teacher gives him the assignment to write an ‘alphabiography’—his life story, from A to Z. Through the assignment, Joe explores issues of friendship, family, school, and being bullied. He faces his sexuality, questioning gender expectations and traditional roles as he realizes he is gay. Because Joe is different, he is tormented by Kevin, who calls Joe disparaging names and falsely accuses him of kissing a jock named Colin, who is not yet ready to come out as gay.”
- The Accidental Adventures of India McAllister, by Charlotte Agell. “India McAllister is a fourth-grader who was born in China and adopted by American parents. Her greatest hope is to have amazing adventures, and her daily life provides some. Her best friend, Colby, may be interested in her enemy, Amanda. At the same time, India is sorting out her feelings about her parents’ divorce and her father’s male partner, Richard. Told in the first person, this gentle story has occasional black-line drawings accompanied by India’s commentary.”
- The Bermudez Triangle, by Maureen Johnson. “Since childhood, the Bermudez Triangle consisted of Nina, Avery, and Melanie. But when Nina leaves for a summer-school program, all three experience changes in the way they view each other. The three teenage girls explore the meaning of friendship and love while trying to keep long-distance relationships intact. Avery and Melanie begin to understand their homosexuality, and Nina feels left out. This novel illustrates the stresses, jealousy, and anxiety of teenage girls trying to understand themselves as they mature.”
Not everyone is comfortable with the updated recommendations.
Sandy Rios, a nationally syndicated radio talk show host for AFR Talk, told the San Jose Mercury News, “The reading lists are very overtly propagating a point of view that is at odds with most American parents. Leftist educators are advocates of everything from socialism to sexual anarchy.”
“It’s very base; it’s raping the innocence of our children,” she said.