Hello! My name is Ryan Dillon and The Open Book Chat is my brainchild. I am an author, coach, speaker, storyteller, and parent educator. As a Sex Educator, I teach with a non-profit based in Austin, Texas called UN|HUSHED. I specialize in teaching middle and high school students. I am also a mental health therapist licensed in the state of Texas. Above everything else, I am a book lover, nerd, and proud geek. I believe that books have the power to make lasting impacts and foster positive changes in people’s lives. This is why I incorporate books into just about everything that I do. As a coach and therapist, I use books to help clients make the changes they want. As an educator, I use books to educate and help parents and caring adults grow and become the best possible support system they can be. This is why I created The Open Book Chat. Check out our upcoming chats for workshops for parents and caring adults.
Books are Powerful Tools
On special occasions, like the holidays, books are an awesome gift idea! But, you don’t want to pull a random book off of the shelf, especially, if it is intended for your queer child. Books are powerful tools, more powerful than we give them credit for.
Think about it.
Books define generations, like Harry Potter. Scare governments, To Kill a Mockingbird….and Harry Potter. Send societies into the great unknown, 1984….and Harry Potter.
Books change lives. Whether we expect them to or not, books impact us.
An important change we are seeing in media, including books, is the push for diverse representation in primary roles, not just within the storyline of the book. What do I mean by this?
You may be able to find a queer character in a book with a cis-gender and heterosexual lead, but more often than not that, the queer character is viewed as a sidekick and mocked for their identity. It’s crucial for members of all marginalized communities, like the queer community, to see themselves represented in a strong and positive light.
Representation has a known and documented effect on the personality development of humans. In other words, seeing yourself in the media you engage with can affect components of development such as self-worth, confidence, trust in people, and much more.
This is why I’m so passionate about books! Over the years, I have seen books make an enormous and powerful effect on queer youths’ mental health. Through reading, they gain knowledge and exposure to new and affirming perspectives. As you can see, having access to books with characters that represent you as a person is extremely important!
Accessing Diverse Books
This isn’t to say that people can’t enjoy a book that has characters different from themselves. I’m a queer person, and I love the Harry Potter series–Slytherin Pride! However, we need greater access to books with non-white, non-cisgender, and non-heterosexual characters, which can be found just about anywhere and everywhere.
It can be extremely difficult to access diverse books. Factors such as where teens live, their local library selection (or lack thereof), and financial ability can greatly impact access. Thus, if you are a parent, educator, or supporter, I encourage you to advocate for diverse representation in the school and public libraries in your area. Talk to librarians, counselors, and teachers, explore We Need Diverse Books, write letters, go to school board meetings, and so on. My guess is that your teen might even want to join you!
And when you get the opportunity to gift them a book (like the holiday season!), I encourage you to buy queer-related books for your queer youth!
My Favorite Queer-Related YA Books
When buying books for your teenager, you can ask if they have books in mind! If not, encourage them to explore and send you a list.
Below I give you some of my favorite queer-related young adult books. This definitely is not the full list, so I invite you to explore the book list on my website for even more options. Plus, my book list can be a fun starting point for your teen or young adult, too!