SA Book Festival to Feature Panel on LGBTQ Young Adult Fiction

This article is adapted from a feature originally published in the San Antonio Current.
Additional reporting by James Courtney.

The San Antonio Book Festival, put on by the San Antonio Public Library Foundation and a host of sponsors, is now in its sixth year.

The one-day literary onslaught, scheduled this year on April 7, boasts a little something for readers of every age group and interest and features 90 national, regional, local and emerging authors at 73 sessions in 12 venues.

One panel discussion of particular interest to our community, Queer Eye: LGBTQ Characters in YA with Benjamin Alire Sáenz & Martin Wilson, features two authors who have written gay coming-of-age stories.

Young adult fiction has come a long way since pioneering books such as Nancy Garden’s Annie on My Mind (1982), Lesléa Newman’s Heather Has Two Mommies (1989) and Michael Willhoite’s Daddy’s Roommate (1991) arrived on shelves and created inevitable waves by placing positive stories of gay parenting and self-acceptance in the hands of young readers.

As LGBTQ characters, themes and subject matter infiltrated popular culture in the 1990s and 2000s, the American Library Association took notice and, in 2008, began assembling an annual Rainbow List — “a bibliography of current books for young readers from birth through age 18 dealing with the myriad of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or questioning issues.”

Martin Wilson, author of “What They Always Tell Us.” (Photo: Yasir Dhannoon)

Assembled with help from suggestions and a selection committee, the Rainbow List rightfully included Martin Wilson’s What They Always Tell Us in 2009 and Benjamin Alire Sáenz’s Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe in 2013. Dealing with gay coming-of-age from two distinct perspectives, both books were recognized by Lambda Literary, an organization founded in 1989.

Born in Alabama and based in New York, Wilson contributed essays, short stories and book reviews before publishing What They Always Tell Us, a debut novel following two high school-aged brothers — one gay, one straight — as they grapple with the looming complexities of adulthood.

Benjamin Alire Sáenz, author of “Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe.” (Photo: Cybele Knowles)

El Paso-based Sáenz, who didn’t come out until he was in his 50s, might’ve found adolescent courage in his own tale of Aristotle and Dante. Mexican-American teens named after legendary thinkers, Ari and Dante embody the fear, uncertainty and eagerness of the gay coming-of-age experience while also challenging racist rhetoric.

Wilson and Sáenz’s San Antonio Book Festival panel is moderated by Jeanette Honermann, an outdoors enthusiast and self-described “recovering bureaucrat.”

“Queer Eye: LGBTQ Characters in YA with Benjamin Alire Sáenz & Martin Wilson,” Saturday, April 7 from 3:15-4:15 p.m. with book signing at 4:15 p.m. at Whataburger Geektown HQ, 300 Augusta St., Use this link for complete information about all the scheduled events at the San Antonio Book Festival.

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