Hear Us Out!: Lesbian and Gay Stories of Struggle, Progress, and Hope, 1950 to the Present by Nancy Garden

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Hear Us Out!: Lesbian and Gay Stories of Struggle, Progress, and Hope, 1950 to the Present by Nancy Garden ISBN: 0374317593, Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR); First Edition edition (April 17, 2007)

Plot Summary:

Hear Us Out! explores the gay teen experience in a series of essays that arranged by decade. She begins in the fifties when she was a teenager and just beginning to realize that she was lesbian. At the time, homosexuality was considered to be a pathological condition.  Her book goes on to list the struggles of each decade from Stonewall to Harvey Milk to the formation of Gay-Straight Alliance clubs on campuses across the nation. Each decade is followed by two short stories that explore the LGBT teen experience in that decade.

Critical Evaluation: 

Hear Us Out! by Nancy Garden is unlike other material that a curious teen may find on the library shelf that deals with the gay experience in America. Instead of the usual “opposing opinions” type material that will dryly list the facts, Garden is passionate about the subject and as a gay rights activist, was an eyewitness to events as they unfolded. The book is also written on a personal level as one might communicate to a friend, rather than in an academic style. GLBT teens or anyone who is simply curious about the gay experience will find this to be a valuable resource. The fictional stories that follow the essays illustrate the events talked about in the essay. They are full of stories of forbidden love, hidden passions, and at times feel a little clichéd, but the reader does not have to read these in order to enjoy the essays.

Information about the author:

Garden was born 1938 in Boston. She earned a B.F.A. (1961) and an M.A. (1962) from Columbia University School of Dramatic Arts. Through school and for several years after college, Garden worked in theater, supplementing the work with odd jobs in offices. She later taught school and worked as an editor of children’s literature. She has also written non-fiction, mystery and fantasy for children and young adults.

Garden is best known for Annie on My Mind, published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in 1982. It was critically acclaimed but attracted controversy because of its lesbian characters, Annie and Liza who fall in love. It was one of the first teen novels to feature lesbian characters in a positive light.[3] In 1993, it was banned by the Kansas City school system and burnt in demonstrations. It was returned to shelves only after a First Amendment lawsuit by students in 1995. It is #48 on the American Library Association’s list of 100 Most Frequently Banned or Challenged Books, 1990-2000.[4]

Beside the Edwards Award, Garden received the Robert B. Downs Award for Intellectual Freedom in 2001 from the University of Illinois Graduate School of Library and Information Science.[5][6]

Garden’s reviews of young adult titles have appeared in the Lambda Literary Foundation‘s Lambda Book Report.

She currently divides her time between Massachusetts and Maine, with partner Sandy Scott, their golden retriever, Loki, and their cats.[7]

Reader’s Annotation:

Drawing from her own experience and research, YA author, Nancy Garden, reveals the history of the gay rights movement through a series of essays that each covers one decade, from the fifties to the new millennium. Interspersed between these chapters are short stories about the LGBT teen experience in each decade.

Genre:

Nonfiction. Short stories.

Curriculum Ties:

Civil rights.

Booktalking Ideas:

Things were very different for gay teens in the 1950’s than they are today.

Reading Level/Interest Age:

Grades 9 and up

Challenge Issues:

Sexual situations, LGBTQ issues, suicide.

I would make sure that all material was purchased in accordance with my library’s collection development policy and make sure to keep a file containing positive reviews for books that I thought might be challenged. In the event of a challenge, I would actively listen to the parent’s concern and ask if they had read the book. I would then explain why the book had been added to the collection and provide with the reviews and a copy of the collection development policy. I would affirm that they are within their rights to limit what their children read, but that other parents also have the right to determine what their children can read. If all else failed, I would provide the parent with a reconsideration form.

Reasons for inclusion:

I thought that this would be helpful to any LGBTQ is curious about the gay civil rights movement and what it was like to be a gay teen years ago.

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