It’s OK to be Takei in YA

I feel like I ought to link to the current big YA brouhaha: Agent asks authors to “straighten” main character.

This is not the first time I’ve heard of something like this happening, and it’s appalling, to be sure.

I just want to add my data point to the debate, however: my book, in all its incarnations, has always had gay characters in it. There was even a transsexual in one version (who sadly is no more, not for being transsexual but because I was having to engage in painful, artificial plot-acrobatics to keep her).  I have never, ever, not ONCE been asked by my agent or either of my editors* to change anything about these characters.

Let’s call it out when it happens – that’s important! – but don’t imagine publishing is some kind of monolith. Good books will find a home. Keep writing, and don’t despair.

* Yes, I’ve been through two editors. I think I broke the first one.

Edited to add: Was the title of this post too obscure? Here’s what I was referencing:


6 thoughts on “It’s OK to be Takei in YA

  1. I find it interesting that you chose the word “appalling,” because I would have gone with “disappointing, but understandable.” I mean, I’m quite sure that most individual editors, and probably most agents, would agree that there should be more gay characters in YA, more minority characters, more characters who prefer celery sticks to Cheetos, you name it. But I also think that those same editors, when representing their large corporate entities, would prefer to let somebody else go first, when it comes to diversity. And those agents, knowing that their job is to sell the book to the large corporate entity, would like to maximize their chances of making said sale, which means being conservative. It all comes down to the money, which means not taking chances.

    (By the way, the first thing I thought when I read the post title was “It’s OK to be a septuagenarian Japanese-American actor with an amazing voice? Why wouldn’t it be?”)

    • Ha. In fact, the word I originally used was “disheartening”. I changed it to “appalling” because I was afraid that all the people who are utterly outraged by this turn of events would feel I wasn’t taking their outrage seriously enough. “Disheartened” is closer to how I feel.

      And if YOU didn’t get the Takei reference, it sounds like I have some linking to do…

      • Not sure what it means that I didn’t get the reference. I guess I’ve known who George Takei was for a long time before he became outspoken on gay rights, so I tend to think of him as “That guy from Star Trek with the really awesome voice.” So is it: a) good that I don’t believe that Takei’s orientation is his defining characteristic, b) bad that I didn’t remember his orientation, and thus deprived him of part of his identity, or c) society’s fault that Takei had to hide his orientation for so long, thus causing me to become a fan of his without considering his orientation one way or the other?

  2. I think “appalling” is more like it. Even if I understand the so-called practicality of the agent, I still expect better out of them. People can’t rise to the occasion if you don’t give them something to rise to.

  3. Pingback: And then I was taken out by a microorganism « Rachel Hartman

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