Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

QUEER STORIES FOR KIDS: Trans Author and Legislator Lisa Bunker Shows It's Possible to Have Mainstream Children's Books with Positive LGBTQ Characters

Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

QUEER STORIES FOR KIDS: Trans Author and Legislator Lisa Bunker Shows It's Possible to Have Mainstream Children's Books with Positive LGBTQ Characters

Article excerpt

New Hampshire State Rep. and author Lisa Bunker's Felix Yz and Zenobia July, aimed at middle school students, are both heavily populated with strong LGBTQ characters.

Felix Yz (pronounced "Felix is") tells the story of a gay middle school boy fused with a hyper-intelligent fourth-dimensional alien (Yz). Zenobia July is about a trans girl living a new life in Maine with her lesbian aunts. Like Zenobia, Bunker is also trans, and while she directs her work at mainstream middle school readers, the LGBTQ inclusion is intentional.

"I very much on purpose made a whole bunch of characters LGBTQ," Bunker says. "There's a whole bunch of people in the world who don't realize that the queer community exists."

The former community radio program director notes that requests from her own son and librarians lamenting the dearth of middle school books with strong LGBTQ themes both drove Bunker's mission.

At her son's request, Bunker changed Felix from straight to gay. His crush on a classmate, Hector, became an important focus of the story. In Zenobia July, pages explode with LGBTQ characters who are both stable role models and a much-needed moral compass for others.

Despite the positive response to the book, Bunker laments that some critics complained that Felix Yz had apparently "exceeded some unspoken statutory limit" on the number of queer characters acceptable in middle school fiction.

The kernel of inspiration for Felix Yz came to Bunker as a teen. The idea was shelved until she took part in the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) challenge of writing a 50,000-word rough draft in one month. …

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