Gender and sexuality are fundamentally queer formations, particularly when they intersect with adolescence: a state of being that also resists discourses of “normality.” In this seminar, we discuss the various ways young adult literature in the late twentieth- and early twenty-first century U.S. participates in constructing and queering categories like “feminine” and “masculine,” “female” and “male.” We also examine the literary constructions of sex and sexuality, reading texts that depict LGBTQ identities, bodies, and desire between teenagers. By looking closely at these books, exploring their social contexts, and reading scholarship that uses feminist and queer theory, students in this course discover that literary representations of gender, sexuality, and adolescence both reflect and shape sociocultural perceptions and performances of these categories.


Some questions we consider include the following:


  • How do we define the term “queer”?

  • How are gender and sexuality separate categories; and despite their separateness, in what ways do these categories inform one another?

  • What do depictions of queer teens in YA literature tell us about adult anxieties?

  • Why might it be important to consider the ways race and class affect narratives that foreground queerness?


Assigned books:


John Donovan, I’ll Get There. It Better Be Worth the Trip. 

Anna-Marie McLemore, When the Moon Was Ours
Meredith Russo, If I Was Your Girl 

Adam Silvera, More Happy Than Not

April Sinclair, Coffee Will Make You Black 

Andrew Smith, Grasshopper Jungle 

Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki, Skim 



Young Adult Literature

Kim reflects, in Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki's graphic novel Skim (2008)