Reviewing Bad LGBT Books: A Conflict
I seek out queer lit.
And I feel like it’s becoming a more common thing.
Hearing teens in bookshops get over excited by the LGBT section in a bookshop warms my heart. I barely understood myself, let alone what LGBT meant, when I was that age. The world is a better place with queer lit in it.
Whenever I read a book, I’m either reading it because I know it has a queer romance or characters, or because I’m hoping it does. Granted, a book without queer themes does not make a book bad, and some of my favourite books don’t include queer themes. But at the same, it’s tough reading a book where queer people just don’t exist. My mind can’t fathom writing a story where queer people have just been omitted from the Earth. I guess, when you’re not a part of the community, don’t absorb news surrounding LGBT issues, and don’t have friendship/family circles including LGBT people, it’s very easy to say ‘out of sight, out of mind’.
So, I seek it out. I praise it and I boost it on social media. Because there’s always that niggling feeling in the back of my mind if I don’t:
Publishers won’t continue to publish what doesn’t sell.
It’s a sad thought, one that often falls on the fact that the book is queer, and not other potential problems with a book. Which… is a problem that I’m having with queer lit right now.
Like with all genres/sub-genres, I have read both good and bad books. Those bad books don’t make a whole genre bad either.
But recently, I have noticed that a lot of queer lit depends almost entirely on the ‘queer’ aspect of the book to hold the rest of the book up to a certain standard. And I’m worried that it will begin to affect the rest of queer lit and whether or not publishers continue to publish it.
I always make sure to not hold queer lit up to a higher standard than books without queer themes. But it’s to the point where I’m letting bad queer lit books slide because hey, it’s queer!
I’m stuck in this conflict between wanting good queer lit but not wanting to poorly review bad queer lit.
Because let’s be honest, our pool is shallow and small. We don’t have a lot to choose from. Maybe 2 starring queer lit books is counter productive? But, I’m trying to understand what I’m interpreting and what I’m seeing is becoming a trend when publishing queer lit. And that’s queer lit where the only good thing about it is queer.
I have read so many queer lit books where, if the book wasn’t queer, I would have stopped reading. The fact that it was queer is the only thing that’s keeping me going. Is that…good storytelling?
And it’s like the author had the idea of it being queer before knowing what the plot was. It’s like they thought the queer aspect of the book is enough to get it published and praised by us; queer people who are legit thirsty for more queer content.
But in my opinion, that really isn’t fair.
Fans of queer lit want queer lit, but we want it to be good too. And I’m concerned that bad queer lit will be at the fault of the readers rating it bad rather than the book itself. Like I said, publishers will not publish what doesn’t sell.
“Oh, all these queer lit books are doing badly. We won’t publish them.”
It’s frustrating, but it’s often how it works.
The onus is always on that. The book is bad because it’s gay. The film did badly because it stars black people. This show sucks because it focuses on women. And yes, people do believe that!
Including queer characters/romance isn’t supposed to make a bad book good; it’s supposed to make a good book better. The book already needs to stand on its own without all the responsibility being on the queer characters/romance to make it sell-able. Because unfortunately, it will be the fault of the queer aspect if it doesn’t sell well.
I’m going to continue to seek out queer lit. I’m also going to rate a book poorly if it’s bad. Those things should not be mutually exclusive. Boosting queer voices and queer narratives is still super important, and I know that if we continue to do so, queer lit will become a big enough pool where some queer lit can suck and nobody will blame it on the genre.
After all, there’s some pretty bad hetero romance out there, and no one ever thought about whether or not they should stop publishing that.
(The pictures in this post are not examples of bad queer lit! Just some of my fave LGBT books!)
Tell me some LGBTQ+ novels that you love that haven’t nearly got as much publicity as it should have!