He Called Me Beautiful Ranked in US Historical Fiction
I'm super proud today. He Called Me Beautiful has always sat high in YA 20th Century US Historical Fiction rankings (usually in the top ten, and it's hit best seller once or twice), and it's always the first LGBTQIA book on the list. That's something that's really important to me, but hey — 20th century, right? Today I clicked over to US History in general. HCMBeautiful might be sitting at #23, but it remains THE FIRST LGBTQIA book in the YA US History category. I'm really proud of that. But I'm also crying.
Think about how little this book deserves this position, and weep.
Think about the sheer erasure of lives beforehand — soldiers in love during all the conflicts of all the American wars prior to 1998. Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas — Gertrude Stein, the amazing cultural critic, with an unerring eye for artistic genius, who famously said that the twentieth century began with the death of Queen Victoria. Alexander Hamilton and John Laurens, certainly lovers: Hamilton's family destroyed letters between them. But go down into the real world. Think of all the silent love women had for one another that was never written down. Think of that love carried to the grave, the men and women too frightened to live in the open, who perhaps didn't even have a name for their love that wasn't tainted.
He Called Me Beautiful should not be the first LGBTQIA book on that list. LGBTQIA history in America didn't start with the events referred to there. It didn't even start with Stonewall. It started in those quiet pockets of love unwritten.
Where are those stories?
Contemporary gay fiction includes them. B.A. Tortuga, for example, is known for her stellar cowboy romances, but they aren't for teens. Where are those stories written down for our younger generations to read, and when will we write them?
(PS: Before you name A Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue, it's not American).