The UK has no official censorship – but does that fact make us too complacent?
As part of Banned Book Week 2019, we explore the challenges facing LGBTQ+ Young Adult literature with Dean Atta, Fen Coles and Robin Stevens, chaired by Erica Gillingham. What are the invisible barriers to expression and publication? And how do editors, publishers, teachers, librarians, parents or even authors contribute to unofficial censorship around LGBTQ+ issues?
Dean Atta was shortlisted for the Polari First Book Prize for his debut poetry collection, I Am Nobody’s Nigger. He was named as one of the most influential LGBT people in the UK by the Independent on Sunday. The Black Flamingo is his debut novel, published by Hodder Children’s Books in August 2019.
Fen Coles is a co-director at Letterbox Library, a 36-year-old, not-for-profit children’s booksellers specialising in equality, diversity and inclusion. She also co-runs the Little Rebels Award for Radical Children’s Fiction. Fen has a PhD (2005) and an MA (1995) in Interdisciplinary Women’s Studies from the University of Warwick. Her PhD was in ‘The Representations of Lesbians in American Horror Film’.
Erica Gillingham is an academic, writer, and expert in LGBTQ+ children’s and young adult literature. She is currently a bookseller at Gay’s the Word, the oldest LGBT bookshop in the UK, and the Books Editor for DIVA magazine. Her PhD research was conducted at the National Centre for Research in Children’s Literature at the University of Roehampton where her thesis examined lesbian love stories in young adult literature and comics.
Robin Stevens is the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize-winning author of the Murder Most Unladylike Mysteries. Her schoolgirl detective duo, Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong, have won her legions of dedicated fans. In the seventh mystery, Death in the Spotlight, Daisy came out as gay and Robin has received overwhelming support for her sensitive and inclusive portrayal of Daisy’s journey since the first book. Top Marks for Murder is the eighth mystery, published by Puffin in August 2019.