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I must be a grown-up. Today I actually thought, Kids. They know a little bit, maybe they know a lot, and they think they know everything.

Allow me to explain. (And please keep in mind that this is partly in response to a lot of ugliness about feminism I’ve been seeing around Tumblr, and partly in response to trying to marshal my thoughts on the new David Levithan novel, Two Boys Kissing. It is not a reasoned, quotable essay; it is a record of my own thoughts and feelings. It may veer into the tactlessly bitter.)

This afternoon, a couple of teenagers (not a teenage couple) came in and immediately started talking about the books, loudly and with the kind of indubitable, indignant authority sometimes displayed by the whip-smart young (and by the insecure intellectual male of any age). Well, the girl was doing the talking, anyway. She was clearly an authority on LGBTQ lit and declared herself the guy's Sassy Gay Friend.

Of The Song of Achilles: “The Greeks were way into homosexuality.” Of a number of YA books: “Stonewall” (that’s a British LGBTQ award). Of Cinder: “It was okay.” Of The Princess Bride: “That is the greatest book ever, and if you disagree, you are wrong.” On Teen Wolf: “If you are a lesbian, you will die! ‘Don’t be like this; you will die in a thousand horrible ways.’”

(This is a valid criticism: Danny is openly gay and the whole school’s darling, but the only lesbians were the Victim Couple at the beginning of Season 3, one of whom died horribly. It should be pointed out, though, that the role of Victim Couple is usually played by a straight pair, such as on Every Episode of Supernatural Ever. And the Victim Lesbians were adorable, right up until one of them got ritually murdered. Why did you have to murder one of the Adorable Victim Lesbians, show? They were so adorable.)

The girl approved of Will Grayson, Will Grayson and went into passionate, worshipful ecstasies on the subject of John Green. And, listening, I wanted to ask her: Have you liked any YA LGBTQ books by women? Any at all? How about Ash, Huntress, Pink, Parrotfish, Luna, If You Could Be Mine, Sister Mischief, Silhouette of a Sparrow?

Her companion said, mildly, “I’m a marketing guy” and bought The Fault in Our Stars, Ready Player One, and Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls.

And I thought, just a little bit, Teenagers. They get to know a little, and suddenly they think know everything.

But I also thought, They’re so much smarter about this stuff than we were at that age (“we” being the teenage peer group I grew up with in rural Northern California, myself included). And I think that’s partly because they have a literature we didn’t: a readily available literature that discusses sexuality and gender and race with teens as the focal point, teen experiences as the central narrative. They have a critical vocabulary and a hundred ways and places to talk about it that we didn’t have.

Don’t stop thinking. Don’t stop talking. Think more, talk more, listen more too.

(Ask yourself why all the authors you’re worshipping are men.

(Ask your Marketing Guy friend.)
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