Gay. Black. YA.

During a presentation I made in early November, I was asked about YA books for working class, gay African American males. That was a tough one! I thought about Vast Fields of Ordinary by Nick Burd but that doesn’t really fit the bill (It’s upper class, New Adult) so I asked Craig Laurance Gidney and Malindo Lo for some help with this one.  Some have a gay Black male teen as the main character and in others, he’s a supporting character in these stories that cut across genres. These are the titles we came up with. Know of others? Please tell! I believe some very obvious titles are missing.

A Visitation of Spirits by Randal Keenan Sixteen-year old Horace Cross is plagued by issues that hover in his impressionable spirit and take shape in his mind as loathsome demons, culminating in one night of horrible and tragic transformation. In the face of Horace’s fate, his cousin Reverend James “Jimmy” Green questions the values of a community that nourishes a boy, places their hopes for salvation on him, only to deny him his destiny. Told in a montage of voices and memories, A Visitation of the Spirits just how richly populated a family’s present is with the spirits of the past and the future. (Grove Press, 1989)

Putting MakeUp on the Fat Boy by Bil Wright Carlos Duarte knows that he’s fabulous. He’s got a better sense of style than half the fashionistas in New York City, and he can definitely apply makeup like nobody’s business. He may only be in high school, but when he lands the job of his dreams–makeup artist at the FeatureFace counter in Macy’s–he’s sure that he’s finally on his way to great things. But the makeup artist world is competitive and cutthroat, and for Carlos to reach his dreams, he’ll have to believe in himself more than ever. (Simon and Schuster, 2011)

Sunday You Learn to Box by Bil Wright Fourteen-year-old Louis Bowman lives in a boxing ring—a housing project circa 1968—and is fighting “just to get to the end of the round.” Sharing the ring is his mother, Jeanette Stamps, a ferociously stubborn woman battling for her own dreams to be realized; his stepfather, Ben Stamps, the would-be savior, who becomes the sparring partner to them both; and the enigmatic Ray Anthony Robinson, the neighborhood “hoodlum” in purple polyester pants, who sets young Louis’s heart spinning with the first stirrings of sexual longing. (Simon and Schuster, 2000)

Bereft by Craig Laurance Gidney Rafael Fannen is a 14-year old boy who has won a minority scholarship to Our Lady of the Woods, an all male Catholic college preparatory school.  Winning the scholarship quickly turns into a nightmare, as Rafe has to deal with the racism of his fellow students. Things quickly spin out of control when he is targeted by a vicious bully. (2013, Tiny Satchel Press)

When Rafe decides to fight back and take control of his life, the lives of everyone around him will change. But none more than his own.

Dramarama by E. Lockhart

Two theater-mad, self-invented

fabulositon Ohio teenagers.

One boy, one girl.

One gay, one straight.

One black, one white.


It’s a season of hormones,

gold lame,

hissy fits,

jazz hands,

song and dance,

true love,

and unitards

that will determine their future

–and test their friendship. (Hyperions, 2008)

Proxy by Alex London Knox was born into one of the City’s wealthiest families. A Patron, he has everything a boy could possibly want—the latest tech, the coolest clothes, and a Proxy to take all his punishments. When Knox breaks a vase, Syd is beaten. When Knox plays a practical joke, Syd is forced to haul rocks. And when Knox crashes a car, killing one of his friends, Syd is branded and sentenced to death.Syd is a Proxy. His life is not his own.

Then again, neither is Knox’s. Knox and Syd have more in common than either would guess. So when Knox and Syd realize that the only way to beat the system is to save each other, they flee. Yet Knox’s father is no ordinary Patron, and Syd is no ordinary Proxy. The ensuing cross-country chase will uncover a secret society of rebels, test both boys’ resolve, and shine a blinding light onto a world of those who owe and those who pay. Some debts, it turns out, cannot be repaid.

A fast-paced, thrill-ride of novel full of non-stop action, heart-hammering suspense and true friendship—just as moving as it is exhilarating. Fans of Anthony Horowitz’s Alex Rider series, James Dashner’s Maze Runner, Patrick Ness’s Chaos Walking series, and Marie Lu’s Legend trilogy will be swept away by this story. (Philomel, 2014)

Zero Fade by Chris Terry

Zero Fade” chronicles eight days in the life of inner-city Richmond, Virginia, teen Kevin Phifer as he deals with wack haircuts, bullies, last year’s fly gear, his uncle Paul coming out as gay, and being grounded. (Curbside Splendor, 2013)

The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson The lush city of Palmares Tres shimmers with tech and tradition, with screaming gossip casters and practiced politicians. In the midst of this vibrant metropolis, June Costa creates art that’s sure to make her legendary. But her dreams of fame become something more when she meets Enki, the bold new Summer King. The whole city falls in love with him (including June’s best friend, Gil). But June sees more to Enki than amber eyes and a lethal samba. She sees a fellow artist. Together, June and Enki will stage explosive, dramatic projects that Palmares Tres. will never forget. They will add fuel to a growing rebellion against the government’s strict limits on new tech. And June will fall deeply, unfortunately in love with Enki. Because like all Summer Kings before him, Enki is destined to die. (Arthur A. Levine, 2013)

Five Miles to Empty by Harold Imes When Franklin Dell lived in Denver Colorado he and his group of friends sold candy in their middle school, fought gang violence and enjoyed a nearly peaceful seventh grade year. Franklin has always bragged about Winston-Salem, North Carolina was his dream home. He enjoyed the predominantly African American city and wants nothing more than to leave the thuggish, ruggish gangster ways of Denver behind. Upon arriving in Winston-Salem, he finds that the city is nothing how he imagined it being from his summer visits from Denver. He can’t get a long with anyone at Hanes Middle School except for Mike Lane, a fourteen year old bad ass who happens to be gay. As Franklin and Mike grow up, they find that friendship is important and help each other face discrimination, sexual trials, fatherhood and off to college they go. But when something happens to potentially end one of their lives and their friendship, will these young men be able to face their challenges together? (Abednego’s Free, 2007)

Finlander by Shawn Stewart Ruff In this acclaimed debut — winner of the Lambda Literary Award for Gay Debut Fiction 2008, and finalist for the Edmund White Award for Debut Fiction — the course of growing up in just-this-side-of-segregation 1970s Cincinnati, Ohio, seems predictable if uninspiring for Cliffy Douglas. That is, until the deadbeat father of this gifted 13-year-old black kid from the Findlater Gardens Projects appears out of nowhere. The real fun and trouble begin when Noah, a Jewish boy he meets in junior high school, takes him on a joyride to love and first lust. (Quote Editions, 2008)

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2 thoughts on “Gay. Black. YA.

  1. Not Black… but books a lot of people aren’t aware of:

    Chulito, Charles Rice- Gonzales – Latin American gay male and Street Dreams, Tama Wise ( this one is set in New Zealand, so they are Maori).


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