- The Heart Has Its Reasons: Young Adult Literaturewith Gay/Lesbian/Queer Content, 1969–2004
To begin this review by stating that The Heart Has Its Reasons is both groundbreaking and long overdue in the study of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer or questioning (GLBTQ) young adult literature feels cliché, but in actuality, it understates the potential impact of this analysis. For too long the conference presentations and publications by scholars of GLBTQ literature have been preoccupied with providing historical analyses of the development of the genre, identifying titles, and debating "whether . . . negative depictions are preferable to invisibility" (84). This is not a criticism: there has been a dearth of scholarship surrounding this literature to serve as reference points for things as fundamental as terminology, let alone a system for classification or critical evaluation. The Heart Has Its Reasons provides GLBTQ literature scholars with a refreshing treatment of the subject and those unfamiliar with this genre with a detailed, reader-friendly chronology and beginning analysis. For many readers, there will be a number of surprises—I, for one, hadn't realized that there have traditionally been three times as many young adult books published about gay men as there have been about lesbian women. Regardless of one's experience with GLBTQ literature, there will be plenty to ponder: for example, the authors vacillate between the terms "sexual orientation" (such as on pages xvi and 171) and "sexual identity" (31), which reflects the current shift (Levithan 2004) in the positioning of GLBTQ literature alongside populations traditionally included in "multicultural" literature as an aspect of identity as opposed to an issue. The Heart Has Its Reasons is not the final word in the study of GLBTQ literature, but it is certainly a giant leap forward and a solid starting point from which to launch more critical analyses of the GLBTQ titles available for young adults.
The title, The Heart Has Its Reasons, is an allusion to Blaise Pascal's existential musing in Les Pensées, "Le cœur a ses raisons que la raison ne connaît point," or, "The heart has its reasons that Reason knows not of," but it more directly fits with Michael Cart's argument in his article for Booklist in 1999:
It is not enough to comprehend the homosexual experience on a cognitive level; we must develop an empathetic understanding as well. Don't forget: the heart has its reasons that the mind cannot know. And if we are to insure that love—not ignorance and its evil twin hatred—wins, then it's imperative that good books on the homosexual experience be read not only by gay and lesbian teens but also by their heterosexual peers (1811).
Cart and Jenkins succinctly demonstrate in this study that indeed there is much that the mind and heart can know about GLBTQ people (and the [End Page 200] literature written for and about them). Although Cart and Jenkins come at this work from different perspectives (Cart as a literary journalist and editor, and Jenkins as a university professor in library and information sciences), their dedication and passion for the subject is apparent. Although they agree on much, one of the strengths of this book is that they allow themselves the freedom to express opposing opinions on pieces of literature. In their discussion of A. M. Holmes's novel Jack, Cart finds the protagonist "likeable, even charming," while Jenkins sees him as "an irritating loudmouth" (44). Whereas a chronologically organized historical study could easily become mundane, the authors' commentary, asides, and wit make the book a comfortable, often humorous, read. A case in point is the authors' analysis of Alice Childress's Those Other People, a novel about a deeply closeted gay man who is appalled by the prevalence of homosexuals at his college, "so he moves to New York, instead, (there's no homosexuality there!) and gets a gay roommate . . ." (61).
Adapting the frame developed by Rudine Sims [Bishop] in Shadow and Substance, Sims's seminal 1982 study of...