Jenkins, Christine A., and Michael Cart. Representing the Rainbow in Young Adult Literature: LGBTQ+ Content since 1969. Rowman & Littlefield, 2018. 293 pp. $45.00 pb. ISBN 9781442278066.
Christine A. Jenkins and Michael Cart, in the introduction to their new volume, Representing the Rainbow in Young Adult Literature, note that their goal is to "both to chart the evolution of the field and to identify titles that are remarkable either for their excellence or for their failures" (xiii). Their goal is admirable and also successful in many respects, but before assessing individual elements of the text and the various ways in which the authors engage with primary texts, one must understand the text whence Representing the Rainbow came to be.
Cart and Jenkins's The Heart Has Its Reasons was and continues to be a groundbreaking work in the arena of GLBTQ (changed to LGBTQ+ in Representing the Rainbow) young adult (YA) literature scholarship. Not only did their original text provide a comprehensive analysis of trends during each decade between 1969 and 2004, (1) but the inclusion of an annotated bibliography allowed children's and young adult (C/YA) literature scholars to easily discover texts and trends that had previously remained unknown or hidden within the overall output of YA novels. Jenkins and Cart, in their updated book Representing the Rainbow, highlight and discuss LGBTQ+ literature published after 1969 but additional chapters also cover new titles and trends since 2004, and even envision new trends to watch for in the coming years.
In this volume, Jenkins and Cart revisit their previous work and assertions and integrate the discoveries of contemporary conversations, including discussions around diversity, own voices authorship, (2) and the increasing representation of identities outside a gay/lesbian sexual dichotomy, particularly bisexuality, which was not an orientation typically included in earlier fiction for teen readers. In addition, Representing the Rainbow engages with the increased incorporation of trans, intersex, and gender fluid characters in youth literature, through additional chapters in the section called "Part II: Breaking Down the Barriers."
Working from Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop's Shadow and Substance: Afro-American Experience in Contemporary Children's Fiction, Jenkins and Cart reimagine Bishop's three categories of literature to create a simplified model of categorizing LGBTQ+ YA fiction. The chronological model describing fictional portrayals of African American characters consists of "social conscience" books (Bishop 17-32), "melting pot" books (33-48), and "culturally conscious" books (49-78). Within Representing the Rainbow, the categories become "homosexual visibility" (the coming out story), "gay assimilation" (inclusion of LGBTQ+ secondary characters and themes that are not the narrative focus),...