Yellow highlighter circling the words During middle school, your child and their friends will more actively start exploring their sexuality. They may identify as heterosexual, pansexual, bisexual, asexual, gay, lesbian, or queer. One way to help them figure out their identity and/or to support friends who are going through a similar process is to expose them to queer characters in books. The following is a list of excellent middle grades books that feature diverse characters that identify as LGBTQIA+.

 

Hurricane Child, by Kacen Callender. Twelve-year-old Caroline Murphy was born during a hurricane. Maybe that’s why she has such bad luck: her mother left her, her classmates tease her, and her father barely speaks to her. All that changes when a new student, Kalinda, arrives at Caroline’s school in the Virgin Islands. Together the two girls chase ghosts, share secrets, and explore their relationship – which Caroline soon realizes feels more like a romance than a friendship.

Young gay couple holding hands

All Boys Aren’t Blue, by George M. Johnson. In this series of essays, Black queer journalist and activist George M. Johnson traces his journey of self-discovery. Beginning with his elementary school years, when he always felt different from other kids, and extending into adulthood, this frank, highly readable memoir is an affirmation for BIPOC queer kids everywhere.

The Best At It, by Maulik Pancholy. Rahul Kapoor is an Indian American middle schooler who lives in the Midwest with his quirky parents and his best friend Chelsea. In his quest to find a place for himself, he decides to follow his grandfather’s advice to “find one thing and become the best at it.” But things get complicated when Rahul realizes that is neurodiverse and gay. How can he manage all of his different identities and still find himself? A wonderful, intersectional take on finding out – and accepting – who you are.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secret of the Universe, by Benjamin Alire Saenz. Aristotle’s brother is in prison, and Aristotle is filled with rage. Dante is a poet who only wants to lose himself in books. Together, the two teens navigate an often unfair world – and, in the process, learn a lot about friendship and love.

You Should See Me In a Crown, by Leah Johnson. Liz Lightly is Black, which means she’s never really fit into her midwestern, prom obsessed town. But when her college financial aid package falls through, and she needs a new way to fund her education, she decides to run for prom queen. In the process, she unexpectedly falls in love – with a girl. A heartwarming page turner of a book about achievement, race, and romance.

The Henna Wars, by Adiba Jaigirdar. Nishant’s Muslim family is having a hard time coming to terms with the fact that she is gay. Normally, they deal with the issue by not dealing with it at all: her parents are fine to pretend that Nishant is actually straight. All that changes when Nishant’s childhood friend Flavia suddenly enrolls at her school. Nishant falls head over heels for Flavia – until Flavia uses some unsavory techniques to try and win the school business plan competition. Nishant learns how to fight for her heart, her beliefs, and herself, all while falling in love.

 

Mathangi Subramanian, Ed.D., believes stories have the power to change the world. Her middle grades book, Dear Mrs. Naidu, won the South Asia Book Award, and her picture book A Butterfly Smile was inducted into the Nobel Museum by Laureate Dr. Esther Duflo. Her novel A People’s History of Heaven was longlisted for the PEN/Faulkner award, a finalist for the LAMBDA literary award, and named a Skipping Stones Honors Book. A former public school teacher, senior policy analyst at the New York City Council, and Fulbright Scholar, she currently consults for Sesame Workshop. She holds a doctorate in education from Columbia Teachers College.