iSchool colloquia with Dr. Robert Bittner: What does it matter who’s reading those books?

Join us for a colloquium talk with Dr. Robert Bittner from UBC iSchool.


What does it matter who’s reading those books? Why readership and representation matter when it comes to LGBTQ youth

Within the world of children’s literature and library studies, much weight is placed on Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop’s concept of “windows, mirrors, and sliding glass doors,” and it is true that many young people wish to see themselves in the books that they read. However, many times inclusion of homophobic slurs, transphobic behaviour, and bullying of LGBTQ+ individuals in YA literature is justified by the excuse that the books are simply “mirroring” society and the reality of many young people. What does this mean, then, for LGBTQ+ teens who do wish to see themselves in the books that they read? How does it affect these younger readers when their only mirrors are being bullied, kicked out of their homes, and subjected to physical and emotional violence? In light of the current state of YA literature, I will be discussing not just current representation of LGBTQ+ characters, but also the absences, as well as some initial findings from my current research on youth reading behaviours.


Dr. Bittner is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow (funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada) at the UBC iSchool, working with queer/trans literature for teens, as well as reading habits of LGBTQ+ youth. He has an MA in Children’s Literature from UBC and a PhD in Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies from Simon Fraser University (SFU). When not working on his postdoc, he can be found among teetering stacks of books, reading for a committee of some kind.