Compiled by: Juno Dawson
Publisher: Stripes Publishing
Details: £7.99, 352pp, paperback
Dawson’s foreword makes it very clear why LGBT+ teenagers need this book. She talks about growing up in the 1990s under the shadow of Section 28, when it became against the law to “promote” homosexuality and a climate of fear prevented schools, libraries and bookshops from stocking titles that could fall under this category. It must have been so hard for young people to explore who they were and who they were attracted to. Thankfully, a lot of wonderful books featuring gay or transgender characters have been published in the last few years, reflecting the changes in society. Teenagers now have the chance to see their own feelings reflected within pages that encourage tolerance and empathy among others.
Dawson brings together authors, poets and illustrators to sing out the message that being LBGT+ is something to be happy and – as the title suggests – proud about, that we shouldn’t put labels on each other and that we will all find love in our own way. There is nothing sexually explicit here, the stories are sweetly romantic and always end positively, dealing with the hopeful beginnings of relationships rather than how they might, like any other, face challenges and heartbreak. This creates a certain predictability and sameness, and some of the stories are rather slight. But to quibble about that would be to miss the point of the book, which is to celebrate the diversity of human attraction – and in this, it succeeds with panache.
Jacqui Murrell is the librarian at Bromley High School
Proud is a wonderful read full of short, heartwarming stories surrounding LGBT+ topics, all with their own distinctive feel and plot but tied together by the adorable art at the end of each story. Each character is unique and has their own experiences but they all feel so familiar and real.
Reading about characters using they/them pronouns – and having those pronouns respected by all who mattered to them – meant more to me, as a nonbinary person myself, than I can truly express. All-in-all, Proud is a must-read for any LGBT+ person and ally alike who wants a genuinely lovely host of stories to brighten their week.
Rosie, aged 18
I’ve read a lot of LGBT+ fiction and admittedly I expected stories that were either too cliché or too young. But what I found was a book of heartwarming tales that were all original and interesting.
Though each story was quick to read, I still found myself invested in each character and reluctant to move to the next tale. I found the art at the end of each story to be a unique way of providing closure, conveying the exact feeling of love and simplicity as told in the tale.
The format of the book being a collection of identities and circumstances perfectly reflects the diversity of the LGBT+ community, showing our differences but fundamentally the love that brings us together.
Ultimately, Proud is a unique collection of stories that leaves the reader with a sense of pure joy, 24 more LGBT+ writers and authors to enjoy the work of, and any member of the LGBT+ even more proud to be so.
Claudia, aged 18
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