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California's K-12 Recommended Reading List Just Got A Little Gay

"Rubyfruit Jungle" by Rita Mae Brown did not quite made the cut (Photo by Shockingly Tasty via the Creative Commons on Flickr)
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The California Department of Education has released a new list of recommended reading, and for the first time ever it is including books that deal with gender and sexuality.

The state comes out with a recommended reading list every year, but this year's list includes selections like an activity book for young children about gay rights leader Harvey Milk or "I am J," which is a novel about transgender teens that's more appropriate for teens.

The state says that it didn't pick books just because they dealt with the full alphabet soup of LGBTQ issues. Lupita Alcala with the California Department of Education told ABC 7, "It's not based on content at all. It's mostly based on the quality of the literature. It could be non-fiction, fiction, biographies and poetry."

We haven't been able find a full list of the new books, but the list does include books that received Stonewall Awards. We searched through the 7,800 recommended books for K-12 students and found "The Shared Heart: Portraits and Stories Celebrating Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Young People," "Gay America: Struggle for Equality," "Stonewall: The Riots That Sparked the Gay Revolution" and the James Baldwin classic "Giovanni's Room." (We checked and "Rubyfruit Jungle" by Rita Mae Brown did not make the cut.)

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It's hard to imagine books on the list going over well in some of the more conservative parts of the state. For instance, our conservative neighbors to the north in Kern County fought hard to bar Toni Morrison's "The Bluest Eye" from Kern County High School classrooms, since it described incest and sex. The book was allowed to stay on the reading lists only for honors students. (State Sen. Roy Ashburn opposed the book alongside family values types in the days before he was outed.)

Social conservatives are speaking out about the books added to the list. Randy Thomasson, the executive director of, told ABC it is detracting from students' education, "Your children are not being taught rigorous academics or critical thinking. They're being taught social engineering that will hurt them physically and emotionally."

But LGBT groups are praising the new list. Spencer Douglas with the LGBT Youth Task Force told ABC 7, "It's good to teach kids that everyone is different, and we are all people and that we can all be accepted for who we are. I think it's really great to see these books being recommended."

California has already taken the lead in making sure to include stories about gays, lesbians and transgender in its history books.

History is So Gay: LGBT Contributions to Be Added to CA Textbooks