Teenagers Reading

research for my PhD thesis

Yaoi in the Library

with 6 comments

Update: I made a mistake in this post and corrected it 11 June 2009.

I interviewed Librarian Ms Davilak at Hakea Park Public Library for my PhD research. (Names of people and libraries have been changed to ensure confidentiality.)

Yaoi Hakea Park’s graphic novel collection was located in the YA area. When complaints were received about titles in this collection (at that time only from staff members before the title was put on the shelf), the title was investigated and if found to be unsuitable for teenagers, moved to the general (adult) collection and interfiled with ordinary fiction. One such title was manga of the genre Boys’ Love, which has themes of romance and love between two men [1]. This genre is aimed at different age groups, and includes Yaoi, erotic titles aimed at adults [2]. The title at Hakea Park had no explicit material – the two male characters only went as far as kissing. It was deemed to be unsuitable for the YA collection and moved to adult fiction. Young People’s Librarian Ms Davilak felt this outcome was acceptable, because the title had not been removed from the library. It was investigated by four librarians at Hakea Park and deemed suitable for teenagers. Ms Davilak explained, “We all talked about it. We decided that we would leave it where it was.” A fortunate outcome for gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender (GLBT) teenagers and those questioning their sexuality who would benefit from finding such material in their YA collection. While Yaoi and Boys’ Love is generally created by and for women and McLelland believes,

Gay men tend not to identify with the beautiful youths in women’s manga and feel that these figures are figments of women’s imaginations. [3]

Brenner and Wildsmith surveyed gay readers of Yaoi and Boys’ Love and found the genre is enjoyed by some [4] and Lyle Masaki blogged about the intersection of female and gay male readers of Yaoi [1]. Easy access to reading material about characters experiencing similar life events, “where male x male romance was desirable as opposed to being stigmatized” [5] is important for GLBT teenagers and those questioning their sexuality. An example being Satosumi Takaguchi’s Shout Out Loud! which focuses on issues of coming out. These young people may be embarrassed to ask library staff about such material and if they do not find it on their own, may leave the library disappointed.

The Sandman by Neil Gaiman [6] was another title investigated, but it was deemed mature and the series was “broken up.” The “more graphic” volumes were interfiled in the general adult fiction section and the rest stayed in the YA graphic novel collection. Ms Davilak felt these mature titles might not have been as easy to find, but they were still available for all borrowers, teenagers included.  She explained,

A couple of times I’ve heard someone say, “It says it’s on the shelf but I can’t see it there with the others.” And then we’ll say, “Oh ok, it says it’s on that shelf there [adult], not that shelf there [YA].” And then we go and track it down for them. So really, I mean, it probably has added a little bit of extra footwork for staff but I think it’s generally [fine].

If someone was not able to find the The Sandman volume they wanted and subsequently gave up, staff would never know. Leaving dissatisfied, they may believe the library was inadequate and never return.

References

  1. Masaki, Lyle (2008) “Yowie!” The Stateside appeal of boy-meets-boy YAOI comics After Elton, 6 January.
  2. McLelland, Mark (2000) “No climax, no point, no meaning? Japanese women’s boy-love sites on the Internet” The Journal of Communication Inquiry, vol.24, no.3, pp.274-291.
  3. McLelland, Mark (2000) Male homosexuality and popular culture in modern Japan Intersections: Gender, History and Culture in the Asian Context, issue 3.
  4. Brenner, Robin & Wildsmith, Snow (2008) Paper presented at the GLBT Roundtable at the ALA Conference, Anaheim, CA.
  5. Hale, Issac (2008) Manga Recon @ Yaoi-Con 2008, 8 October.
  6. Gaiman, Neil (1991) The Sandman. New York: DC Comics/Vertigo.
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Written by ClareSnow

10 October 2008 at 11:38 am

6 Responses

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  1. Hi Clare,

    Thanks for the updates on your research- nice to see you the other night too. I’m tackling our GN collection at the moment. We’ve decided to divide the collection up into JF, YA and AF specifically so we can buy a more diverse range of titles. It will be nice especially to have our teen GN collection filled with titles meant for teens, to move those babyish and mature titles to where they can hopefully be even more appreciated.

    Sam

    Samantha Hughes

    10 October 2008 at 12:53 pm

  2. Nice to see you too. It’s a good idea to divide it up. I hope it leads to more use by teenagers.

    ClareSnow

    10 October 2008 at 3:18 pm

  3. I think it is time that a new sub-section was created. We have NF, AF, YA, JF, CDs, DVDs (videos in some libraries) why not an entirely separate GN section?

    Graphic novels are not just enjoyed by young adults, in my experience the majority of people in comic stores are over the age of 25 (in some cases, well over). If libraries saw graphic novels as the wide and diverse medium they are, rather than the stereotypical and very outdated ‘comics are kids stuff’ view, then a lot of problems relating to angry parents, splitting collections and restrictions will be solved.

    I still hold that text=literature, images=art, text+images=great art. Although most still see that text+images=kids stuff. *sigh*

    Edward

    Edward Shaddow

    30 October 2008 at 12:16 pm

  4. if only all the world thought like you Ed. do you like your monster avatar. i think the likeness is striking :)

    ClareSnow

    30 October 2008 at 1:01 pm

  5. what library have yaoi in them

    kev

    13 November 2008 at 7:15 am

  6. Search the online catalogue of your local library. Try searching on Yaoi, if that doesn’t work search on an author or series. Many libraries take requests from borrowers. Go to your library and suggest titles or authors that you enjoy. If they buy what you request you will be able to read it and everyone else who uses the library will be able to read it too.

    ClareSnow

    13 November 2008 at 11:03 am


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