Understanding Sexual Identity: a Book for Gay Teens and Their Friends

The GLBTRT has been reviewing books and movies in its newsletter since the early 1990s. Trace the evolution of queer publishing through these historic reviews. This review was originally published in Vol. 3, No 3 & 4 Spring/Summer 1991. 

Cover of Understanding Sexual Identity: a Book for Gay Teens and Their FriendsUnderstanding Sexual Identity: a Book for Gay Teens and Their Friends. By Janice E. Rench. Lerner, 1990. (ISBN 0-8225-0044-2).

Gay activist Kevin Berrill provides a powerful introduction to Rench’s book for young teenagers who either think they are gay, have gay friends or family members, or who simply want information on this subject.

Each chapter deals with specific issues-friends, family, religion, and safe sex-by asking a series of questions typical of the age group addressed: “How do you become gay or lesbian?” or “Do gays and lesbians have families?” These questions are introduced by short fictionalized scenarios that are somewhat distracting though they are intended to present each subject in a manner the young person can understand. The information Rench provides on support services for young gays and their families and friends is invaluable. She also includes a short bibliography that features works of both fiction and nonfiction that deal with her subject in greater detail. Understanding Sexual Identity does include an index.

Janice E. Rench has written a valuable book that will introduce her young readers to understand what it means to be gay, as well as to support their gay friends and family members. This book is recommended for middle or high school libraries, public libraries, and academic libraries that have collections of nonfiction young adult books.

Reviewed by Lisa N. Johnston
Mary Helen Cochran Library
Sweet Briar College
Sweet Briar, Virginia

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