Speaking OUT: Queer Youth in Focus: A Starred Publishers Weekly Review

Speaking OUT: Queer Youth in Focus

Publishers Weekly
October 2014

Sincerity shines in this photographic essay consisting of portraits of queer youth. Smith spent 10 years photographing queer and trans youth (ages 14–24) in front of plain white backgrounds, inviting each subject to write directly onto the photographic image. This collectively written essay collects the portraits as well as the testimonies of those involved in the project. The messages on the photos include unbridled optimism (“Dance The Life Fantastic”), political defiance (“I don’t fit into the shape of your box / Undefined is how I define”), and taxonomic rundowns (“genderqueer, dyke, polyamorous, democrat, artist”). “Speaking out,” as the guiding theme of these personal narratives, lends itself to platitudes, but that emerges as an accepted and even praised aspect of the project, as the subjects, now several years older, reflect on their youthful lack of pretension. Even when the subjects speak to prejudice or violence, the entirety of the work maintains a celebratory tone, right in line with the It Gets Better campaign and the Free to Be… You and Me movement. The book’s appearance is cheesy, with flashy text and sidebars reminiscent of a teen magazine, but the core idea of elevating young trans and queer voices remains strong, and the nearly 70 represented subjects will surely offer affinity for almost anyone who finds this buoyant book. ueer youth and those who support them as the future they represent. (Nonfiction. 13 & up)

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