Q & A: Chantal’s Books

Posted on January 12, 2011 by

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At the beginning of her senior year at Leo Hayes High School, Chantal Brynne Plourde set her sights on a mission: to bring queer literature to youth in Fredericton area high schools. She began the effort as a community project for her World Issues class. It has blossomed into LGBT: Literature Gives Belonging to Youth. Chantal made a list of books appropriate for gay teens, and collects donations of books and money to buy books. When she receives the books, they are placed in circulation at Fredericton high school libraries.

You can buy books directly from the list that Chantal has set up at Amazon.com

Amazon.com Chantal’s Books wishlist

In her LGBT Causes Page, she summarizes her reason for the book project:

“Today, there are thousands of kids who feel like no one cares about them, whether it be family, friends, peers, or even their schools. We need to change that. We need to let these kids know that they’re cared about everywhere. Even though people use the internet more and more these days, we still have our trusty libraries. In these, we have books about many different cultures and people. But sometimes the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgnder) community is left out or isn’t shown as much as it should be shown in our school libraries. That’s where my project comes in.”

FQ interviewed Chantal about her book project, why she started it, and what queer literature means to her.

FQ: Why did you choose LGBT Youth Books as a project for your World Issues class? How did you come up with the idea? Did you see that there was a lack of literature for gay youth in high schools?

Chantal: Well. I needed to come up with something that affected the community in some way. Past ideas had been cool but I wanted to come with something no one has ever done before, at least in Fredericton. I think one day I was trying to think of a topic, and I suddenly glanced at my books lying on my floor. PRESTO! The idea came to my head to give LGBT Books to the high school libraries. Now, I wasn’t just like… hmmm…. What’s a minority group that I can buy books for; I had a reason. See, I’ve been involved in my high school’s Gay Straight Alliance for two years and also was involved in Youth Pride last year. So, when it comes to youth that are in the LGBT group, I feel closer to them. There are hardly any resources or places to go around the city for LGBT youth. Reading to me is such an amazing experience and I’ve learned so much about myself from reading Fiction and Non-Fiction Queer literature.

FQ: What has been the response of other students in the school to the LGBT book project?

Chantal: So far, the district has been very good. My principal said that it was fine for me to bring in the books as long as they checked what they were about first.

For students though, the people in the Gay Straight Alliance are very excited and a lot of them are willing to help all they can with fundraising. Most of the other students of the school don’t really know about it. I guess that’s another thing I need to do, get it out to the student body.

FQ: What has been the response of librarians, teachers and parents to the book project?

Chantal: I asked the librarian and she said that she’d be glad to have books in the library at Leo Hayes. I haven’t gotten the chance to talk to anyone at FHS, besides the principal in e-mails, so I can’t speak for them. Now that I think about it, I haven’t really talked to many teachers about it. I think that should be another thing on my to-do list.

FQ: How is it going so far? Are people buying books from your Amazon.com wish list? Are people donating books directly to you? How is the fundraising going?

Chantal: So far, it’s going well. I’ve got about 12 – 15 books already, 5 bought through the Amazon site. I received 4 autographed books from Julie Anne Peters and that really hit me. It just took an e-mail explaining my project and she sent them up to Canada. I can’t thank her enough! I also donated a few of my books and some of my friends have donated their books as well. But we still have a lot more left, and I’m hoping with more publicity, that people will embrace the project and realize that it will help tons of youth. I think we’ve made around 50 dollars from the jelly bean jar and random donations, but that’s just a rough estimate since I haven’t been able to count it all yet. So, fundraising is going pretty smooth, but no big donations yet, which is totally fine with me, as long as we can get some books in those libraries!
FQ:Have you been able to network with other groups on this project?

Chantal: Yes! I have actually; I’ve been in contact with Shaun from Queer Theory Collective, also with the branches off of that, Qulture Club and Travesty Café. They’ve been so hopeful. They’ve allowed me to use their space at Gallery Connection on a Tuesday if I ever want to hold a Coffee House or some kind of event. I’ve also been in contact with the Pride Committee and they have spread the word about my project as well.

FQ: Do you see this project continuing after the World Issues class is finished?

Chantal: I really hope it continues. I kind of want to continue it into the summer. Even if at the end of the school year sometime, I get the books into the school libraries, in the summer I could shoot for the Public Library, were many more people go. I think it’d be cool to reveal how many books I have or have a booth set up at the Pride Parade and celebration as well, we’d get the word around a lot if it was around all those wonderful people!

FQ: Why is queer literature so important to you? How does it help you? What does it add to your life?

Chantal: Queer literature… how is it not important to me? I’d have to say that Queer books got me through one of the hardest times of my life. A few years ago I had very bad anxiety and reading seemed to be the thing that gradually got me out of it. I got to the point were I was reading a whole book in a few hours and going out to buy another one that same day. It was crazy. I don’t read as much as I used to, which makes me kind of sad, but I think it’s only because I’ve involved myself in the Queer Community more, so I can have face to face experiences as well as face to page. Reading, it gives me a sense of self. And I love that feeling and wouldn’t give it up for the world. And I know there are a lot of other teenagers out there that feel like they’re the only ones, but by picking up a book, it could change there whole perspective. Reading changes lives for the better and I’m not about to allow the subject of certain literature get in the way of teenagers having access to it.

You can get more information about Chantal’s book project at the Facebook page: LGBT (Literature Gives Belonging To) Youth Project.

Shaun Bartone,

Editor, FQ

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Posted in: QTC