The Full Spectrum: A New Generation of Writing About Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning, and Other Identities

The Full Spectrum: A New Generation of Writing About Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning, and Other Identities

by David Levithan, Billy Merrell

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Teens are more aware of sexuality and identity than ever, and they’re looking for answers and insights, as well as a community of others. In order to help create that community, YA authors David Levithan and Billy Merrell have collected original poems, essays, and stories by young adults in their teens and early 20s. The Full Spectrum includes a variety of writers—gay, lesbian, bisexual, straight, transitioning, and questioning—on a variety of subjects: coming out, family, friendship, religion/faith, first kisses, break-ups, and many others.

This one of a kind collection will, perhaps, help all readers see themselves and the world around them in ways they might never have imagined. We have partnered with the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) and a portion of the proceeds from this book will be donated to them.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780307485199
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Publication date: 12/24/2008
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 969,285
Lexile: 970L (what's this?)
File size: 3 MB
Age Range: 12 - 17 Years

About the Author

When not writing during spare hours on weekends, David Levithan is editorial director at Scholastic and the founding editor of the PUSH imprint, which is devoted to finding new voices and new authors in teen literature. His acclaimed novels Boy Meets Boy and The Realm of Possibility started as stories he wrote for his friends for Valentine's Day (something he's done for the past 22 years and counting) that turned themselves into teen novels. He's often asked if the book is a work of fantasy or a work of reality, and the answer is right down the middle—it's about where we're going, and where we should be.

Billy Merrell was born in St. Louis, Missouri, and raised in Jacksonville, Florida. He is a writer of both poetry and prose, coauthoring the New York Times bestselling Spirit Animal series and appearing in several anthologies of poetry. His other works include Talking in the DarkVanilla, the Infinity Ring Secrets series, and The Full Spectrum, which was coedited with David Levithan and recipient of the Lambda Literary Award. Merrell currently lives in Brooklyn, New York, with his husband, Nico Medina.


Hoboken, New Jersey

Date of Birth:


Place of Birth:

New Jersey


B.A., Brown University, 1994

Read an Excerpt

O.K. by Courtney Gillette

My first kiss was a girl.

It was almost like a pity kiss, a kiss to get me through that rite of passage, the way I wanted it. Rose was the only person who knew I liked girls, she was the only one I trusted enough to tell. We went to junior high together in a small town in Pennsylvania. She had frizzy hair and a mother who took Prozac and yelled a lot. Rose lived on this surreal plane of reality, allowing the world to be as dramatic as it was at the age of fifteen, and I loved her for that.

We were in color guard together. While marching band appeared to be lowest rung on the ladder of popularity, color guard managed to go even below that, to a subterranean territory of un-coolness. I don’t really remember what we were doing there. I had played the trumpet but was always last chair, so when they told me I had to join marching band, that I had to go out in those stupid costumes under those bright football-game lights, I opted for color guard instead. As if wearing costumes of yellow spandex and glitter while tossing six-foot metal poles with red flags was a better option. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

Rose and I were ugly, misfits. Most of the girls in color guard were social outcasts: frumpy girls too fat or too awkward for cheerleading. They became flag twirlers, “chicks with sticks.” I remember how much the bus would stink with our sweat and girl smells, the odor of panty hose and too much eye shadow, coming home from cavalcades in the fall. The seats were made of a sticky material, and Rose and I would be squished in the small space, sitting beside each other. We would each have a headphone from my Walkman on, listening to Björk and trying to drown out the chatter of thirty girls talking about the new cute boy in the trombone section. The other girls knew we were weird and kind of left it at that. They didn’t like me because I refused to wear makeup. The captain of the squad, a short, fat girl with greasy brown hair, would yell at me as she wielded red Maybelline lipstick. “It’s part of the costume,” she’d hiss, “You have to wear it.” I finally conceded and let them smear the cheap colors on my face, only to get back at them the next week when I came to practice with my hair dyed blue with Manic Panic. It was the week before championships, and our coach cried when she saw me. “What are we going to do?” she sobbed, pointing at me like I had lost an appendage, as if I was completely incapable of spinning a flag now that my hair was blue. We borrowed a scratchy brown wig from the theater department and I had to be very careful not to turn my head too fast, lest the synthetic locks go flying off my head and land on the fifty-yard line as I marched past, performing a flag routine to some Gershwin song. Rose and I came to enjoy being the social outcasts of color guard. It was an extra badge of strangeness for us.

Besides, Rose and I were deep, much deeper than those other girls who read YM and wore sweaters from the Gap. Rose and I were into poetry, we would read e. e. cummings to each other over the phone, part of long marathon conversations about the meaning of life. We were fifteen, we were invincible, we were enlightened. I would get off the yellow school bus and run home, dropping my schoolbag and picking up the phone as soon as I came in. I would always lie on the gray carpet in the family room as we talked for hours. My brother would play Nintendo and sometimes scowl at the weird things I said about true love and art and suffering. Rose had spent a few months in a mental hospital when she was younger, so she was my idol as far as real-life drama went. She never really told me why, kept the story mysterious, only saying that one day in the car with her mother she said something about death that caused her mother to drive her straight to the psychiatric ward of the local state hospital. I was fascinated. Rose was my Sylvia Plath, my muse and my heroine. As we trundled through the muddy waters of adolescence, I could tell Rose anything I felt, and she would agree, validating my virgin emotions. It was in all this intensity that I fell in love with her.

Rose had a boyfriend. He was kind of pudgy and had a really annoying laugh. They would hold hands as we walked around the mall, drinking milk shakes from the Dairy Queen. I didn’t like it when they held hands. Her boyfriend couldn’t understand how deep Rose and I were. I humored him because Rose did.

“Do you love him?” I would ask on the phone, watching the blocks of sunlight that came in through the window make patterns on the carpet. Rose would sigh dramatically.

“Yes, but I don’t think he knows. I don’t think he understands love like I do.”

I nodded emphatically. I understood love. Rose and I had charted the entire emotion out in terms of desire, affection, and completion. Solitude was to be savored, but being in love was a privilege.

It was this concept of affection that stalled our philosophies on love and intimacy, because I hadn’t been kissed before. Once a boy at the roller rink in the seventh grade tried to kiss me, but I turned my face away and mumbled something about having a cold. There was something about boys I just didn’t want. I would act like I wanted them, imagine that somewhere in the world there was a sensitive boy with long hair who played guitar and read books on feminism, and he would be my boyfriend. Then I would kiss boys. But at a high school where the homecoming football games were so big the whole town shut down for the occasion, I wasn’t holding my breath on finding a sensitive, artistic boyfriend anytime soon.

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Full Spectrum: A New Generation of Writing about Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning, and Other Identities 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 30 reviews.
elmo89 More than 1 year ago
this book was very interesting it made me realize that im not the only one out there with like big issues about being half gay. it really helped me come out a liitle bit more and be happy for who i am and not be ashamed. you should totaly read this book even if your not gay its good to learn new stuff about people's lifes.

Guest More than 1 year ago
So what happens when you gather up a group of young, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered and other label-full or label-free writers and ask them to share a real life experience to be published in a book? ANSWER: The Full Spectrum. A collection of non-fiction stories that can be found in the fiction section of your favorite library or bookstore. Why the fiction section you ask? Fiction sells. Anthologies come and go, come and go, usually unnoticed and dammit!- we don¿t want this book to just `go¿. We need its readers to find it first. This book is out there so that you realize, finally realize, that you¿re not alone. Oh sure, your closet¿s cramped, there¿s no leg room in that 4X4 box that only fits you and your fears but...the book is small. Structured perfectly to fit the hands of anyone who wants to let a little laughter, a little heartache, a little hope and reality into their life. The writers...yes, we¿re young. Teenagers and random 20-somethin¿ year olds, but our stories(experiences) are ageless. So, look for the heartbreakingly beautiful book chock-full `o non-fiction in the fiction section of any store that sells books. We wanted to share a little piece of ourselves with you and hope you'll get something from it.
messelti on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Full Spectrum is a great collection of short stories and poems on sexual identity by LGTBQ teens. Many are funny, some heartbreaking, and most are well-written. Styles vary, from poetry to journal entries all are written in the first person and relate personal experiences regarding the development of a sexual identity. Many stories moved beyond the ¿gay revelation¿ theme, moving through the different levels of confusion that generally come with adolescent self-discovery and sexuality, showing ¿the full spectrum¿ of experiences-some embarrassing, all enlightening. This is a great resource for any LGBTQ teen, especially those who are questioning their feelings and feeling a bit alone. Highly recommended for YA non-fiction collections in any public library, but language and explicit sexual scenarios require care when selecting for school libraries.
agiffin on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Full Spectrum provides a haunting, personal look into the struggles and triumphs of LGBTQ youth as they and their loved ones come to terms with their sexuality. The variety of mediums of expressing their stories, whether they were journal entries, narratives, poems, or photographs helped to further exemplify the personalities of the authors. As a teacher, I read these stories and it made me wonder if any of my students are facing these same challenges and how I can help to provide a safe environment for them both in my classroom and in our school as a whole. In terms of the readability of the book, while I loved that so many people were able to share their story, I did feel that the book became a bit long and overwhelming from an emotional standpoint.
Jmmott on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this collection despite the fact that it was emotionally painful to read at times. I thought it did a really good job of presenting the experiences of gay and lesbian youth. The use of multiple authors rather than simply the experiences of one person makes the book a lot more universal than it would be other wise. Memoir-anthology hybrids can either be tedious to read or engaging. This one, I couldn't put down.
abbrown1 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Going in to this book, I expected to be reading the triumphant stories of young people who have struggled with their sexuality and come to some sort of light at the end of the tunnel. After reading the introduction by the authors, I was sure this was going to be an enlightening book about the LGBT communities struggles but ultimately one with a happy ending. This was not the case. There was one story that I could remember that was inspiring. The rest seemed to dwell on the hardships of "coming out" or family acceptance. The book is a compilation of young adults' stories. Reading all the stories at one time was overwhelming and did not leave me with the greatest view of the book. I understand the author's efforts of trying to bring light and interest to the lives of these teens and young adults but the tone the book sets was unappealing and left me emotionally week and dissatisfied.
Michelle_Bales on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Levithan's collection illuminates a lot of the challenges faced by GLBTQ youth as they strive to find themselves in an often unaccepting world. Some people's stories are heartbreaking while others seem to have an easier time. Some of the writings are artfully done. Perhaps these are contributions from budding writers of the future. The only problem I have with this collection is that it is often depressing. I agree with the suggestion made in class that this collection would work better if combined with the website
kmcinern on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I feel like this book may have been published more for the writers than for readers. It was obvious from the emotional contributions that each writer was passionate about sharing his or her story. However, some of the writers' tale were exceptionally tough to read, not because of the writing, but because of the content. I went into reading the text with expectations and this was certainly my mistake. Rather than reading about uplifting tales of success, I found this text depressing. While it wasn't my favorite book, I think it was an important read though as all current and future educators should be aware that the troubles of the contributing authors are indeed very real challenges that any of our students may be facing.
mrcmyoung on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Very few gems in this collection of 40 stories that together make up a valentine to teenage angst and self-pity. The editors celebrate their LGBT authors' youth, but I'd rather check in with them in twenty years.
tiffanylewis0519 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I read Boy Meets Boy by the author, so I am somewhat familiar with Levithan's work. This collection of essays written by gay youth under 24 is a mixture of humor and and an exploration of how brutal people can be to those who identify with something other than the mainstream. Although each's author's story is unique, there are some common themes. It appears that many of the author's were religious/spiritual which was difficult to reconcile with their church's stance on homosexuality, and most of those who were profiled had been bullied at some point. It is sad to read about people being mistreated. But also as I was reading I knew there was no way I could use this text in my middle school class without losing my job. Far too many people confuse discussion with indoctrination.
Kathdavis54 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
David Levithan and Billy Merrell have put together an anthology full of emotion and honesty. There are essays, journal entries, poems, and photographs that give the reader a look in to the life of a LGBTQ teen. Even though I have read stories and watched movie and television shows that involve LGBTQ teens I don't think I have ever felt the same emotions that I felt while reading this book. The stories are sad--even the ones told with humor. Many of the stories are not great writing, but they give a real glimpse into someone's life. Younger readers could handle most of the content. I think I would use individual essays in class and with students. The whole book would be overwhelming for a reader of any age. My favorite story was one consisting of five letters that the author wrote to different people in her life. Some were meant to be read, some weren't. I would show these to students. They could easily turn this idea in some reflecting writing for themselves.
MattRaygun on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
"We are the summation of our places: the total worth of the borders we define for ourselves." (p.129)David Levithan and Billy Merrell have put together a collection of inspirational, heartbreaking, and ultimately illuminating stories about the GLBTQ experience in modern America. Mr Levithan has been in the editing business with the Scholastic Publishing company for years and his experience has served him well in the construction of this book."The Full Spectrum" pulls from a wide range of sources and as a result has many voices it speaks through. The unifying theme is one of confusion for the authors. Every author in this book is under the age of 24 and their youth speaks volumes.Many of the stories are not the most detailed or even the most well-written. What they are is honest and straightforward. This book's fearlessness about fear is its greatest quality. The author's are already out and are writing from a position of strength they all obviously fought hard to reach. There is a wisdom in every story that comes from a harsh lesson learned.Being a book about the American LGBT experience, there are plenty of stories concerning the inner torment the author experienced concerning their belief in God. This wear's a little thin in places, but the fact this theme is so common in this book says a lot about the ubiquity of religion in our culture, as well as the fear of losing the religion the author obviously cherishes as much as their "normal" counterparts.This book is an excellent guide to what LGBT youth experience firsthand. That makes it a great choice for any teacher attempting to educate students on homophobia, bullying, and alternative lifestyles. In addition, it also makes this book invaluable for any young person that has ever questioned their identity, lives in fear, or has lost hope.Recommended for ages 12&UP, along with the campaign "It Gets Better" by Dan Savage.
scnelson on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A hard-hitting collection of LGBTQ coming-of-age stories, this book shows the many aspects of dealing with their differences from "normal" kids. Each entry is different and many are heart-wrenching, but what really comes out of these stories is that teens are basically the same and go through many of the same difficulties at that age, whether they're LGBTQ or not. This book would be good to aid in teaching acceptance of those who might be different from you by showing kids that inside, they're really not all that different after all. Everyone at that age is trying to find out who they are and to be accepted for that on their own terms, and these kids are no different. The writing ranges from high art to diary scribbling, but that is what makes much of the book so effective.
booksjinx More than 1 year ago
I really appreciated this anthology for what's it is. It would help a lot of questioning teens and young adults to try to figure themselves out and their sexualities. It's entertaining and emotional and different. However, it wasn't very diverse, I think that's the word I'm looking for. As you've seen the stats above, it was a lot of gay stories. You can't call the anthology, The Full Spectrum, when it isn't. I felt a lot of the time I was reading the same narrative and that's why I marked it down some stars. Not only that, but the fact that religion was such a huge part of it, it was hard to get away from. Religion is very important to people, but the whole LGBTQIA+ community isn't religious. There also weren't as many stories with POC or different cultural backgrounds as I would have liked. A lot of people in this community aren't just white and I would have loved more exploration into their thoughts. On that note, I really think this anthology can improve some teens lives when questioning their sexualities and can really be helpful in exploring other people's advice without having to come out. I'm glad I read this and I do recommend it, however I think I will search for more widespread anthology.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
To the to people below me. Thank you sooo much for backing up what you believe in. Thank you for being yourselves. While my letter of p didn't make the cut in the acronym lgbtq+ im am still a proud lgbtq+ pansexual (i like people of all genders, binary an non-binary) I love who I am
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
No offense but u are the reason why lgbtq people kill themselves. Everyone matters. Gay or straight. Black or white. Jewish or christian. Im gay and im proud. I will never be shut down by you but some people will be and they are people who may go to great lengths to kill themselves.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Fv ck you ya nasty homophob. "Homophobic is not a phobia. Your not scared of gays. Your just an as.s.hole"Morgan Freeman. Now get your nasty ass face outta here. Gay peop are amazing and way better than you people who call yourselves christians but then you turn around and hate on gay and lesbian people. You asshead fvckface. LGBT PEOPLE RULE IM BI AND PROUND BYTCH
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Helped me alot
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Lawral More than 1 year ago
The pieces in this anthology tackle a myriad of topics: coming out, religion, first love, unaccepting parents/peers, religion, supportive parents/peers, the Boy Scouts, the military, religion(!); in a variety of settings: high school, New Your City, college, junior high, Egypt. They are written by young people who fall under the umbrella term "queer," but identify as gay, bi, trans, lesbian, gender-variant, and more. Some of the pieces are positive and affirming, some speak of overcoming unbearable hardship and hate, some end as hopeless as they began. All of them are important and valid, just like the young people who wrote them. As a collection, The Full Spectrum is ambitious. It strives to present a multitude of experiences and identities, and it does. The mix of guys and girls, trans or not, is great. The mix of topics is also expansive, and given how much religion is mentioned, the mix of opinions on it is also widely variant. Also the mix of poetry, prose, letters, and diary entries was great. I never felt bogged down in too much angsty poetry or journal writing; all was in balance. This mix of writing styles will, hopefully, make this book accessible and attractive to readers of all stripes. My main problem was with the editing. Some of these pieces are beautiful bits of polished writing. Some of them are not. I imagine this has a lot to do with the state they were in when they were submitted. Many of these pieces were written by young people about the most traumatic periods of their lives! Everything is in their writing and everything is raw. Everything. It is completely understandable that some of them lack polish. These pieces could have used the guidance of a good editor, and it is a shame that they didn't get it. That said, these stories are compelling, each and every one. If I, an almost-30-year-old, engaged, queer woman had such a strong reaction to this book, I cannot even begin to imagine how much solace and revelation this book could provide for someone still going through the experiences described there in. I saw myself in these stories. I saw my friends. Everyone deserves to be able to see themselves in stories like these too. Book source: I bought it
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