UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Queering Christianity : the journey from rigid doctrine to personal theologies in a selection of YA literature with LGBTQ content Bittner, Robert


Young Adult (YA) novels are quickly becoming an ever more influential and prominent part of the book publishing world. At their best, YA novels not only provide mirrors of self as well as windows to culture and opportunity for readers to see their world, themselves, their society or to see a different world in which they would rather live, but YA novels can also provide a mirror for young people to see a reflection of themselves, that is, to gain affirmation that they are not alone: they are represented (Bishop, 1990). With this view of YA fiction in mind, I have undertaken to analyze three novels—Nothing Pink, The God Box, and Thinking Straight—that each reflect the experiences of a group of teens underrepresented in fictional narratives: Gay Christians. Utilizing a Queer Theology framework informed by the work of Goss (1999), Loughlin (2007), Althaus-Reid and Isherwood (2009), and others, I seek to explore the nature of the interactions between the teenage protagonists in each novel and the Christian institutions—family, school, ministries, churches—that seek to hold them in a heteronormative grip. With each chapter of my thesis exploring a different aspect of this interaction, I follow a progression that begins with the protagonists rebelling against Christian dogma and assumptions, to queering and reclaiming that dogma, and ultimately, to finding acceptance and peace within the new theological framework. I go on to explore the place of these novels in the queer YA canon and examine the ways in which each book attempts to queer theology and expectations; I argue that is difficult, if not impossible, to fully escape dominant heteronormative assumptions when writing about Gay Christians for contemporary audiences. I found that the authors of the three novels were successful at creating, through their protagonists, queered Christian dogma that counters Protestant Christian expectations, but from within the confines of a heteronormative frame. While not destroying all the work of queering Christian dogma that the authors undertake, their inability to work outside of a heterosexist framework does complicate the notion of queering the novels overall.

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