Charles Dickens was referring to Revolutionary France when he wrote the line “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” at the opening of A Tale of Two Cities, highlighting the wild extremes of that radical moment in history. But as we were putting together our fifth annual Pride Issue, it occurred to me that Dickens’ words might easily apply to the state of LGBTQ+ literature in the U.S. at our currently fraught moment.

I’ve been on the queer book beat since my days as an editor at Out magazine in the 1990s, and I can say with some confidence that there are more books—and more richly diverse books—about the LGBTQ+ experience being published than ever before. Already this year I’ve read and savored an absorbing novel about queer life and politics in Victorian England (The New Life by Tom Crewe), a nonfiction account of the vibrant San Francisco drag scene of the 1980s and ’90s (Who Does That Bitch Think She Is? by Craig Seligman), and a graphic novel about Filipino immigrants in 1920s California that features queer characters (The Man in the McIntosh Suit by Rina Ayuyang). My TBR pile contains several more queer-themed books that captured my interest after seeing their Kirkus reviews.

If you read the columns by editors Mahnaz Dar and Laura Simeon in our new Pride Issue, you’ll also see that there’s a broad range of books for young people being published today that would once have been unthinkable. Elsewhere in the issue, interviews with Tegan Quin, Sara Quin, and Tillie Walden (creators of the middle-grade graphic novel Tegan and Sara: Junior High) and Federico Erebia (author of the YA novel Pedro & Daniel) further highlight the encouraging LGBTQ+ offerings for young readers. It truly can feel like the best of times.

And yet…anyone who follows the news knows that challenges to LGBTQ+ books in schools and libraries are multiplying at an alarming rate. A recent report issued by the American Library Association found that book bans nearly doubled between 2021 and 2022, and the “vast majority” of those titles, according to the ALA, were written by or about LGBTQ+ people or people of color. A similar study by PEN America last fall found that 41% of the books banned or challenged in 2022 had queer characters or themes. For all the extraordinary books that are opening doors or holding up mirrors to LGBTQ+ life, it’s hard to escape the feeling that these books will become harder and harder for children and young people to access.

Where does that leave us? I’ve been inspired by the example of the Brooklyn Public Library, which is fighting the right-wing backlash in its own way with the Books Unbanned Initiative. Young people ages 13 to 21—wherever they may live—can apply for a free digital library card good for one year (email that grants access to the library’s complete e-book and audiobook collections as well as its databases. A world of LGBTQ+ books awaits.

Tom Beer is the editor-in-chief.