Moving across Differences

How Students Engage LGBTQ+ Themes in a High School Literature Class

By Mollie V. Blackburn

Subjects: Teaching And Learning, Queer Studies, Literature, Literacy Studies, Ethnography
Series: SUNY Press Open Access
Hardcover : 9781438490113, 208 pages, September 2022
Paperback : 9781438490106, 208 pages, March 2023

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Table of contents

List of Illustrations

Introduction: Theoretical, Empirical, and Contextual

1. Moving with Respect to Sexual Diversity in Classroom Encounters

2. Moving with Respect to Gender Diversity in Classroom Encounters

3. Moving with Respect to Racial Diversity in Classroom Encounters

4. Moving with Respect to Religion in Classroom Encounters

5. Moving with Respect to Families in Classroom Encounters

6. Moving, (For)Giving, and Ethical Classroom Encounters

Conclusion: Moving and Giving toward Ethical Encounters

Appendix: Research Methodology

Explores how discussion of LGBTQ+ themes in a high-school literature course can foster ethical engagement among students.


Grounded in ethnography and teacher research, Moving across Differences examines how an LGBTQ+-themed literature course enabled high school students to negotiate their differences and engage in ethical encounters. Drawing on the work of queer theorists, Mollie V. Blackburn conceptualizes these encounters as forms of movement across differences of not only gender and sexuality but also identity and ideology more broadly. As we follow Blackburn's thoughtful rendering of students' sometimes fraught exchanges, we are encouraged to follow their lead and move when confronted with differences. We might move closer to those like us, so we can be in community to recover and heal. But we might also move closer to others, so we can discover and learn. The book argues, though, that we must move ethically and, moreover, that literature and the work of reading, writing, and talking can foster this movement. Modeling care in both teaching and research, Moving across Differences contributes to the study and practice of English Language Arts curriculum and pedagogy, qualitative methods, and queer theory.

This book is freely available in an open access edition thanks to TOME (Toward an Open Monograph Ecosystem)—a collaboration of the Association of American Universities, the Association of University Presses, and the Association of Research Libraries—and the generous support of The Ohio State University Libraries. Learn more at the TOME website, available at: It can also be found in the SUNY Open Access Repository at

Mollie V. Blackburn is Professor in the Department of Teaching and Learning and Affiliate Faculty in the Department of Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at The Ohio State University.


"While previous scholarship has examined students' engagement with LGBTQ+-themed literature in a queer-friendly context outside of school, this book breaks new ground in focusing on a high school classroom. Blackburn provides a truly unique, in-depth account of students' explorations of their complex identities—identities that bridge race, religion, and family as well as gender and sexuality." — Amanda Haertling Thein, coauthor of Identity-Focused ELA Teaching: A Curriculum Framework for Diverse Learners and Contexts

"So many things to love about this book, from the vivid portraits of queer pedagogies and their contradictions, to the intersectional analyses of teens learning and growing together, to the illuminating use of encounter, ethics, movement, and giving as frames for teaching and learning. In Moving across Differences, Mollie Blackburn invites us into her classrooms to witness the troubling, anti-oppressive potential of LGBTQ+-themed literature, and leaves us with tools, guidance, and inspiration for profound change." — Kevin Kumashiro, author of Surrendered: Why Progressives Are Losing the Biggest Battles in Education