Children’s Literature and Folklore
LGBT+ Representation in Children’s Literature
Children’s literature is an integral part of any kid’s youth, and the things they read, and the media they consume effects the way they perceive the world around them. As the world changes, so much children’s literature; as new topics that can affect young people move to the forefront of the mainstream media, they also begin to show up in books for young minds. As of today, in 2014, there are thirty five states in the United States of America where gay marriage is legal, and more are most certainly on the way. Even if a child has no family members that are within the LBGT+ spectrum, or are not within it themselves, it is important to educate young people about the concept and community behind LGBT+, and children’s books are a massive door opener for a topic like that, that so many people are still hesitant to touch on. These books can also normalize the lives of those children who do have LBGT+ members in their lives, or are curious themselves about their own perception of their sexuality or gender. In short, the representation of the LGBT+ community in children’s books is necessary. The question is, how represented are they, really? The vast majority of LGBT+ representation in children’s literature are picture books geared for young kids. This trend began in 1989 with Lesléa Newman’s Heather Has Two Mommies, the short story of a little girl, Heather, whose family consists of a dog, a cat, and two loving mothers, who learns that families come in all different forms, and that familial love can come from anywhere. It touches on adoption, single parent homes, and gives a shout out to the ‘traditional’ family set up as well. This book was met with much controversy, being banned in numerous schools, libraries, and even states. In 2001 it was re-released and met with far less backlash, but even with the issues the book faced, it’s still one of the most influential books for the LGBT+ movement. Since then many books have been published with similar story lines; And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson, The Family Book, The Mommy Book, and The Daddy Book all by Todd Parr, Mom and Mum are Getting Married! by Ken Setterington, One Dad, Two Dads, Brown Dad, Blue Dads by Johnny Valentine, Daddy’s Roomate and its sequel Daddy’s Wedding by Michael Willhoite, Molly’s Family by Nancy Garden, Asha’s Mums by Rosamund Elwin, How My Family Came To Be; Daddy, Papa, and Me by Andrew R. Aldrich, Zach’s Story; Growing Up With Same-Sex Parents by Keith Greenberg, A Tale of Two Mommies by Vanita Oelschlager, and Daddy, Papa, and Me and Mommy, Mama, and Me, also by Lesléa Newman are ALL children’s picture books surrounding the plot of a child (the protagonist in all of these) having a family with two parents who are the same sex.
From what I can discern from y research on LBGT+ children’s books, as well as through my personal experience, this is by far the most popular type of LGBT+ kids book – one where the protagonist is not LGBT+, but has family members that are, namely their parents (though My Two Uncles by Judith Vigna and Amy Asks a Question – Grandma, What’s a Lesbian? by Jeanne Arnold are two exceptions, and are about LBGT+ Uncles and Grandparents, respectively). I was happy to find so many books that covered this topic, but then I noticed how few were about anything other than having gay family members. Not only that, but the families are predominantly white, and almost all middle class or higher. In a study done this year by Janine Schall, she puts this into numbers; of approximately 143 books published in 2014 in the LGBT+ picture book category 62 are about white lesbian parents, and 41 are about white gay (male only) parents, adding to 122 out of 143 children’s books about white same sex parents, or 71.3%. As far as same sex parents of other races go, 2 were about African American families, 7 about Latino/a families, 2 about