Books for Queer Families: The Different Dragon

The Different Dragon

The Different Dragon, written by Jennifer Bryan and illustrated by Danamarie Hosler, is a different kind of two mom book as well! First of all, there are no moms or mommies or mothers or families mentioned in the title, which is amazing (actual non-queer people might just happen to pick this book up!), and second of all – HERE IS THE BOOK I WAS LOOKING FOR – the two moms are NOT a plot point and are NOT in any way what the book is about. Instead this is a book about a not-so-little boy’s bedtime and the bedtime story he makes up with one of his moms about a dragon who doesn’t want to be fierce any more.

Pros: Yay for family diversity that is just a fact of life and not something to be examined or questioned. I really liked the illustrations as well, and the fact that dragons (like boys and girls) can be any way they want to be, and don’t only have to be what folks expect of them.

Cons: The moms are named Momma and Go-Ma, which is fine (and probably reflects the author or some other family’s actual names), but felt awkward to me. It didn’t phase Frances at all though, so probably just my hang up.

The Bottom Line: Buy it! I also discovered this one at my local bookstore, and picked it up right away. Yay for a story in which a kid just happens to have two moms. I’m only sad that there are no more by this author and that the publishing company is on “hiatus”, so it doesn’t look like there will be any similar books coming from them in the future.

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Books for Queer Families: The Different Dragon

Books for Queer Families: A Tale of Two Mommies

A Tale of Two Mommies

A Tale of Two Mommies, written by Vanita Oelschlager and illustrated by Mike Blanc, features a little boy at the beach with his two moms. Two other kids at the beach are curious about his family and ask him lots of questions about just how this two mommies thing works (Who takes you fishing? Who comes if you have a bad dream?)

Pros: Super cute illustrations. Features a brown skinned kid and two pale mommies, so yay for reflecting families that are diverse in more ways than one!

Cons: CAN WE STOP WITH THE “HOW COULD TWO MOMS (OR TWO DADS) HANDLE THE FULL PARENTING BUSINESS” TROPE ALREADY?!?! Do kids even ask these questions?!?! No one has asked Frances yet, but maybe it’s coming (I have gotten on the playground a few times: “she doesn’t have a dad?”, but no one has ever followed up with “but then who brushes her teeth?” or whatever.)

The Bottom Line: Unless you are specifically looking for a book that reflects transracial adoption in a family with two moms, then I say skip it. I discovered this book at my local bookstore and despite the fact that I loved the illustrations (and it was in paperback, thus cheap), I did not buy it because DEAR GOD, stop already with this ridiculousness.

(I know this will invariably get some comment on how I should write a children’s book, but that’s hard work, and not particularly my skill set. Maybe I’ll attempt it someday, but I’m still hoping that someone who is actually a children’s book author will write a regular old kid’s book, with a kid who just happens to have two moms or two dads).

Books for Queer Families: A Tale of Two Mommies

Books for Queer Families: Mommy, Mama, and Me

Mommy, Mama and Me

Mommy, Mama and Me, written by Lesléa Newman and illustrated by Carol Thompson, is a board book about a young toddler with two moms. It’s actually never stated whether the kid is a boy or girl and the clothing is gender neutral, so you can totally project your own kid onto it! (Hence I choose to believe the kid in question is a girl. But she could be a boy!)

Pros: Book features two moms! Just your basic toddler board book, but with a family that looks like ours. Good illustrations, pretty straightforward story: I do these things with my Mommy. I do these things with my Mama. That’s it.

Cons: The rhyming cadence is sometimes a bit awkward, but that’s a pretty minor quibble.

I avoided this book for a while, because when Frances was a baby, we were both Mommy and the names didn’t match up. She has since taken to calling us Mommy (Jami) and Mama (me), and I feel pretty silly for avoiding to for that reason. The book is a little too young for her now (although we have it out of the library at the moment and she likes). If she was younger, I would totally buy this.

Books for Queer Families: Mommy, Mama, and Me

What I Read: June 2015

I read 7 books in June – 4 non-fiction, 3 fiction. 4 were on Kindle, 3 in print. In June, I only read books by authors of color and it was a challenge that I enjoyed. I had to make an effort to find a wide range of books by diverse authors, since I seem to mostly find books by/about white folks through my regular sources. I’ve added a bunch to my To Read list, but I have to say without the self-imposed restriction, so far in July, I’ve read mostly white folks again – so I think I’m going to try to insure that going forward at least half of my reading in a month is by or about people of color.

Blanche on the Lam by Barbara Neely (1992).
When I first read the description of Blanche on the Lam in this Booklist article, I thought “this sounds just like me”. I LOVE a mystery with a strong female crime solver. Especially one where the protagonist isn’t in a traditional law enforcement career. The sleuth in this book is Blanche White, an African American housekeeper, who stumbles into trouble on this job while hiding out after some difficulties with bad checks. I was a little surprised by just how much race and class were a factor in this book. Blanche tells it like it is, and how it is for black folks in fictional Farley, North Carolina, is Not Good. (I was going to qualify that by saying in the 1990s, which is when this book was written, but given the news lately, Not Good probably describes a lot of places today as well). My reading of this overlapped some with my reading of Beyond Mercy and it was eye-opening to see how much the injustices discussed in that book, were reflected in this fictional mystery. (The criminalization of minor behaviors that disproportionately affect poor black and brown people – like Blanche being given jail time for writing a bad check at the beginning of this book, the truly horrible targeting of black men by law enforcement as a perpetrators of crimes they didn’t commit). Apparently even my mystery reading has privilege! Anyway, the book is a great one if you enjoy the same kinds of mysteries I do. I definitely recommend it.

How to Be Black by Baratunde Thurston (2012).
A mix of memoir, humor and social commentary. Thurston grew up in Washington, DC in the 1980s and it was really interesting to read about the city I call home in that time period. Really smart, really funny. Recommend.

Quiet Odyssey: A Pioneer Korean Woman in America by Mary Paik Lee (1990).
I am admittedly a huge nerd who loves history and I just geeked out over this book. It’s the autobiography of a Korean born woman who moved to the United States in the early 1900s as a child, a time when there were very few (in the low hundreds) Koreans in the U.S. Simply fascinating.

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan (2013).
I had heard good things about this book, but I didn’t actually pick it up until Roxane Gay ringingly endorsed it. So glad I did – it is the guilty pleasure, soap opera drama of the exceedingly wealthy fiction families on Singapore. This is a vacation read incarnate.

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson (2014).
This book is so very, very good and also so disturbing. It shattered what remained of my trust in the U.S. justice/prison system after Ferguson and all that has followed. Should be required reading in high school history/government classes/everywhere.

The Great Greene Heist by Varian Johnson (2014).
Super fun middle school caper. Think Ocean’s Eleven, except a middle school election instead of a Vegas heist. Really fun. Would love it if this became a series!

Headscarves and Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution by Mona Eltahawy (2015).
One of the interesting things for me this month has been reading books that weren’t written *for* me. Like, I’m welcome to read them, but I am not the target audience. This book is by/for/about Muslim feminism and is worth reading for anyone who is interested in intersectional feminism.

What I Read: June 2015

Books for Queer Families: Stella Brings the Family

Stella Brings the Family

I am always on the look out for books with two mommy or two daddy households. Seeing yourself reflected in books is powerful, and while I don’t have any aversion to children’s books with more “traditional” families, I do crave books that show Frances a family like her own.

Stella Brings the Family, written by Miriam B. Schiffer and illustrated by Holly Clifton-Brown, is about a little girl with two dads. Stella’s class is having a Mother’s Day celebration, and Stella isn’t sure what to do. She doesn’t have a mother!

Pros: Book features two dads! Two competent, loving, totally normal dads. AND another kid in the class has two moms! Good illustrations, pretty straightforward story.

Cons: WHY is the lack of a Mom on Mother’s Days such an issue? There are no homophobic jerks in this book. And the problem is resolved easily enough (Stella invites her whole family). And YET – Stella agonizes for a week in the book about what to do. She feels anxious, is too distracted by this dilemma to play soccer one day, can’t sleep another day. I am SO ready for a book about queer families where the queer family is not the problematic plot point.

Overall, I would actually mostly recommend this book. It’s a positive portrayal of diverse families. And every time Frances asks for this book, she says “And the boy has two mommies LIKE ME.” So clearly, this is a powerful thing, seeing a family like yours. I’m just still waiting for a book with queer families that isn’t ABOUT having two moms or two dads. Some day!

Books for Queer Families: Stella Brings the Family

#WeNeedDiverseBooks

Inspired by this article, I’ve decided to read only minority authors for the month of June. The lack of diversity in the publishing industry has been on my mind for a few years, since reading this article a few years ago about the lack of diversity in children’s books – and I make a real effort to ensure that Frances’ children’s books reflect the fact that she lives in a majority minority city, and introduce her to kids/life around the world. But I haven’t ever made a similar effort in my own reading.

This is definitely an area where I could use work. Taking a look at what I’ve read so far this year, only 4 of the 47 books I’ve read so far have been by non-white authors. This makes me better than this year’s summer reading list by the New York Times, but not by much.

I decided to give myself a month between deciding this and starting, so that I could do some research about good titles that I might like. I enjoyed Americanah (one of my 4 books this year), but it took me 6 weeks to read, and I generally read 6+ books a month, so I needed to make sure I had a good mix of more serious literature or non-fiction, and all the fun stuff I like to read: mysteries, children’s chapter books, and memoirs. Library Journal helpfully came out with this list of mysteries – and I’ve already starting (and am thoroughly enjoying) the first Blanche White novel. Otherwise, I did a lot of reviewing of ALA lists for children’s books – and googling things like “diverse memoirs”. This I think I highlights the problem with lack of diversity in publishing (and reviewing). Many of these books just aren’t coming to my attention through my regular sources (newspaper reviews, library blogs, the NPR books email, etc). That’s not right either, but in the meantime, I just need to expand where I’m looking.

The #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign is on this – and has a tumblr and twitter feed which make it easier to follow news and get book recommendations – but I’m always looking for more. Is there a place you get book recommendations that covers diverse authors and characters? Do you have any books to recommend?

#WeNeedDiverseBooks