It’s easy to gush, “Oh, I’m so proud of you!” when a child brings home a good grade or behaves well at a restaurant or scores a winning goal. But what if we encouraged children to be proud of who they are, no matter if they fall outside the expected?
It’s pride week, and the city near where I live, San Francisco, is getting ready. (I particularly like this Bay Area Bike Share bike!) And I’m reminded that Pride began in 1969, when the opposite of pride—shame—was once commonly felt by gays and lesbians. The gay rights movement has come so far since the Stonewall days.
Attitudes are changing in the publishing world, too. I’m particularly proud of the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign, which has loudly, proudly demanded that booksellers and publishers and authors begin to look at which stories get published, what stories are purchased for our children.
It’s vital that we have books that reflect the world today. For me, I will never forget reading books that introduced me to people different from myself. The stories I read--Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, Summer of My German Solder—built understanding and compassion for experiences other than mine.
But when I was young, I never encountered a story about gay parents or young people questioning the happily ever after of boy-meets-girl. It wasn’t until I began writing My Mixed-Up Berry Blue Summer that I searched for these books. They started to appear in the late 1990s—the first was Annie on My Mind in 1982—but too few were for middle grade readers. (School Library Journal provides a list of recommended titles for ages 8 to 12.)
Look how far we’ve come, now! Even two years after my book was published, the world is moving gay marriage to the mainstream (although we’re not there yet). Best of all, children can find more books at the library that will speak to them or their experience or their neighbor’s experience. (Thanks to Lee Wind for his exhaustive LGBTQ list!). And more diverse literature is not only good but essential for the future of our world.
If you are a writer, remember to do as Gary Schneider asks: “Write the stories that will give kids more to be human beings with.” And fly your rainbow flag with pride!
Like many people watching the President and the first family on November 7, I was struck by how tall Malia and Sasha have become. Wait! When did they grow up so fast?
My next thought: Is it too late for them to read my middle-grade novel?
For Malia, 14 and a high school freshman at Sidwell Friends, the answer is yes. But if I could be so bold, I think Sasha, 11, would love My Mixed-Up Berry Blue Summer.
This brazen idea came to me last spring when President Obama came out in support of gay marriage on May 9, just two days before my book launched. I wanted to send him the book as a thank you but I knew it was impossible to just send it to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Here's what I did:
Candy hearts, cards, chocolates -- this day can be pretty miserable, especially for anyone in middle school. I can remember being relieved that I wasn't forced to send a card to every classmate as I was in elementary school. But the relief of not doing 24 homemade cards was overshadowed by receiving only one or two from friends.
Valentine's Day gets better, really, when you are older.
Especially when you realize it's OK to celebrate the love you feel for your friends, your dog, and your sister or brother.
This Valentine's Day, I'm thinking about the people in Washington State. They just voted to approve marriage for all. Now, it doesn't matter if two men or two women want to marry. You can marry who you love. That makes seven states, including Vermont, that have legalized gay marriage.
I think that's great. June would, too. In MY MIXED-UP BERRY BLUE SUMMER, June encounters some grownups who don't think her mom should be allowed to marry her girlfriend. June struggles to make sense of her new family, and how to stand on the side of love.
You'll have to wait until May to see how the pie gets mixed in.
Here's what I've been thinking and writing about. I love getting email, too!