Tuesday, August 09, 2011

What We're Reading

New Children's Books About Children with Gay Parents

While a lot of attention has been focused lately on gay marriage and U. S. military policy concerning gay enlisted men and women, there is a growing concern about the acceptance of gay families and the social experience of children who have gay parents. It is estimated that over 9 million children in America live in families with a gay parent. These numbers seem likely to grow as gay marriage becomes more common and as barriers to gay adoption continue to fall. Books are beginning to be published that are directed to those children and towards children of more traditional families curious about the nature of gay families.

Until recently, treatment of the subject of gay partnerships and gay marriage has been treated rather obliquely in children’s picture books. In Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson, two male penguins adopt an orphan penguin. In One Dad, Two Dads, Brown Dads, Blue Dads by Johnny Valentine, things are even more opaque, and while a message of tolerance for diversity comes through, a child is probably not likely to understand that the story is about two male gay parents. The library has recently acquired two new picture books for children that are considerably more direct. In A Tale of Two Daddies by Vanita Oelschlager, a young boy asks a young girl his age about life with her two dads. The point of the question and answer format is to show that basic caretaking and parental functions are all addressed in a family with same sex parents, that a child’s basic parenting needs are not neglected. The book would be reassuring to the child of gay parents, but is perhaps mainly directed to other children curious about children they know who have gay parents. In the timely book Donovan’s Big Day by Leslea Newman, we learn only gradually in the book that the subject is about a wedding between Donovan’s mother and her lesbian partner. First we see Donovan getting all dressed up for some big event, then, we come to understand that he is the ring bearer at a wedding, and finally we learn that his mother is marrying her partner. This book too seems directed to all children, and not just children of gay parents. There are not a lot of these kinds of titles available so far, and they tend to be published by smaller presses rather than larger book publishers and distributors. There is a need for more of them.

Those interested in the subject of this review, might also like to know that the library currently owns some books on gay parenting, most notably perhaps Families of Value; Gay and Lesbian Parents and Their Children Speak Out, by Jane Drucker. We will soon have more current books in the juvenile parenting section of the Children’s Room: The Complete Lesbian & Gay Parenting Guide by Arlene Lev, and Gay Parenting: The Complete Guide to Same-Sex Families, by Shana Priwer.

1 comment:

Cheril Bey-Clarke said...

It's really great to see so much attention finally be given to children with same sex parents. Every day, more and more of us are creating works for our children so that they can have characters whose families look like theirs.