Heather of “Heather Has Two Mommies,” a story by Lesléa Newman about a child and her two moms, first made her literary appearance in the late 80s. Since then Heather would have grown up, moved out of her parents house, and maybe begun to create a family of her own. If she had kids, what books would she read them so they can learn about their family, friends and themselves?
“’Heather Has Two Mommies’ was a groundbreaking book when it came out in 1989,” author and activist S. Bear Bergman says. “There haven’t been a lot of updates, and unfortunately a lot of the updates have come in the same kind of vein as “Heather Has Two Mommies.” It’s sort of like: ‘Dear Heterosexual Macroculture. We have made a book for you to explain that families like ours exist. Please stop throwing rocks. Love and kisses, The Homos.’”
Bergman explains that beyond that, even when LGBT families are represented, they’re usually white, live in the suburbs, and have exactly and only two parents. The breadth of diversity our families are in reality often stops on the pages of the stories we offer to children.
In order to tell a wider variety of stories, Bergman has launched the Flamingo Rampant Book Club, a Kickstarter campaign that wants to deliver brand new LGBTQ2S-themed stories to you and your kids.
The Book Club — a follow-up to a successful Kickstarter campaign which saw two books with trans themes published, “Backwards Day” and “The Adventures of Tulip, Birthday Wish Fairy” — seeks to launch a subscription service for six new LGBTQ2S-themed children’s books.
“These books celebrate the great and wide variety of our kids, families, and communities,” says Bergman. “They don’t just feature gay dads or lesbian mums, they get storylines: travels, adventures and mysteries to solve, rather than entire books pointing out that we exist.” Bergman goes on to note that half of the books will focus on Black, Latin@, Indigenous, First Nations, Asian/Pacific Islander, Middle Eastern, and mixed-race people and families instead of making them minor, one-line characters.”
What kicked off the Flamingo Rampant Book Club! is actually a kid’s story itself. Bergman’s husband, j wallace (his preferred spelling) is an expert on LGBT-themed children’s books, as their family has a huge collection at home; as a result, wallace often presents on the topic and he works with Toronto District School Board teachers on how to positively introduce LGBTQ2S people and stories into the classroom. Every time wallace sees recommendations of children’s books for teachers on the subject, he orders them.
One night, their child Stanley and Bergman were reading through some of the most recent finds. “We settled in before bedtime to read some of this stack of books,” Bergman says. “They were all full of bullying, harassment and misery, and a couple of pages into the fourth one he looked at me and he said, ‘I don’t want this. I don’t want any more bully stories.’”
“I started thinking about it. What are we sending our kids to sleep with?” Bergman says. “That could just as well be the motto of this project.”
Many publishers don’t have a children’s imprint and, in publishing, children’s books are considered a specialty, let alone LGBT-themed ones. Flamingo Rampant Book Club! is a book club for all families who want their children to have the opportunity to read positive stories about LGBTQ2S people.” The stories span a range of different types of family and children. One story, Newspaper Pirates, will depict the adventures of a child living with his two dads in an urban apartment building, trying to figure out the mystery of his dad’s disappearing newspaper. Another will follow a gender-independent Mohawk child who finds power in his long hair and gender-identity. Another is an ABC book about Pride, featuring different community members, items, and values of Pride.
The Kickstarter campaign has several different levels to meet budgets and needs of all families, including a full-year subscription of six books for just $99. These can be addressed to the child, and will arrive in a festive pink envelope.
In any case, Heather and her family are going to have a few awesome new books to choose from!
Flamingo Rampant Book Club! is an all-or-nothing Kickstarter campaign running until Tuesday, Aug 12. If you want to support this worthy cause or are looking for more info, visit the campaign page.