This year brought us several new books, fiction and non-fiction, featuring lesbian- and gay-headed familes. While we might hope for greater quantity (and greater diversity across lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender parents), the quality was at least very good. Here are some of the best.
Donovan’s Big Day, by Lesléa Newman, is a delightful story about a boy preparing for the wedding of his two moms. Newman wrote Heather Has Two Mommies, the first picture book for and about children with lesbian parents, over 20 years ago. Unlike in Heather, however, which shows the girl grappling to understand why her family is “different,” Newman left “issues” out of Donovan entirely. The young boy has only the problems any child might face while attending a wedding of any sort. He has to dress up, keep clean, and not fidget. Most of all, he has to make sure to hand his moms their rings at the proper moment.
There is just enough light tension to keep young readers engaged as Donovan goes through each step of his preparations. Illustrator Mike Dutton’s dynamic gouache drawings capture Donovan’s earnest spirit with gentle humor.
Monday is One Day, by Arthur A. Levine (Scholastic Press), is a gay-inclusive (but not exclusive) poem from a working parent to a child. Each page shows a different family and a different activity as they count down to and through the weekend. The families are white and black, with moms and dads, gay dads, single parents, and one older couple who could be the child’s grandparents. They live in cities, suburbs, and on a farm, and all delight in each other. Julian Hector’s bold, colorful illustrations complement the bouncy rhymes. The book reminds us how much of the parenting experience is universal.
Levine, a gay dad himself, is also a publisher of his own imprint at Scholastic, Arthur A. Levine Books, whose titles include the U.S. editions of the Harry Potter series.
Sing you Home, by New York Times bestselling author Jodi Picoult, brings the lives and concerns of lesbian prospective moms to a mainstream audience in an engaging and sympathetic way. Picoult’s novel also tries to educate its readers about some of the real-life legal and social barriers same-sex couples face. A spunky fictional attorney from the real-life Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) plays a prominent role. If the book sometimes feels jammed with too many Big Social Issues—marriage equality, alcoholism, abortion, suicidal teens—Picoult is a good enough writer to weave them into a coherent and compelling tale.
Times Two: Two Women in Love and the Happy Family They Made, Sarah Kate Ellis and Kristen Henderson’s memoir of simultaneous pregnancies, is a welcome addition to the small genre of LGBT parenting chronicles. Ellis is a marketing executive in New York City. Henderson is a founding member of the all-female rock band Antigone Rising. In alternating chapters, they tell their intertwining tale of coming out, falling in love, and starting a family.
Although some might consider the tale of double the hormones, mood swings, and post-partum exhaustion to be more of a cautionary tale, Ellis and Henderson manage to emphasize the positive. Along the way to parenthood, they discover their resiliency as a couple as they bond over the side effects of pregnancy—heartburn, hemorrhoids, and swollen ankles—and agree to disagree over issues such as whether to know the genders of their children and whether to try natural childbirth. They tell their story with a warmth and honesty that shows on every page.
Invisible Families: Gay Identities, Relationships, and Motherhood among Black Women, by UCLA sociologist Mignon Moore, is arguably the most groundbreaking work on LGBT parenting published in recent years. Her work is a valuable corrective to the predominant portrayal in media and research of LGBT parents (and LGBT people generally) as almost entirely white. It will complement the emerging demographic data that shows a high percentage of lesbian and gay parents are people of color.
Mignon takes a close look at the community of gay black women in New York City, drawing on personal observations, interviews, and surveys to perceptively trace the connections among sexual orientation, gender expression, race, and class. While she doesn’t focus exclusively on mothers, many of the women in her study are mothers, and must negotiate the assumptions and expectations of motherhood within black communities while also challenging those assumptions by virtue of being gay.
Mignon deftly explores the overlapping influences on these women’s identities in a work that is both valuable in itself and will serve as a model for future research into LGBT families of all types.
Adoption by Lesbians and Gay Men: A New Dimension in Family Diversity, edited by David Brodzinsky and Adam Pertman of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, brings together experts across several disciplines—social welfare, psychology, sociology, and law—to provide a picture of this “rapidly growing new family form.” It summarizes our knowledge of lesbian and gay adoptive families, contributes to it, and points out directions for future research, education, and policy changes. It is an academic book, not a light read, but should become an invaluable reference for adoption professionals, researchers, policy makers, advocates, and lawyers.
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