This Pride, share with your kids the history and meaning behind the month through two new books and several older ones. There’s something for all ages!
When You Look Out the Window: How Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin Built a Community, by Gayle Pitman, tells of the transformation that LGBTQ-rights pioneers Lyon and Martin helped bring to San Francisco and its LGBTQ community. The picture book begins with them falling in love, buying a house, and observing the lack of rights for women and gay people in their neighborhood. “So we worked to change that,” they say. The rest of the book shows the many welcoming buildings now in the neighborhood, often bedecked with rainbow flags, and the sense of community that permeates the streets. Christopher Lyles’ paint and collage illustrations are the perfect multi-textured complement to the text. A Reading Guide at the end gives further details about the places mentioned, and about Lyon and Martin’s work.
I wish the main text spoke a little more about what Lyon and Martin actually did to effect the changes we see in these pages. Parents will have to review the Reading Guide and explain to their kids that the duo created safe spaces for women who, like themselves, loved other women, and that they brought people together to fight for LGBTQ and women’s rights. Still, the book is a great conversation starter and a rare non-fiction book about LGBTQ equality for the younger age group.
Pitman’s 2014 picture book, This Day in June, won the Stonewall Book Award from the American Library Association, and is also well worth a read this month (or any month, for that matter). In bouncy rhymes and energetic images, it takes us on a joyous trip to a Pride Parade, where we meet a diverse group of dykes on bikes, people in leather, drag queens and others of varying gender expressions, politicians, marching bands, and parents with their children.
Queer There and Everywhere: 23 People Who Changed the World, by Sarah Prager, aims for the teen audience, but adults will also learn much from her engaging profiles. “The version of history we learn in school puts a straight, cisgender mask on almost everyone,” she writes. In fact, though, “queer people have existed for as long as people have existed…. Recognizing the world’s rich history of queerness helps reduce homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia, and helps welcome queer identities to the mainstream with love and acceptance.”
Prager offers a thoughtful exploration of historical terms for what we now call “queer” identities, an overview of queerness in every populated region of the world, and profiles that are both informative and entertaining. The figures run the gamut from the famous Abraham Lincoln to the relatively unknown Union soldier Albert Cashier. Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin are there, as is Harvey Milk, but so are lesser-known figures like the Roman Emperor Elagabalus, erstwhile Queen of Sweden Kristina Vasa, Mexican nun and poet Juana Inés de la Cruz, professional baseball player Glenn Burke, and many more. One might quibble with some of the choices (did Cashier really change the world?) and wish for others, but no book this length can encompass all of the many queer people in history. We can only hope there’s a sequel.
Other Pride books for younger children:
In addition to Pittman’s works above, try M Is for Mustache: A Pride ABC Book, by Catherine Hernandez (2015), which takes us through an alphabet of Pride-related words through the eyes of a Filipino American child. The book comes only as part of a set of six LGBTQ-inclusive children’s books from micro-press Flamingo Rampant—but they’re all great books, so it’s a worthwhile investment.
Published in 1991 and now out of print, but worth finding used (or borrowing from the Open Library online) is Gloria Goes To Gay Pride, by Lesléa Newman, author of the classic Heather Has Two Mommies. Gloria and her two moms meet other families and people from their neighborhood at a Pride parade. Most of the spectators cheer, but a few have a sign saying, “Gays go away.” One of the moms explains, “Some women love women, some men love men, and some women and men love each other. That’s why we march in the parade—so everyone can have a choice.” The story holds up remarkably well, despite somewhat dated illustrations and use of “Gay Pride” rather than “LGBTQ Pride.”
Older elementary school children may also want to read Kari Krakow’s The Harvey Milk Story, which conveys Milk’s significance with warmth and appreciation. It does mention Milk’s assassination, so parents should be prepared to address kids’ concerns there.
For tweens and up:
Pride: Celebrating Diversity and Community, by Robin Stevenson (2016), blends a history of the event with a broader look at the struggle for LGBTQ equality, along with a look at what it means to come out, what to expect at Pride events around the world, a glossary, and an explanation of gender identity.
Gay & Lesbian History for Kids: The Century-Long Struggle for LGBT Rights, by Jerome Pohlen (2015), starts with Sappho, Alexander the Great, and other figures from distant history, but then focuses mostly on U.S. social and political history. A series of activities throughout the book add fun and engagement. Despite the main title, Pohlen is inclusive of the LGBT spectrum.
Gay America: Struggle for Equality, is explicitly limited to gay men and lesbians, but worthwhile within those limits, covering politics, culture, relations between the lesbian and gay rights movement and other civil rights movements, entertainment, the evolution of gay and lesbian identities, and more.
Read with pride!