What We’ll Be Talking About in Season Two Each month in Season Two, we’ll be diving deeper into our discoveries from the Celebration Tour 2015. To launch our new season we wanted to explore some of the most common questions we covered last year in Season One, give you insight into the many reasons we align ourselves with the rainbow, and lay the groundwork for our next-level conversations focusing on the Celebration Tour.
Click here for a Rainbow Video Clip Q&A with Melita about DSG
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With gratitude to Susie Hayesfor gifting this colorful – and bilingual – book that ends with this quote: Call me tree / Llámame árbol Because / Porque I am tall / Soy alto I am strong / Soy fuerte And like a tree / Y como un árbol I am free / Soy libre
Call Me Tree You may have noticed some transgender people have been a bit busy breaking cultural taboos recently. There are a few hashtags running around which might be recognizable.
Depending on your relationship with the transgender community, you may know one or all three of these hashtags:
It has been a week where Caitlyn Jenner’s image on the cover of Vanity Fair was tweeted the world over. It has also included notable responses from the transgender community such as Jenn Dolari and Crystal Frasier’s powerful call for trans people to create their own Vanity Fair cover celebrating the beauty and strength in the transgender community. (They also wanted to make the point that not every trans person can – or wants to – subscribe to “white, cisnormative beauty standards.”)
“Far too often the ‘T’ is left behind or out of sight when we talk about LGBT issues, and it’s important to visibly make a commitment to work that we know needs to be done. I can’t think of anything more visible than putting the trans flag right next to the American flag at City Hall,” she told Philadelphia Gay News.
“We have far too many times where the trans community is mourning, from Trans Day of Remembrance to every time we lose somebody. But instead we should take a moment and revel in the empowerment of where the community is going because that’s incredibly important to celebrate.”
Author Sam Martin, who is now 43 and transitioned after reading a photo journalist book featuring transgender people, says, “When I was growing up, I never saw people like me in movies or books.” He continues:
“My goal was to write stories that would have helped me feel less alone at that age,” said Mr. Martin, who works as a Starbucks barista in Washington and writes at night.
A few years ago, gender fluidity was rarely addressed in children’s and young adult fiction. It remained one of the last taboos in a publishing category that had already taken on difficult issues like suicide, drug abuse, rape and sex trafficking. But children’s literature is catching up to the broader culture, as stereotypes of transgender characters have given way to nuanced and sympathetic portrayals on TV shows like “Orange Is the New Black” and “Transparent.”
Transgender actress-activist, Laverne Cox, echoes this sentimentwhen she reviewed the book I Am Jazz, co-authored by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings.
Mr. Andrews, 19, said that books for young adults on the subject were scarce when he began transitioning to male from female in 2011.
“When I first started transitioning, I mostly had YouTube as a source,” he said. “I wanted to write a book to help others because there were not a lot of sources out there, and I thought that one book could save a person’s life.”
Mr. Andrews says he receives 15 to 20 Facebook messages a day from readers about his memoir, “Some Assembly Required,” including notes from children as young as 8 and readers in their 60s and 70s who say the book helps them navigate questions about their gender identity.
Books are a path to self-understanding, and these books are clearly making a difference for many people – of all ages. I cannot wait to see what books will make a difference for the people I will be meeting on the Celebration Tour!
Call Me Tree / Llámameárbol
While there are a number of books which focus on what it feels like to move from one gender box to another, there are fewer that focus on the non-binary experience. These are the kids and adults who identify as gender creative, gender expansive, gender fluid, and/or gender non-conforming. Recently, my webcast guest, Krysti Ryan, noted how she has seen an increase – just in the past year – around the next generation pushing the gender binary norms.
Call Me Tree fits that need in that it provides a “gender free” multicultural reading experience where all children can see themselves.
The author, Maya Christina Gonzalez, writes:
You may or may not notice something different about my new book, Call Me Tree. Nowhere in the story are boy/girl pronouns used. No ‘he’ or ‘she’ anywhere! I found it easy to write this way because that’s how I think of kids, as kids, not boy kids or girl kids.
I even requested that no ‘he’ or ‘she’ be used anywhere else in the book, like on the end pages or the back cover when talking about the story. I also asked the publisher to only refer to the main character as a child or kid when they talked about my book out in the world. Because I wanted Call Me Tree to be gender free!
(Read the note to the reader from the author about creating a “gender free multicultural book” here.)
Gender Free While I knew this book was “gender free” before I read it, and liked that it was about growth (a big theme for me), and celebration, I was curious if reviewers would recognize or highlight the gender free message. None of the reviews I found seemed to even notice this message, and always referred to the child (“Tree”) in the book using the “he” pronoun.
Given that the author was very intentionally creating this book to be gender free, I was happy to see this review where Crystalee of The Best Books Ever, writes:
I rushed out and picked up a copy from the library. It’s a beautiful picture book with bright illustrations and sparse language in both English and Spanish. However, if I had never read the article, I probably wouldn’t have realized the gender-neutral tones. This isn’t a book that hits you over the head with an agenda, but it DOES do a great job of conveying the message that everyone is unique and everyone should go after their dreams.
Like me, this reviewer knew about the intentionality around gender. On one hand, given the more subtle undertones about gender, this book may appeal to a broader audience, and it may not be as likely to get challenged or banned. On the other hand, it could mean that some youth who would enjoy – and see themselves reflected in it – may not know how to access it easily.
Alphabet Soup Paradox
This seems the paradox around how and why we choose to categorize any literature – or identities, for that matter. Witness the many discussions around language and the LGBTQ+ alphabet soup that we discuss on my monthly webcast. Regardless, I will be interested to see which library chooses this book to add to their collection, and why!
Our Favorite Quote My daughter, Tulip Lavender (her chosen pen name), loves that this book is bilingual. She particularly enjoyed sharing it with her bilingual Spanish/English 1st grade class earlier this year.
Some trees reach
Some trees teach
Some trees stand so still
Algunos árboles se extienden
Algunos árboles se enseñan
Algunos árboles se quedan tan quietos
Red is feeling blue. Literally. He can’t understand why nothing he does comes out red. It says ‘Red’ on his label after all, but he just can’t get the hang of it. Nothing he draws is right.
Strawberries are blue. Fire engines are blue. Red ants are … well, blue.
Perfect for kids learning about colour or individuality or being true to oneself or just looking for a story that firmly sits outside the square, this is entertaining as it is brain-expanding. I particularly enjoyed the gorgeous, naive-style illustrations and Michael Hall’s author voice–hip, current, utterly kid-friendly and dry.
My favorite picture books are the ones that you can revisit over the years and continue to find something new and relevant. I think of picture books as more than a stepping stone to other kinds of reading, but a legitimate form of literature — and art — in their own right. I hope that my books have something in them for all ages. For children, I hope my books will help them broaden their sense of wonder, celebrate their differences, and come to know the power of their imaginations.
On a personal note, I can relate to how the author sees the world (and also bumps into people and things!) as he is also blind in his left eye. Michael Hall notes:
Early on, I became interested in making images that are built to exist on a two-dimensional page rather than using perspective and light and shadow to suggest three dimensions.
Actually, my world is relatively flat. I lost the vision in my left eye about fifteen years ago, so my depth perception is lacking. I still occasionally run into people on my left side from time to time.
From the author’s website, here’s a fun video clip about this lovable crayon.
Our Favorite Quote My family and I really enjoyed this book – it is simply done with a powerful message.
It’s actually hard to find a great quote as the story cleverly interacts with a number of different colored crayons – representing family, friends, teachers – with varying opinions about “Red.”
This book is best when experienced. We hope you get a chance to read and enjoy Red!
With gratitude to Sue for gifting this colorful, life-changing book to the Celebration Tour.
“I read this to my daughter (mtf) when she was 5, and when we got to the end she exclaimed, “Roland is just like me!” It was the first time we read a book she really related to….very powerful.”
Not surprisingly, the book was written about the author’s own son. Looking her up, I found her blog which I felt was pretty interesting, and goes into more detail and emotional honesty than the upbeat ending of the book delivers: “We like you for you, whatever you wear.”
After her son had decided that he wanted to start wearing boy clothes because of the comments of some of his classmates, Kiernan-Johnson writes: “I suppose it was inevitable that the weight of peer pressure would reach him at some point. I just imagined that it would be further down the road, that we’d have more time to inhabit our happy little bubble of authenticity, that he could obliviously be who he is without the burden of arbitrary societal dictates intruding on that. It isn’t that I want my son to waltz through life in a ballgown; it is that I don’t want the world to crush his spirit and stamp out his unique way of being. I don’t want it to burst his bubble.”
I don’t think she has to worry about the world crushing his spirits just yet (that doesn’t happen until you start working), but it did make going back reading the joyful exuberance of “Roland Humphrey” a bit bittersweet, and for me, more meaningful.
Usually there are a few shy comments about how “my brother likes pink,” or “my brother likes to wear girls’ swimsuits,” etc.( and it has been kind of amazing to hear about how many of these little “pink boys” are out there) but usually it segues into a very broad conversation about the small and large unkindnesses children endure no matter what they wear and how they present themselves.
Kids pick up on the universality of the acceptance themes and seem to be really hungry to talk about the slings and arrows that have bruised their small hearts. It has been a tremendous honor to be trusted with some of those stories. I was expecting more narrow questions about why Roland liked girls’ clothes etc., but these kids have been so savvy and have just honed in on the heart of the story and message and have been really honest in sharing how their own experiences have resembled the character’s. It has been an unexpected privilege to hold those stories with the kids.
My Favorite Quote I’m so much more than what colors or clothes I choose. And if you judge me on just that, I’ve got some sad news: You’re the one who misses out. It’s what inside that really counts.
As suggested by the title, The Book of Lost Things is a novel that contains itself.
The Hitchcock-style plot “MacGuffin” is the search for a scrapbook called “The Book of Lost Things” owned by the king of a magical land. But late in the day we are told that the book we are holding is also part of the plot, purportedly authored not by thriller writer John Connolly but by the grown-up version of David, the 12-year-old who seems to be the hero of the third-person narrative. It’s a tricksy approach, but then again this is a book with a trickster for a villain: the Crooked Man, who is also Rumplestiltskin of the fairy tale. The novel plays any number of games with stories famous and forgotten.
Caleb Matthews gifted this YA book. Here he talks about how it connects with Diverse Sexuality & Gender:
Caleb’s Favorite Quote For in every adult there dwells the child that was, and in every child there lies the adult that will be.
How Do You Celebrate Diversity?
Do you have a favorite book that celebrates the Diversity of Sexuality & Gender?
Have you read the The Book of Lost Things?
Share in the comments how this, or another book, has changed – or even saved – a life. I will be highlighting your celebratory quotes about books I feature in my #aBookaDay blog.
How can a book change – or even save – a life? As my family and I prepare for our Celebration Tour in mid-June, we will be featuring a book-a-day. Each donated book will be gifted to a library in one of the 25 states and 2 provinces we visit.
The books celebrate themes of Diverse Sexuality & Gender (DSG), and are all gifted from our incredibly supportive community. Many of these books are gifted in honor of a family member or friend. Books can – and do – change lives.
HRC Research on 10,000 Youth According to recent ground-breaking research by the Human RIghts Commission, 92% of LGBT youth “say they hear negative messages about being LGBT” mainly from “school, the Internet, and their peers.” 42% of the youth surveyed report that they live in communities that are not accepting of LGBT people. If you would like to hear more in-depth experiences from these youth, watch this video clip from my interview with Amy André, sexuality educator and advocate.
What happens when we counter these harmful, censoring messages by offering gifts of celebration? With words that are freely accessible in every community, but still private enough to access without fear of censorship? Libraries can offer such a safe haven, and books offer such a celebration.
Tulip Lavender on Libraries
Join us in celebrating Diverse Sexuality & Gender!
I have been planting lots of seeds over the past four years. It’s been quite a journey growing this personal and professional garden. These days, it is amazing to me how all those chilly winter months and April showers have made their impact, and my life has burst into bloom like a flower in May. Even more amazing to me is that the blooms are popping up from Austin to Montreal.
Blooming with Celebration
Today, I am thrilled to announce that my family and I will embark on a Celebration Tourfor two months this summer. Specifically, my family and I will seek out – and share – great books Celebrating Diverse Sexuality & Gender (DSG). We are big fans of our local libraries, and are excited to visit with librarians in public libraries in the US and in eastern Canada. Our goal is to gift a book celebrating themes of DSG to each library we visit.
Here you can see my 6 year old daughter reading one of her favorite books: I Am Jazz. This book celebrates the life of an American trans teen, Jazz Jennings. Jazz is the founder of her own mermaid tail company Purple Rainbow Tails. Her mermaid tail company raises money for the Transkids Purple Rainbow Foundation– of which she is an honorary co-founder. In addition to I Am Jazz, there are an increasing number of books being published by and for youth about DSG.
Growing Our Summer Garden
In June, I am excited to embark on the Celebration Tour to talk with librarians about DSG literature and the conversations they are having with their communities. In July, I am excited for the opportunity to delve into the history and variety of children’s and YA literature celebrating DSG during an interview with Dr. Sally Ember on her globally-accessible webcast Changes. In August, we will make the journey back to Austin – with a different route and more visits to libraries. We will be sharing pictures and adventures along the way on social media and some special extras for the #Censored2Celebrated email list. Would you like us to take a photo just for you along the way?
Why seek out librarians? Quite simply, librarians are some of the most interesting people to talk with not only about books and research, but also about their communities. Indeed, during a recent Censored2Celebrated interview with author and sexuality educator, Cory Silverberg, I spoke with Cory about his parents who are a librarian and a sex therapist. In response to my own surprise that I had zeroed in on his librarian parent, Cory noted how interesting librarians are.
Ever since my chat with Cory, I’ve been thinking a lot about librarians. Two of my mentors from middle school were librarians, and I still treasure a kid’s book by Alice Walker that they gifted to me at graduation. When I lived in San Francisco as a young adult, I did some work with the San Francisco Public Library, and remembered how much I enjoy librarians.
Now I have children of my own. We love going to our public libraries in Austin. We love talking with librarians. They know so much about books and their communities. My inquiring mind wants to know what communities in the US and Canada are talking and reading about diverse sexuality and gender. It’s clearly time to talk with some librarians in as many communities as possible. Lucky for me, my family is up for the adventure!
Will you purchase a book (or more!) before June 30, 2015 to donate to a public library? Here’s our Censored2CelebratedWish List.
(Books are automatically sent to Melita in Texas, and will be donated to a public library in the US or Canada.)
Are you an author of a book celebrating DSG? Would you like to donate a signed copy of your book(s) to donate to a public library? Great, we’d love to support & celebrate your work! Contact Melita here.
A Celebration Tour needs supporters and funding. We are in the start-up phase, and gratefully accept monetary donations to support our celebration of diverse sexuality and gender. ($3, $7 or $19 can buy a great book or a meal to keep us fueled on the Celebration Tour.)
Celebration Tour Support Levels
DSG (count the letters) $3.00 USD
LGBTQIA (count the letters) $7.00 USD
Number of…Countries worldwide with legalized same-sex marriage$19.00 USD
Number of…US states with marriage equality – JUST UPDATED! $50.00 USD
Number of Driving miles from…Burlington, VT to Montreal, QC $94.00 USD
Number of Driving miles from…Vass, NC to Philadelphia, PA $464.00 USD
Number of Driving miles from…Austin, TX to Boston, MA $1,965.00 USD
How can we celebrate you?
We would like to give you a shout out online about your support when you donate funds and/or book(s).