This year saw a terrific crop of books for and about LGBTQ families. Here are some of my favorites.
The grande dame of LGBTQ-inclusive kids’ books, Lesléa Newman (author of “Heather Has Two Mommies”), this year applied her sparkling prose to “Sparkle Boy,” about a gender-creative boy who loves glittery things. His parents and abuelita are encouraging, but his sister is hesitant, until she sees her sibling being teased and learns to support him.
“When You Look Out the Window: How Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin Built a Community,” by Gayle Pitman, tells of the transformation that the real-life Lyon and Martin helped bring to San Francisco and its LGBTQ community. An included reading guide gives more detail on what they did to effect the changes.
“Who Are You? The Kid’s Guide to Gender Identity,” by Brook Pessin-Whedbee, gives both young children and adults simple explanations to help them talk about different gender identities. It comes with a take-out “Gender Wheel” that lets readers mix and match ways of describing their bodies and their feelings.
Author and artist Maya Gonzalez’s “The Gender Wheel: a story about bodies and gender for every body,” uses beautiful visuals to explain the infinite range of gender possibilities. The surrounding text, though, is of a reading level that makes this best-suited for older elementary-school children. The publisher also notes that because some of the people in this body-positive book are unclothed (though in a cartoonish, not realistic, way) it is intended for children to read with “a supportive adult.” This would be a good volume for those who have already read Pessin-Whedbee’s book above.
Another book for younger children is the one Gonzalez wrote with her partner Matthew Smith Gonzalez, “They She He Me: Free to Be!,” a beautifully illustrated celebration of pronouns. Each page highlights a different pronoun, with images that convey the variety of people who might use it. A guide at the end gives children and parents more information and ideas, urging readers to keep “playing with pronouns.”
“Rumplepimple Goes to Jail,” by Suzanne DeWitt Hall, is the second adventure featuring the titular terrier who gets into mischief with a cat friend and must be rescued by his two moms.
The new set of six books from micro-press Flamingo Rampant focuses on stories about celebrations, including birthdays, baby showers, Christmas, Passover, Eid al-Fitr and a Lakota pow wow. They’re chock-full of multi-racial, multi-ethnic characters across the spectrum of sexual orientations, family structures and gender identities and expressions. Buy them at flamingorampant.com.
Emma Donoghue’s funny and clever “The Lotterys Plus One” is told from the perspective of the middle child of seven, part of a family that began when two couples became best friends and decided to have a baby together — then won the lottery, bought a big house and added more kids through childbearing and adoption. Their life is thrown off-kilter when one curmudgeonly and conservative grandfather must come to live with them, and all must learn to find common ground.
Dana Allison Levy may be known to readers from her two “Family Fletcher” books about a family with gay dads. In her third book, “This Would Make a Good Story Someday,” she follows the Fletchers’ neighbors, a two-mom family. After one of the moms, a blogger, wins a fellowship to take a family train trip and write about it, they pack up their three daughters and eldest daughter’s boyfriend and depart for an entertaining and surprisingly touching adventure across the country.
Books for teens (and up)
Pitman (see above), a professor of psychology and women/gender studies at Sacramento City College, also gave us “Feminism A to Z,” in which she combines insights from history, academic research, her own experiences and more to create a wide-ranging, intersectional, queer-inclusive guidebook to feminist theory and a toolkit for exploring how it relates to one’s life. She manages to make it both substantive and fun. While not queer-specific, it contains so much insight into gender that it deserves a place on this list.
“Queer There and Everywhere: 23 People Who Changed the World” by Sarah Prager offers engaging profiles of queer people from across history and around the globe. Chances are you’ve heard of some of them but not all — and you may learn more even about those you know.
“The Kids: The Children of LGBTQ Parents in the USA” by award-winning photographer Gabriela Herman contains 75 striking, powerful images and essays that show us life with LGBTQ parents through the eyes of their grown children. They are from a diversity of backgrounds, family structures and experiences, but united by a love of their families, warts and all.
For parents and parents-to-be
“Pride and Joy: A Guide for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans Parents” by Sarah and Rachel Hagger-Holt deftly synthesizes stories and insights from more than 70 LGBT parents, their grown children, sperm donors and others across the U.K. and Ireland, on both starting a family and navigating the years to follow. Most of the book is broadly applicable to LGBT parents in the U.S. too.
Eric Rosswood’s “The Ultimate Guide for Gay Dads” is a helpful how-to with guidance on general child-care topics like how to change a diaper, as well as on things specific to queer dads, like legal steps to protect your family, how to find queer-friendly pediatricians and schools, what to do on Mother’s Day, guiding daughters through puberty and much more. Full of anecdotes from real dads, it should become an invaluable resource.