Tag: Books

5 Books on Lesbian Nuns before Watching “Benedetta”

5 Books on Lesbian Nuns before Watching "Benedetta"

A certain subset of us — gay film geeks, horny ex-Catholics, those who are ready for still more period piece yearning with one (1) brunette and one (1) blonde white woman — may have thought we were merely wishing things into existence with the trailer dropped yesterday for Paul Verhoeven’s Benedetta, an erotic lesbian nun horror/thriller. Erotic! Lesbian! Nun! Horror! Thriller! And yet, in the cold and sober light of the next day, this trailer remains:

If you’d like more backstory on the real-life story of Sister Benedetta that inspired this film while you wait for its wide release, or just want more to read about real-life lesbian nuns, this is where to get started.

Judith C. Brown

Judith C. Brown’s account of the real-life Sister Benedetta Carlini was a fascinating and kind of scandalous text when it was published in 1986: “…Benedetta Carlini entered the convent at the age of nine. At twenty-three, she began to have visions of both a religious and erotic nature. Benedetta was elected abbess due largely to these visions, but later aroused suspicions by claiming to have had supernatural contacts with Christ. During the course of an investigation, church authorities not only found that she had faked her visions and stigmata, but uncovered evidence of a lesbian affair with another nun, Bartolomeo.”

Brown had a lot of gripping material to work with: “”Immodest Acts” is based on papers that Judith Brown, a historian at Stanford University, discovered in the state archives of Florence while researching the economic history of the region and the Medici rule. The documents concerning Sister Benedetta consisted mostly of transcripts of a series of inquests, carried on between 1619 and 1623, first by the provost (the town’s chief ecclesiastical official), and then by the papal nuncio to determine whether the nun, abbess of the Convent of the Mother of God, was a true divine visionary or the victim of a ”diabolical obsession.’”

Orice Klaas

A self-published memoir by a former nun who now lives in Portland with her partner and cat, this book tells the story of “a fifteen-year-old girl [who] enters a convent during an era when nuns wear traditional habits and are physically and emotionally isolated from the rest of the world. In spite of being subjected to a rigid discipline that includes nearly perpetual silence and almost total separation from her family, friends, and fellow community members, she makes the most of her life for nineteen years, until an eventual unexpected sexual awakening forces her to make a choice.” If you’ve seen Novitiate and wished for more about the real life experiences of its protagonist, here you are!

Edited by Rosemary Curb & Nancy Manahan

Out of print for 20 years, this is a genuine treasure and irreplaceable record of a communal history; originally published by a small lesbian press and received with a level of controversy they were totally unprepared for, this book is now re-released with “a new foreword analyzing the unprecedented impact it had on the lesbian community and mainstream culture. In new afterwords, the co-editors reveal how the book came to be and what happened to their lives when, for the first time in history, a lesbian book from a small publisher went mainstream.”

Sherry Velasco

An early butch or transmasculine figure, Erauso (who also went by the names Alonso Díaz de Guzmán and Antonio de Erauso) was pressured into taking vows in Spain around 15 and later escaped, living as a man and racking up a long list of travel and military exploits and pursuing various betrothals and dowries with women in North America, eventually earning a dispension from the Pope to continue dressing in men’s clothing.

Edited by Stephanie Mirrim

Sor Juana was an enormously accomplished writer, poet, philosopher, and Hieronymite nun in Mexico, whose love poems were also addressed to women and who was generally understood to have had a relationship with Countess Maria Luisa de Paredes. She was fluent in both Latin and Nahautl, and held literary salons for the intellectual elite in her nun’s quarters before being forced to step away from intellectual life by the Bishop of Puebla as punishment for her writings on misogyny. Her life and work are fascinating and well worth reading about, as is her impact as a feminist public figure — also absolutely check out Sor Juana’s own work and especially her (gay) love poems!


What are your recommendations when it comes to lesbian, queer & trans nuns? Tell me what I’m missing!

LGBTQ-Inclusive Kids’ Books: April Wrap-Up Video

LGBTQ-Inclusive Kids' Books: April Wrap-Up Video

Hold on to your bookshelves! May and June are absolutely loaded with new LGBTQ-inclusive kids’ books, and I’ll be reviewing them here. Before that happens, however, I made a one-minute video wrap-up of the ones I reviewed in April. Have a look to see if you missed any!

As always, you can visit my Books for Kids posts or my Books for Parents posts to see my full reviews—or go to the database of nearly 700 items to search and filter by topics and identities. And while we’ll be a little book-heavy around here for a while, I’ll still keep bringing you other news and views related to queer parents and our children.

Kids’ Books for Nonbinary Parents Day and Any Day

Mombian - Sustenance for Lesbian Moms Since 2005

It’s Nonbinary Parents Day—so whether you go by maddy, baba, mapa, moppa, nibi, zeze, or any other parental name, may you bask in celebration! Here are a few picture books with nonbinary, genderqueer, and two-spirit parents and other adults (or ones that could be read as such) that may help add to the fun!

Nonbinary Parents Day

I’m taking a broad view here in order to be as inclusive as possible; note that some characters’ identities are not specified but could be read as nonbinary. I recognize that different folks may have different definitions of nonbinary; my intent here is not to dictate, but rather to offer a selection from which you can choose what fits your needs.

  • My Maddy, by Gayle Pitman and illustrated by Violet Tobacco (Magination Press). “Most mommies are girls. Most daddies are boys. But lots of parents are neither a boy nor a girl. Like my Maddy,” begins this gentle story told as a series of reflections by a child about her parent. While an afterward indicates that the story was inspired by an intersex parent, the text never specifies Maddy’s identity as intersex, transgender, or anything except “neither a boy nor a girl,” allowing nonbinary parents with a range of identities to see themselves here—and more importantly, for their children and children’s peers to see them. Pitman also deftly avoids having the child use any pronouns when referring to Maddy, again leaving room for readers to engage with the story as best suits them, whether the Maddy in their lives uses “they/them,” “xe/xir,” or other pronouns.
  • Bell’s Knock Knock Birthday, by George Parker and illustrated by Sam Orchard (Flamingo Rampant). A gender creative child is welcoming their gender diverse friends and family to their birthday party in this fun book that will have you doing the sound effects. The guests include “Grandmani,” who uses “they” pronouns, and other guests who could be read as nonbinary.
  • 47,000 Beads, by Angel Adeyoha and Koja Adeyoha, illustrated by Holly McGillis (Flamingo Rampant). A Lakota child gets a little help from her aunt, mother, cousin, and a two-spirit elder in expressing a two-spirit self and dancing at a pow wow.
  • Bridge of Flowers, by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha and illustrated by Syrus Marcus Ware (Flamingo Rampant). A story of magic and connection about a child whose two parents, one of whom uses “they” pronouns, have separated.
  • The Little Library, by Margaret McNamara and illustrated by G. Brian Karas (Schwartz & Wade Books). Part of the author and illustrator’s popular Mr. Tiffin’s Classroom series, this is the tale of a boy who “is a slow and careful reader” and a librarian (who happens to be nonbinary) helping him find just the right book for his interests. Notable for making the librarian’s gender identity a given and incidental to the story. While the librarian isn’t a parent per se, they’re an adult who’s helping a child, so I’m including them here. Full review.
  • Similarly, They Call Me Mix/Me Llaman Maestre, by Lourdes Rivas and illustrated by Breena Nunez, is the autobiographical story of a nonbinary child who becomes a teacher and tells their students about “respecting all genders.” Again, not a parent, but I’m making an exception for teachers.
  • My Family, Your Family! by Kathryn Cole and illustrated by Cornelia Li (Second Story Press). This simple board book celebrates different types of families, including ones with same-sex parents and one with a child who uses “they” pronouns—and one of the adults on that page could be read as nonbinary, too.
  • Super Power Baby Shower, by Fay Onyx and Tobi Hill-Meyer, illustrated by Janine Carrington (Flamingo Rampant). A child with three parents is told a fantastical tale of adventure about the night of their parents’ baby shower. The parents’ gender identities aren’t specified, but at least one of them could be read as nonbinary. The publisher tags this one as having a nonbinary adult, so let’s assume it’s so.
  • M Is for Mustache: A Pride ABC Book, by Catherine Hernandez and illustrated by Marisa Firebaugh (Flamingo Rampant). We learn an alphabet of Pride-related words through the eyes of a Filipino American child attending a parade with the many “titas,” or aunties, of her chosen family. Some of the characters appear to be gender creative, genderqueer, or nonbinary, though their specific identities are not stated.
  • The Last Place You Look, by j wallace skelton and illustrated by Justin Alves (Flamingo Rampant). Two bubbies (grandmothers) who are a couple host a Passover seder for their grandchildren and other family members. All must think creatively when the afikomen (a special piece of matzo) cannot be found. One of the children uses “they” pronouns and one of the adults could be read as nonbinary. The publisher tags this one as having a nonbinary adult, so let’s assume it’s so.
  • The Zero Dads Club, by Angel Adeyoha and illustrated by Aubrey Williams (Flamingo Rampant). A child with two moms and one being raised by a single mom (both, incidentally, children of color) tackle a similar issue to Stella—doing a Father’s Day project in class. They team up with a child that lives with a grandmother and an aunt, and one that lives with her Mama and Baba (the latter of whom identifies as a “butch”) to share their stories. Some folks who identify as “butch” see this as a nonbinary identity and others don’t; I’m including the book here for those who do.
  • I Looked Into Your Eyes: A Poem for New Families, by Aviva L. Brown and Rivka Badik-Schultz, with illustrations by Catherine Sipoy (SpringLight). This gentle book for new parents and their children celebrates diverse families in the Jewish spiritual tradition. The author told me in an interview that one of the parents (on the cover and on an interior page) is “gender non-conforming.” They could be seen as nonbinary. Full review.
  • Over the Shop, by JonArno Lawson and illustrated by Qin Leng (Candlewick Press). In this beautifully illustrated wordless tale about found family, a girl and her gender-ambiguous grandparent must rent the apartment over their run-down shop. No one wants it—until one day, a queer couple arrives. One person is dark-skinned with long hair, and reads as female; the other is Asian with short hair and could be read as a transgender man, nonbinary, or a butch/masculine woman. Lawson’s dedication in the front of the book is “To trans activists of all ages,” but without any clarification in the story itself, however, readers have some leeway in interpretation. The grandparent’s gender is never stated; they could be seen as nonbinary, too. Full review.
  • Porcupine Cupid, by Jason June and illustrated by Lori Richnmond (Margaret K. McElderry Books). Porcupine is excited that it’s Valentine’s Day, and uses his quills like Cupid’s arrows to poke the other animals as he tells them he hopes they will find their true loves. The others don’t like being poked, however, and call a town meeting to discuss—where pairs of them bond over their shared dislike of Porcupine’s actions, leading to new romances. Some are same-sex pairs and queer cues in the illustrations indicate other LGBTQ identities as well. One wears a scarf colored like the trans flag; another has a yoga mat colored like the genderqueer flag. Yes, some may distinguish between nonbinary and genderqueer; others may see nonbinary as an umbrella term including genderqueer. I leave it to you to decide whether this book fits your needs.
  • Plenty of Hugs, by Fran Manushkin and illustrated by Kate Alizadeh (Dial Books). I’m including this celebration of the loving relationship between a toddler and parents with some hesitancy, since the publisher has described it as a book about two moms, which implies (but doesn’t absolutely confirm, of course) that they identify as women. Neither of the parents’ genders or pronouns is specified, however. One has a more masculine gender identity and could be read as nonbinary. Full review.

You can always easily search my database of LGBTQ family media again in the future with the “Nonbinary/genderqueer parent/adult(s)” tag (across whatever age categories you choose) to see what’s new—and use the “Nonbinary/genderqueer kid” tag for the growing number of books with representation of younger nonbinary and genderqueer folks!

16 LGBTQ-Inclusive Picture Books and Board Books You May Have Missed

Mombian - Sustenance for Lesbian Moms Since 2005

I’ve been adding books fast and furiously to my database and haven’t mentioned them all individually on the blog—so here are a few newish ones that are worth a look!

16 LGBTQ-Inclusive Kids' Books You May Have Missed

Click the links to see the database entries for each book, including longer reviews. All are picture books except when noted. Click the headers for even more books from the database on these topics.

Two-Mom Families and Queer Women

  • A Mother’s Day Surprise, by Lindsay B and illustrated by Kate Phillips. A young Black girl is excited about surprising her two moms (one Black, one White) on Mother’s Day—two mothers mean “two times the fun,” but also “twice the work.”
  • Mom Marries Mum! by Ken Setterington and illustrated by Alice Priestley (Second Story Press). The simplified board book version of Setterington’s 2004 Mom and Mum Are Getting Married. A young girl wants to help on her moms’ wedding day, and she ends up being the flower girl as her brother carries the rings.
  • A Portrait in Poems: The Storied Life of Gertrude Stein & Alice B. Toklas, by Evie Robillard and illustrated by Rachel Katstaller (Kids Can Press). A biography of Gertrude Stein and “her partner Alice Toklas” that focuses on their life together in Paris. The poems of the title are free verse and addressed directly to the reader (“The next time you go to Paris…”), and interspersed with bits of Stein’s own writings. Quirky and charming, just like its subjects. Best for the older end of the picture-book age range.

Two Dads and Queer Men

  • Leaders Like Us: Bayard Rustin, by J. P. Miller and illustrated by Markia Jenai (Discovery Library). A biography that focuses on Rustin’s work with the Black civil rights movement, but that also notes “Some people treated Bayard unfairly because he was gay, but that did not stop him.”
  • Aalfred and Aalbert: A Love Story, written and illustrated by Morag Hood (Peachtree). Aardvarks Aalfred and Aalbert each sometimes longed to be part of a pair, but each had his own life, one nocturnal and one diurnal, so they never met. When a little bird notices, wordlessly, that they might do well together, it sets out to nudge them into encountering each other. While I tend to prefer books with human LGBTQ characters, who often provide more authentic representation, this book is just darn cute, and would make a nice addition to a collection that already has books with human LGBTQ characters. (Additional observation: The hardback version is titled just Aalfred and Aalbert, but the 2020 paperback version is Aalfred and Aalbert: A Love Story. In its review, School Library Journal called the book “a lovely book about finding a new friend.” Clearly they missed the point—the original U.K. publisher’s own blurb calls the bird a “matchmaker” and says the story “will appeal to families with LGBTQ parents and family members.” The two aardvarks have obviously found aamor.)

Queer Parents and Divorce

  • Two Moms, Two Houses, by Jessica Wexler and illustrated by Jeric Tan (Pride Fairy Press). A young child of unspecified gender introduces readers to their divorced mommy and mama, to the separate houses they live in with each one, and to the different routines they have with each. I like that it doesn’t try pedantically to explain what divorce is, but just focuses on the positive things that the child does with each mom.
  • My Family Is Changing: A Drawing and Activity Book for Kids of Divorce, by Tracy McConaghie and illustrated by Karen Greenberg (Rockridge Press). This interactive book is intended to help children better understand and cope with the changes that come with having divorced parents. In it, seven (fictional) children of various skin tones, including one with two moms and one with two dads, share their own stories of having divorced parents. Each story is followed by prompts and activities.

Family Diversity

  • Federico and All His Families, by Mili Hernández and illustrated by Gómez (Nubeocho). A cat wanders through the neighborhood, visiting families with two moms, two dads, one of each, a single mom, and a grandparent caregiver. Also available in Spanish.
  • Under the Love Umbrella, by Davina Bell and illustrated by Allison Colpoys (Scribble US). Several children encounter everyday difficulties—a broken toy; a friend who is unfair; a scary barking dog, a moment of shyness—as a parental narrator (or really, several narrators, as we see several different families) soothingly reassures them that the “umbrella of my love” is always with them. One of the children has two moms.
  • Love in the Wild, by Katy Tanis (Mudpuppy). This board book celebrates the many types of love found in the animal kingdom, “based on scientists’ observations of same-sex couples, adoption, non-binary gender expression and more.” It’s impossible to tell from the illustrations what sex or gender most of the animals are, though, so adults might need this supplemental PDF to launch further discussions of sex and gender, but the book is full of rainbows and the message that “love is love,” making this a sweet addition to storytime reading, regardless.
  • Families Belong, by Dan Saks and illustrated by Brooke Smart (Penguin Workshop). A simple board book about the things that families do that show they belong together. One page includes a two-mom family.
  • I Love Us: A Book About Family (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), illustrated by Luisa Uribe. A board book about different types of families, including one with two dads (and maybe one with two moms; it’s unclear if they’re together or in two separate families). On each page, a narrator (presumably a child in the depicted family) tells us all the things they love to do with their family. Includes a mirror (unbreakable) in the back and a freeform family tree for readers to reflect themselves.
  • Family Is: Count from 1 to 10, by Clever Publishing, illustrated by Katya Longhi. A board book that counts from one to 10 with images of diverse families and the various people in them, including families with two moms or two dads.
  • My Family, Your Family, by Kathryn Cole and illustrated by Cornelia Li (Second Story Press. A board book celebration of different types of families, including ones with same-sex parents and one with a child who uses “they” pronouns (and maybe a nonbinary adult, too). Note, however, that the page for “Blended family” shows a family with a Black mom, White dad, one White kid, and two Black kids, so some children might assume that “blended” always means multiracial. Adults will need to explain.

Gender Identity and Expression

  • Patrick’s Polka-Dot Tights, by Kristen McCurry and illustrated by MacKenzie Haley (Capstone Editions). Patrick loves wearing his polka-dot tights and using them imaginatively. They don’t really belong to him, however—they’re his sister’s, though “she failed to appreciate their many uses,” he thinks. When she stains them beyond repair, he’s upset—but both his mom and dad step in to help. Notable for not involving anyone questioning or harassing him for his gender creativity.
  • Rainbow Boy, by Taylor Rouanzion and illustrated by Stacey Chomiak (Beaming Books). A young boy finds it hard to answer the question: “What’s your favorite color?” He loves his pink tutu, red crayon, orange basketball, and more. His mom tells him at the end that his heart is too big for just one color: “You need a whole rainbow to fill it up.” The protagonist clearly identifies himself as a boy, but has an expanded view of what that means.

And don’t forget the many LGBTQ-inclusive books that I’ve already written about here on the blog!

Lesbian books? : actuallesbians

Lesbian books? : actuallesbians

Hey guys I recently published my first book. It has a strong storyline, bit of a slow burn at the beginning, but its also got a lesbian storyline in it. It’s a sort of horror/ suspense / mystery / thriller.

I’m going to leave the link here for anyone that’s interested…

Draft2digital link: https://books2read.com/u/baZDgy

I dnt have a link for Smashwords unfortunately, but select the “new releases” tab on their webpage and in the search bar type in Grace McKellen. The name of my book is Pandorum.

Thank you😁

Children’s Book with Transgender Protagonist Tops Most-Challenged List Again, Though Challenges to Antiracist Books Rise

Children's Book with Transgender Protagonist Tops Most-Challenged List Again, Though

For the third year in a row, George, a book about a transgender girl, topped the American Library Association’s (ALA’s) annual list of the Top 10 Most Challenged Books, and LGBTQ-themed books remained dominant among all the censorship attempts tracked by the ALA. Unlike in the previous few years, however, books with themes of race and racial justice, not LGBTQ themes and characters, made up the majority of books in the top 10. That’s still awful.

George - Number 1 Challenged Book of 2020

The Top 10 Most Challenged Books of 2020 list was released yesterday as part of the ALA’s annual “State of America’s Libraries Report.” “Challenges” are documented requests to remove materials from schools or libraries, calculated from censorship reports submitted through the ALA’s Office of Intellectual Freedom (OIF) as well as from media mentions. More than 273 books were affected by censorship attempts in 2020, said the ALA, and overall, “Demands to remove books addressing racism and racial justice or those that shared the stories of Black, Indigenous, or people of color grew in number. At the same time, books addressing themes and issues of concern for LGBTQIA+ people continued to dominate the list.”

George is the only book in the top 10 to have been challenged because of LGBTQIA+ content last year. That number is down from eight ot the Top 10 in 2019, six in 2018, and five in 2017. We shouldn’t assume that the the decreased number of LGBTQ titles in the top 10 means we’ve made progress, though. LGBTQ-inclusive books are still plentiful in the full list of challenged titles, and continue to be challenged, as we saw when two school districts in Texas recently tried to ban Call Me Max, a book about a transgender boy. And LGBTQ authors still get uninvited from author talks at schools, even when they’re not talking about their LGBTQ-inclusive books. More importantly, while the number of LGBTQ books in the top 10 may be down, the number of books being challenged for dealing with race and racism is up, and that’s just as bad. This isn’t a contest anyone should want to win or see others win. Instead, we should ask ourselves why books by, for, and about marginalized communities of many types continue to be targeted for removal or restricted access, and what we can do to address this. Librarians remain vital lifelines for many marginalized youth and need the tools to do this work, which can be literally lifesaving.

While the total number of books challenged last year was down to 273 from 566 in 2019, much of that can presumably be attributed to the many library closings or restricted hours because of the pandemic. If you know of books being challenged in your community for any reason, please report the incident to the ALA through their online form or by e-mailing or phoning the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, oif@ala.org or  800.545.2433 x4226.

Book Challenges 2020

Here is the full list of top 10 titles from 2020 and the reasons they were challenged:

  1. George, by Alex Gino. Challenged, banned, and restricted for LGBTQIA+ content, conflicting with a religious viewpoint, and not reflecting “the values of our community.”
  2. Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You, by Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds. Banned and challenged because of the author’s public statements, and because of claims that the book contains “selective storytelling incidents” and does not encompass racism against all people.
  3. All American Boys, by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely.  Banned and challenged for profanity, drug use, and alcoholism, and because it was thought to promote anti-police views, contain divisive topics, and be “too much of a sensitive matter right now.”
  4. Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson. Banned, challenged, and restricted because it was thought to contain a political viewpoint, it was claimed to be biased against male students, and for the novel’s inclusion of rape and profanity.
  5. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie. Banned and challenged for profanity, sexual references, and allegations of sexual misconduct by the author.
  6. Something Happened in Our Town: A Child’s Story About Racial Injustice, by Marianne Celano, Marietta Collins, and Ann Hazzard, illustrated by Jennifer Zivoin. Challenged for “divisive language” and because it was thought to promote anti-police views.
  7. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee. Banned and challenged for racial slurs and their negative effect on students, featuring a “white savior” character, and its perception of the Black experience.
  8. Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck. Banned and challenged for racial slurs and racist stereotypes, and their negative effect on students.
  9. The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison. Banned and challenged because it was considered sexually explicit and depicts child sexual abuse.
  10. The Hate U Give,  by Angie Thomas. Challenged for profanity, and it was thought to promote an anti-police message.

Or in video form:


(As an Amazon Associate and as a Bookshop Affiliate I earn from qualifying purchases.)

25 Recent Picture Books with Transgender and Nonbinary Characters

25 Recent Picture Books with Transgender and Nonbinary Characters

Today is the Transgender Day of Visibility, so I’m celebrating by rounding up 25 (!) picture books with transgender and/or nonbinary characters that have been published in 2020 and 2021 alone. (I’ll also show you how to find older trans-inclusive kids’ books and ones for and about trans parents.)

Picture books with transgender and/or nonbinary characters

Here’s the list of books—click through to read short (and sometimes long) reviews for each.

  1. Sam Is My Sister, by Ashley Rhodes-Courter and illustrated by MacKenzie Haley
  2. The Little Library, by Margaret McNamara and illustrated by G. Brian Karas
  3. The Bare Naked Book, by Kathy Stinson and illustrated by Melissa Cho
  4. Toby Wears a Tutu, by Lori Starling and illustrated by Anita Dufalla
  5. We Are Little Feminists: Families, by Archaa Shrivastav and illustrated by Lindsey Blakely (board book)
  6. Over the Shop, by JonArno Lawson and illustrated by Qin Leng
  7. Were I Not a Girl: The Inspiring and True Story of Dr. James Barry, by Lisa Robinson and illustrated by Lauren Simkin Berke
  8. My Rainbow, by Deshanna and Trinity Neal and illustrated by Art Twink
  9. My Maddy, by Gayle E. Pitman and illustrated by Violet Tobacco
  10. Max on the Farm (Max and Friends Book 3), by Kyle Lukoff and illustrated by Luciano Lozano
  11. She’s My Dad!: A Story for Children Who Have a Transgender Parent or Relative, by Sarah Savage and illustrated by Joules Garcia
  12. The Name I Call Myself, by Hasan Namir and illustrated by Cathryn John
  13. Jamie and Bubbie: A Book About People’s Pronouns, by Afsaneh Moradian and illustrated by Maria Bogade
  14. A More Graceful Shaboom, by Jacinta Bunnell and illustrated by Crystal Vielula
  15. Sylvia and Marsha Start a Revolution! The Story of the Trans Women of Color Who Made LGBTQ+ History, by Joy Ellison and illustrated by Teshika Silver
  16. Love Remains: A Rosh Hashanah Story of Transformation, by Jessica Leving, Rabbi Ari Moffic and illustrated by Teddi Garson
  17. I’m Not a Girl: A Transgender Story, by Jessica Verdi and Maddox Lyons, illustrated by Dana Simpson
  18. Raven Wild (Promised Land Tales Book 3), by Adam Reynolds, Caitlin Spice, and Chaz Harris, illustrated by Bo Moore and Christine Luiten
  19. The Fighting Infantryman: The Story of Albert D. J. Cashier, Transgender Civil War Soldier, by Rob Sanders and illustrated by Nabi Ali
  20. No Voice Too Small: Fourteen Young Americans Making History, edited by Keila V. Dawson and Lindsay H. Metcalf and illustrated by Jeanette Bradley
  21. My Dad Thinks I’m a Boy?!: A Trans Positive Children’s Book, written and illustrated by Sophie Labelle
  22. Hooray, What A Day!/¡Viva, Qué Día! written and illustrated by Molly Allis
  23. Porcupine Cupid, by Jason June and illustrated by Lori Richmond
  24. Peanut Goes for the Gold, by Jonathan Van Ness and illustrated by Gillian Reid
  25. My Name Is Troy, by Christian A’Xavier Lovehall and illustrated by Chamar M. Cooper

To search for books in my database published before 2020 with trans and/or nonbinary characters (and there are some good ones!), choose the age category you want, and start typing either “trans” or “nonbinary” into the Tag field. You’ll see a number of options come up (for trans boys, trans girls, etc.). Choose the one you want. Note that if you choose multiple tags at once, the books that appear will be ones that include ALL of those types of characters. That can be useful if you want to match that tag with, say, a tag for a racial or cultural identity (e.g., to find books with Black trans boys), but may also mean that you’ll get fewer results than if you search for one tag at a time. If you’re looking for grown-up books for and about trans (or other LGBTQ) parents, try the Memoir, Anthology, and/or Parenting Guide tags, too.

Even as we celebrate trans lives and trans resilience today and mark the first-ever presidential proclamation of TDOV, let’s remember that there’s still lots of work to do before trans people, from children to elders, attain full equality and inclusion. May we all recommit to continuing the work.

Books for Baby Gays – The Lesbrary

Books for Baby Gays – The Lesbrary

Books for Baby Gays graphic

I have personally identified as bi since I was about 22, and 5 years on, I’ve now started thinking about what might have been different if I’d realised that any earlier, if my personal queer revelation had arrived during uni or high school. In this alternate imagined past, are there any books that could have fast-tracked my identity discovery? Or, are there any books that I didn’t know I needed or to look for when I ended up having my epiphany? My book picks have always felt very organic to me, but at the same time I seem to lean towards queer genre fiction a lot — a preference which is definitely not universal. And with all these thoughts recently running through my head, I decided while it may be too late to sit my past self down and make her think about what she wants and needs in light of the new perspective, it is definitely not too late to do the same for others.

So. The below is a non-comprehensive list of books you might consider picking up if you’re questioning your sexual orientation, or have recently started to identify as sapphic in whichever way that is for you. I’ve aimed for happy endings and not too much tragedy or pain over the course of these stories. With the help of some friends I managed to identify a number of categories that you might wish for in such a situation. Here I have highlighted one book per category, but you can find a larger list of suggestions on my blog (though without any blurbs). Now, without further ado, read on one and all!

Coming Out Under the Age of 12:

Star-Crossed by Barbara DeeStar-Crossed by Barbara Dee (bi main character)

Mattie is chosen to play Romeo opposite her crush in the eighth grade production of Shakespeare’s most beloved play. Gemma, the new girl at school and crush in question, is brilliant, pretty, outgoing—and, if all that wasn’t enough: British. As the cast prepares for opening night, Mattie finds herself growing increasingly attracted to Gemma and confused, since, just days before, she had found herself crushing on a boy. If that wasn’t enough to deal with, things backstage at the production are starting to rival any Shakespearean drama!

Coming Out in High School:

You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah JohnsonYou Should See Me In A Crown by Leah Johnson (Black lesbian main character)

Alright yes, everybody and their mother is recommending this one, but clearly that means there’s a reason! Liz Lighty has a plan that will get her out of her small, rich, prom-obsessed midwestern town forever: attend the uber-elite Pennington College and become a doctor. But when the financial aid she was counting on falls through, Liz’s plans come crashing down — until she’s reminded of her school’s scholarship for prom king and queen. Despite her devastating fear of the spotlight, she’s willing to do whatever it takes to get to Pennington. The only thing that makes it halfway bearable is the new girl in school, Mack. She’s smart, funny, and just as much of an outsider as Liz. But Mack is also in the running for queen…

Coming Out at University:

Learning Curves by Ceillie Simkiss coverLearning Curves by Ceillie Simkiss (fat Puerto Rican lesbian main character with anxiety, panromantic ace love interest with ADHD)

With only two semesters of law school to go, Elena Mendez’s dream of working as a family lawyer for children is finally within reach. She can’t afford distractions, but she has no idea how much her life will change the day she lends her notes to Cora McLaughlin. Over weeks in the library together, they discover that as strong as they are apart, they’re stronger together. Through snowstorms and stolen moments, through loneliness and companionship, the two learn they can weather anything as long as they have each other. College may be strict, but when it comes to love, Cora and Elena are ahead of the learning curve.

Coming Out Later in Life:

Knit One, Girl Two by Shira Glassman cover. It shows an illustration of two women kissing and a cat playing with yarn.Knit One, Girl Two by Shira Glassman (Jewish lesbian main character)

Small-batch independent yarn dyer Clara Ziegler is eager to brainstorm new color combinations. When she sees Danielle Solomon’s paintings of Florida wildlife by chance at a neighborhood gallery, she finds her source of inspiration. Outspoken, passionate, and complicated, Danielle herself soon proves even more captivating than her artwork…

Life After the Big Come Out:

Double Exposure by Chelsea CameronDouble Exposure by Chelsea Cameron (bi trans woman main character, pan woman love interest)

Anna Corcoran’s life is hectic, but that’s how she likes it. Between her jobs at the Violet Hill Cafe, the local library, and doing publicity work for authors, she doesn’t have much time for anything else. Until Lacey Cole walks into the cafe and she feels like she’s been knocked off her axis. Lacey’s a photographer and writer and wants to do a profile on the cafe, including an interview with Anna. She’s game, but after spending a few days with Lacey, Anna is falling. Hard. The only problem is that Lacey isn’t going to be sticking around. As they get closer and closer, Anna wonders if maybe this would be the one time when Lacey would decide to stay put. With her.

Proper Escapism:

Water Witch coverWater Witch: The Deceiver’s Grave by Nene Adams (identities unknown)

It is the eighteenth century in a world filled with magic and the Caribbean are a haven for pirates; the most feared of them all is Bess O’Bedlam, known as the Water Witch. Bess’ lust for riches knows no bounds and she is on the trail of the greatest prize ever taken — and thought lost for twenty-five years. When Bess meets Marguerite de Vries, the Dutch thief does not know she is the key to a king’s ransom. The Water Witch will use any means to find the loot, including seduction, but she had not reckoned on a fiery-tempered opponent determined to protect her heart at any cost. As the women are pitted against a deadly magical curse, they must overcome many enemies in their quest for the treasure… and each other’s love.

Romance Takes a Back Seat:

The Black Veins by Ashia Monet coverThe Black Veins by Ashia Monet (no romance, queer found family, bi Black main character, British-Chinese ace trans man and Black bisexual ensemble characters)

In a world where magic thrives in secret city corners, a group of magicians embark on a road trip. Sixteen-year-old Blythe is one of seven Guardians: magicians powerful enough to cause worldwide panic with a snap of their fingers. But Blythe spends her days pouring latte art at her family’s coffee shop until magician anarchists crash into said coffee shop and kidnap her family. Heartbroken but determined, she packs up her family’s bright yellow Volkswagen, puts on a playlist, and embarks on a road trip across the United States to enlist the help of six strangers whose abilities are unparalleled—the other Guardians.

Classic:

Carmilla by J. Sheridan Le Fanu,Carmilla by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, edited by Carmen Maria Machado (lesbian main character and love interest)

Isolated in a remote mansion in a central European forest, Laura longs for companionship when a carriage accident brings another young woman into her life: the secretive and sometimes erratic Carmilla. As Carmilla’s actions become more puzzling and volatile, Laura develops bizarre symptoms, and as her health goes into decline, Laura and her father discover something monstrous. Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s compelling tale of a young woman’s seduction by a female vampire predates Bram Stoker’s Dracula by over a quarter century.

The History:

Sapphistries coverSapphistries: A Global History Of Love Between Women by Leila J. Rupp

From the ancient poet Sappho to tombois in contemporary Indonesia, women throughout history and around the globe have desired, loved, and had sex with other women. Sapphistries captures the multitude of ways that diverse societies have shaped female same-sex sexuality across time and place. We hear women in the sex-segregated spaces of convents and harems whispering words of love. We see women beginning to find each other on the streets of London and Amsterdam, in the aristocratic circles of Paris, in the factories of Shanghai. We find women’s desire and love for women meeting the light of day as Japanese schoolgirls fall in love, and lesbian bars and clubs spread from 1920s Berlin to 1950s Buffalo. And we encounter a world of difference in the twenty-first century, as transnational concepts and lesbian identities meet local understandings of how two women might love each other. Rupp also creatively employs fiction to imagine possibilities when there is no historical evidence.

Marieke (she / her) has a weakness for niche genres like fairy tale retellings and weird murder mysteries, especially when combined with a nice cup of tea. She also shares diverse reading resources on her blog letsreadwomen.tumblr.com

Queer-Inclusive Kids’ Books for Passover (and an Idea for One About Easter)

Queer-Inclusive Kids' Books for Passover (and an Idea for One

Passover, the Jewish holiday celebrating freedom from slavery, starts this weekend—and yes, there are a few (very few) queer-inclusive picture books about the holiday. There are none that I know of about Easter, alas (but I’ll share an idea for one)!

Matzo Pride

The Last Place You Look, written by j wallace skelton and illustrated by Justin Alves (2017: Flamingo Rampant), is the story of a large multiracial family (some of whom are nonbinary and one of whom has a guide dog) gathered for a Passover seder at the home of two bubbies (grandmothers) who are a couple. All must think creatively when the afikomen (a special piece of matzo) cannot be found. This is a delightful book about the joys of a family gathering, centered around a fun mystery, with a few gentle, non-pedantic nods to the social justice messages underlying the holiday.

Welcoming Elijah: A Passover Tale with a Tail (2020: Amazon and Bookshop), by Lesléa Newman (best known to readers here as the author of Heather Has Two Mommies), won the Sydney Taylor Book Award and the National Jewish Book Award. In it, a multigenerational and multiracial family gathers for a Passover seder, as a kitten wanders outside, cold and lonely. In gentle, alternating lines, we see the contrast between the warmth and food that the boy is experiencing and the hunger and loneliness of the kitten outside. At the end of the meal, the boy opens the door as part of the ritual to welcome the prophet Elijah. To his surprise, the kitten is there to greet him. The boy welcomes his new furry friend and names him Elijah. It’s a perfect tale for the holiday, which asks us Jews to remember our journey as strangers in the wilderness and to welcome strangers in our turn. Susan Gal’s blue-and-gold toned illustrations are warm and lovely. The queer content is slight, but in one scene, two dads can be seen with their arms around each other, their child in their laps. They’re not the protagonist’s dads, but they seem to be part of his extended family.

Newman also has several other books about Passover. A Sweet Passover (2012: Amazon and Bookshop) tells of a girl who is tired of matzo (the unleavened cracker eaten in lieu of bread during the week-long holiday). Her wise grandfather convinces her to try his matzo brei, or fried matzo—think french toast made with softened matzo—and stirs in some lessons about the meaning of the holiday. Matzo Ball Moon (2006: Amazon) stars a girl whose Bubbe’s matzo ball soup is so good, everyone in the family sneaks a bite before the meal, leaving no matzo balls for Bubbe. The girl must use her creativity to find one for her. And Here Is the World: A Year of Jewish Holidays (2014; Amazon and Bookshop) takes us on a year-long journey through all the Jewish holidays. There’s no queer content in these books, but they’re nevertheless fun and sweet tales by a queer, Jewish creator.

Unfortunately, I don’t know of any LGBTQ-inclusive picture books revolving around Easter. A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo (2018: Amazon and Bookshop) stars rabbits, but isn’t about Easter (and its inclusion of a homophobic character may not appeal to some).

It strikes me, though, that the history of LGBTQ families visibly attending the White House Easter Egg Roll dates back to 2006, when the Family Pride Coalition (now Family Equality) arranged for many LGBTQ families to attend the event during George W. Bush’s presidency, as a way of showing that our families are as much a part of our country’s traditions as any others. In 2009, President Barack Obama’s administration reached out to Family Equality directly to invite them to the event. LGBTQ families have been proudly attending ever since (although that waned under the Trump administration). I would love it if someone wrote a picture book about a queer family (or families) attending the event—consider that a free idea! Alas, the Egg Roll has been canceled this year because of the pandemic, but I hope it will be rolling again in 2022.

As I wrote last year in a post about Hanukkah and Christmas, my suspicion is that there have been so few holiday picture books showing LGBTQ families because so many LGBTQ-inclusive picture books have been focused on the “issue” of LGBTQ identities per se. Pride, as an LGBTQ holiday, has a fair number of picture books devoted to it now, but other holidays get short shrift. I believe it is important, however, for LGBTQ families and non-LGBTQ families alike to see images of LGBTQ families celebrating holidays from a wide variety of traditions. This offers representation for the former and can help build bridges across difference for the latter.

Regardless of what you’re celebrating this spring, may it be a season of hope and renewal!


(As an Amazon Associate and as a Bookshop Affiliate I earn from qualifying purchases.)

OurShelves Connects LGBTQ Families with Diverse Books and Advocates for More

OurShelves Connects LGBTQ Families with Diverse Books and Advocates for

When lawyer, policy advocate, and community organizer Alli Harper and her wife had their first child, they did what many LGBTQ parents do: looked for children’s books that showed two-mom and other diverse families. The difficulty of finding more than a handful, however, led Harper to launch a nationwide service that is connecting readers with these books while also pushing the publishing industry to create more.

Alli Harper of OurShelves - Photo credit: Alaina Lavoie

Alli Harper of OurShelves. Photo credit: Alaina Lavoie

When she and her wife failed to find the books they sought, and heard similar stories from other LGBTQ parents, “We were surprised in large part because we felt like there was a significant audience,” she told me in an interview. When their own daughter grew too old for picture books, they realized that like so many other kids, she’d “missed out on seeing herself and her family appropriately and adequately represented.”

Harper then made two observations: first, that “There just aren’t enough high-quality LGBTQ and other diverse kids’ books, period. That means we can’t even scratch the surface of the diversity within our families,” Second, that “Sometimes these books do exist—more existed than we knew of—but they can often be too hard to find.”

In 2018, therefore, she founded OurShelves, a book-subscription service with a dual mission, to “review and select high-quality, LGBTQ and other diverse kids’ books and connect them to the busy families, librarians, teachers, and others seeking them,” and “to advocate for the many more LGBTQ and other diverse kids’ books still needed.” The advocacy part was nothing new for Harper, who had been president of the Maryland ACLU during that state’s marriage equality fight in 2012, while also pregnant with her and her wife’s first child.

OurShelves accomplishes the first part of its mission through quarterly book-box subscriptions as well as one-time gift boxes. Each box is curated based on the age of the subscriber’s child(ren), with Sunshine Boxes of board books for kids ages 0 to 2, Rainbow Boxes for kids ages 2 to 5, and Treehouse Boxes for kids ages 5 to 8. Members choose whether they want one, three, or five books in each box.

First and foremost, we’re looking for quality of text and illustration. Our kids, and all kids, deserve to see high-quality LGBTQ representation.

“First and foremost, we’re looking for quality of text and illustration,” Harper said. “Our kids, and all kids, deserve to see high-quality LGBTQ representation.” Additionally, OurShelves wants “content that is as reflective of the diversity within our families as possible.” She explained, “Ideally, there would be books that show characters and families living at the intersection of multiple underrepresented identities—LGBTQ, Black, indigenous, people of color, disabled.” That kind of intersectional representation can still be hard to find within individual books, however, but they make sure that each box of multiple books contains characters and families with “various traditionally underrepresented identities,” and includes at least one book with LGBTQ characters. They particularly look for “stories where there are LGBTQ families out and proud, but the storyline doesn’t have to be about whether we are legitimate or okay as people and families.” They also emphasize “OwnVoices” books, a term coined by author Corinne Duyvis, meaning “the author or illustrator shares the underrepresented identity of the character in the story,” Harper explained.

To choose the books, Harper has brought together a curation team that is majority LGBTQ and majority people of color, with expertise in “academia, librarianship, teaching, early childhood development, parenting, and identity-based bias. “One hundred percent of our curation team have the lived experience of being both underrepresented themselves and having children who are underrepresented in kids’ books,” she asserted.

OurSchelves - Photo credit: Alaina Lavoie

Photo credit: Alaina Lavoie

OurShelves pursues the advocacy part of its mission in two ways. First, it tries to inform publishers about the stories its members want, based on feedback from frequent surveys. “We’re always asking, ‘What are you looking for that you can’t yet find?’” Harper explained. “We’re trying to continually come up with ways to communicate this to publishers.”

Additionally, she said, they want to go “beyond advocacy” and buy the books “in ever-growing numbers.” Sometimes, this means seeking out smaller or foreign presses. For example, when they first heard of the two-mom story, My Mommy, My Mama, My Brother, and Me, by Natalie Meisner, from the small Canadian press Nimbus Publishing, it was not yet being sold or distributed in the United States. OurShelves became the first to bring it here.

Millions and millions of people want these books.

Her goal is “to shift publishers’ perception away from [the idea] that these books are risky to create, to that there is significant opportunity,” something different publishers understand to varying degrees, she feels. She cited a 2019 survey from Family Equality showing that up to 3.8 million LGBTQ millennials are considering becoming first-time parents or adding more children to their families. She added, “The majority of babies in this country are babies of color. Millions and millions of people want these books. Our hope is that we can make it easier for publishers to connect these books and then also make it easier to connect the voices of some of these families, teachers, and librarians back to publishers so we can be better partners in creating these books.”

OurShelves’ membership tripled in 2020 and they now have members in all 50 states—proof that it is filling a need. “Our growth has been because of our members sharing us as a resource,” Harper said. When members join OurShelves, she said, “they’re both being connected to these wonderful curated books, and also being counted as part of this ever-growing audience, to really prove to publishers how significant the audience is for these books.”

OurShelves is now taking orders for its spring subscription boxes. Visit ourshelves.com to learn more.