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)!
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!
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