A lovely rhyming story shows diverse people and families, including one with two dads, as it seeks to inspire a lifetime love of reading. It’s also available in four different bilingual editions!
“I’ll build you a bookcase before you are born / that’s made out of boxes from shoes that were worn,” says a pregnant Black woman at the beginning of I’ll Build You a Bookcase, by Jean Ciborowski Fahey and illustrated by Simone Shin. On the next spread, two White dads watching their infant pick up the story, “for books we will read in the soft morning light / and books we will read before saying good night.” Each subsequent spread introduces us to parents building bookcases and sharing something about how they’ll interact with their children around them—filling them with library books, putting their phones away while they read, exploring the world through books, and reading the same story “for the tenth time.” One spread touts building bookcases for other kids, too, and subsequent pages show neighborhood library boxes being enjoyed by adults and children in the community.
The people depicted have a variety of skin tones and range in age from infant to elderly. We see the two-dad couple as well as a mom-dad one, single parents, and grandparents. There are no obviously queer women in it, but one woman wears overalls and dons an Amelia Earhart-style pilot’s cap and goggles while playing make-believe with her child, giving her a lesbian-ish vibe (or maybe that’s just my wishful thinking). One child is in a wheelchair and two parents wear hijabs. Two final pages offer parents tips on “How to read with your child.”
The book is available in Spanish-English, Mandarin-English, Arabic-English, and Vietnamese-English editions. It came into being after innovation program OpenIDEO, with funding from the William Penn Foundation, launched the Early Childhood Book Challenge in 2019, “seeking an original story for children ages 0 to 3 that would inspire children and their caregivers to read together,” publisher Lee & Low explained. Fahey, an early literacy specialist and parent educator, submitted a story that was selected by a committee of literacy and family engagement experts. The publisher, Lee & Low, is selling the book through the usual online and offline channels—and the foundation’s funding will allow 25,000 copies to be distributed free to Philadelphia families with young children.
My only criticism is that the book feels aimed at an age (0 to 3 years) where a board book edition would have made sense. So far, however, the Spanish-English version is only available in hardback and the other editions in paperback. Nevertheless, it’s one of those books that would make a great first book gift for a family with a new baby. As a book nerd myself, I love books about books, and wish I’d had this celebration of diversity, community, and reading for my own son when he was a toddler.
(For another recent queer-inclusive kids’ book that features a free library box, check out The Little Library, which features a nonbinary librarian.)
Written by 37-year-old queer English writer Yrsa Daley-Ward, who is of both Jamaican and Nigerian descent, this beautiful love poem encompasses the excitement of dreaming about a life together:
“I can see the house on the hill where we grow our own vegetables out back and drink warm wine out of jam jars and sing songs in the kitchen until the sun comes up wena you make me feel like myself again. Myself before I had any solid reasons to be anything else.”
Jamaican-American poet June Jordan has an entire book of love poems, aptly called Haruko/Love Poems. Poems like Poem for my Lovewould be a lovely part of any ceremony. There is also a beautiful couplet from the poem, Update:
“Still I am learning unconditional and true/Still I am burning unconditional for you.”
Wu Tsao, considered one of the great Chinese lesbian poets, lived in the early 1800s, and wrote this beautiful love poem that in part reads:
“You glow like a perfumed lamp In the gathering shadows. We play wine games And recite each other’s poems. Then you sing, ‘Remembering South of the River’ With its heartbreaking verses. Then We paint each other’s beautiful eyebrows. I want to possess you completely– Your jade body And your promised heart. It is Spring. Vast mists cover the Five Lakes. My dear, let me buy a red painted boat And carry you away.”
A young child, assigned male at birth but whose “shadow is pink” and likes to wear dresses finds acceptance from his burly, masculine, blue-shadowed dad in a new picture book inspired by the author and his child’s real-life story.
Children’s book author Scott Stuart’s son has had a love for Elsa from Disney’s Frozen since he was three years old, Stuart wrote in a piece at The Father Hood. This soon included wanting to wear Elsa dresses. Stuart, who’d been his school’s rugby captain and grew up in “a highly traditional masculine way,” wasn’t comfortable with that at first. When his son came home from daycare after being bullied for having an Elsa doll, however, Stuart started writing and illustrating My Shadow Is Pink, a picture book about a gender creative child (presumably assigned male at birth (AMAB)) and his dad. The book came out in Australia and the U.K. last year, but has its U.S. publication this week.
The protagonist of My Shadow Is Pink is a White child who loves pink, princesses, and other things “not for boys”—especially “wearing dresses and dancing around.” In rhyming couplets, he tells us that he halts such activities, when his dad—also White, but large, hairy-chested, and mustached—walks in. His dad tells him that it’s “just a phase” and that he’ll soon have a blue shadow, too. The child wishes for this so he’ll be like his dad and brother, but quickly realizes “I cannot fit in when my shadow stands out.”
On the child’s first day of school, the teacher has asked each student to dress up with their shadow “in its favorite thing.” The child puts on a dress and looks at his dad, who is fearful but takes him to class anyway. Seeing the big dad wringing his hands anxiously about this adds another layer to readers’ thinking about what it means to be a strong man. Sometimes strength means protecting your child from harm; sometimes it means letting them forge their own path; sometimes physical strength can’t help.
In class, the child is clearly different from the boys, who all have blue shadows (as does one child who appears to be a girl). All the children look at him. He runs home and tears off his dress, vowing never to wear it again.
But wait … there’s a knock on his door, and in walks his dad, blue-shadowed but wearing a pink sparkly dress in solidarity. The dad says that he realizes the child’s pink shadow is “your innermost you.” He shows him pictures of a variety of people whose shadows (read: innermost selves) also like gender atypical things. One man loves fashion and art; one girl loves cheerleading, but also engines and cars; a male weightlifter loves dance; one girl’s shadow “likes girls.”
The dad encourages the child to put his dress back on, cautioning him that while some may not love him for this, the ones that do “will love you a lot”—and those that don’t are fools. Both father and child walk hand in hand, clad in dresses, back to school, where the other children ask the child to be their friend.
Stuart isn’t just making up stories here—he’s living the support he writes about. When his son wanted to wear an Elsa dress for the Sydney, Australia premiere of Disney’s Frozen 2, Stuart told him “There is no way you’re doing that … alone,” and donned an identical (but larger) dress alongside him. Stuart’s video about the event went viral on TikTok and has 4.8 million likes as of this writing.
There are a fair number of books now about gender-creative AMAB children encountering questions or harassment about their gender expression at school. Stuart’s take on the theme stands out for its focus on the relationship between the child and his dad and on societal ideas about masculinity. The over-exaggerated depiction of the dad as a hirsute lumberjack type who nevertheless loves and supports his son feels particularly heartwarming. If a dad like that can accept a gender creative son, anyone can (or so we can hope).
The titular tech company of Netflix’s London-set The One promises to connect people with their one true love based entirely on science. Matches — as they’re called on the show — fall almost instantly in love with one another. The dating site to end all dating sites was cooked up by the ruthless scientist Rebecca Webb (Hannah Ware) and her friend/lab partner James Whiting (Dimitri Leonidas) and requires users to send in a DNA sample which is then compared against all other DNA samples in the database until a genetic match is found. But the occasionally thrilling, often vacuous drama is less concerned with the tech dystopia it’s mired in and more concerned with a by-the-numbers murder mystery plot that stymies the show from saying anything meaningful about the messy intersections of tech, love, capitalism, wealth, identity, and desire that are just on the periphery of the narrative. Netflix The One lesbian love triangle also gets lost in the plot.
Now, I’m usually all about meeting a sci-fi series where it is and rarely enjoy the nitpicky process of challenging or questioning rules for a particular world too closely (although in extreme cases like Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, the inconsistency and improvisation of the rules from episode to episode is incredibly frustrating). So if The One — based on a novel by John Marrs — tells me that soulmates can be scientifically determined, I’m willing to go with it. To a point. I ultimately found myself really struggling to connect with the show’s mere premise as the series progressed, particularly because there’s no real interrogation of what it means that people supposedly have one person who they’re perfectly compatible with. There’s a hollowness to the show’s depiction of love. Matches feel an instant connection. It doesn’t matter if they don’t share interests or priorities or morals. Their romance is rooted in that chemical high of early relationships — all dopamine and serotonin and bliss. But we rarely see matches connect on a level deeper than any of this. The One demands absolute and total faith in fated romance.
As so many stylish streaming dramas do, The One opens with a dead body. We quickly find out who it is — The One’s CEO Rebbeca’s former roommate and friend Ben Naser (Amir El-Masry) — and we also quickly learn that Rebbeca and James share responsibility for his death. Trust me: Those things aren’t spoilers. The One instead relies on the cat-and-mouse games between Rebecca and the two detectives investigating Ben’s disappearance to fuel its suspense. But that fuel peters out quickly, and The One falls into the all-too-common crime drama trap of over-relying on twists rather than crafting an exciting narrative with compelling characters.
But really the biggest disappointment is how sterilized the premise ends up being. The One hinges on two great myths: soulmates and love at first sight. And every time it inches toward saying anything insightful about either concept or dismantling them — the twist I was waiting for that never came — the story’s attention snaps away from it to focus again on the murder plot, which is the least interesting part of the show and yet its main concern. Soulmate mythology has been around for a very long time. Pop culture festishizes the idea that every person has one person who they’re meant to be with. That narrative begets a whole slew of problems — from people hinging their self worth on others to cultural biases against nonmonogamy to people staying with people who harm them because they’ve convinced themselves they’re destined to be together. I realize that I’m a biased viewer when it comes to The One, because the negative side effects of perpetuating the soulmate tale are something I think about a lot. But it’s just such a missed opportunity to not engage with anything regarding the show’s premise on a deeper level. Again, I was waiting for a twist that never came. A twist that would reveal that The One’s promise of true love is more dangerous than it is hopeful.
Technically, the show does explore some of the downsides of The One. One of Rebecca’s many nemeses is a politician who wants to put more restrictions on the company because of an uptick in divorces. People in marriages have been secretly sending out their DNA and then leaving their spouses for their perfect matches. Rebecca claims that The One fixes dating, but in a way, it also destroys relationships. Just because a relationship isn’t perfect doesn’t mean it’s not good. Even people in good relationships might become consumed with the thought that there could be something even better out there.
That’s the impetus for the side character Hannah (Lois Chimimba) to send in a lock of her husband Mark’s (Eric Kofi-Abrefa) hair without his permission. She thinks that if she could find who his match is, she could emulate them and be a better partner to Mark. Their marriage is solid. Hannah has no real reason to doubt Mark’s love. But still, The One worms its way into her head. She finds Mark’s match Megan (Pallavi Sharda) and goes so far as to befriend her. A dark comedy of errors and misidentity ensues. And, early on, this subplot was enough to make me genuinely interested in the series. But once the attention shifted too significantly back toward the murder stuff, there was less to keep me hooked. But Hannah’s actions in the first half of the series are exactly what I was hoping to see more of on The One: the messiness of romantic entanglements, the mind games people too often play when it comes to love. Hannah’s pursuit of Megan is rooted in jealousy, insecurity, and trust issues. It’s a betrayal of Mark. In supposedly attempting to get closer to Mark, Hannah ends up pushing him away, right into Megan’s arms. But the second half of the series struggles to really give weight to any of this, instead turning it into a tepid love triangle and never fully delivering on any of the complex emotional issues it raises.
In a similar vein, Kate (Zoë Tapper), one of the detectives investigating Ben Nasir’s death, has a match subplot of her own. She matches with a woman named Sophia (Jana Pérez) who lives in Barcelona, and after chatting and sharing a FaceTime cooking date (that, in my opinion, seemed horrible!) Sophia agrees to fly to London so they can meet in person. But on her way from the airport to the bar to meet Kate, Sophia gets in an accident that leaves her in a coma for much of the series. Kate suddenly has to deal with the grief of not getting to meet the person she’s meant to be with and then is confronted by another emotional blow: Sophia’s wife, who did not know Sophia joined The One, shows up at the hospital.
Kate and Valeria (Paula Muñoz) strike up an unusual friendship after the initially awkward encounter, and Valeria ends up telling her that Sophia is basically a big ol’ liar. She cheats constantly, and she rewrites her past, telling both women she doesn’t have any family when in fact she has a brother and a father. There’s family drama there that is very drawn-out and ultimately adds little to the show. But it’s also just another instance of The One’s premise asking too much of viewers. Kate seems completely unfazed by Sophia’s many indiscretions as detailed by Valeria. Are we to believe that Sophia would not ever cheat on Kate simply because they are soulmates? Sophia still does lie to Kate, and Kate ends up being relatively fine with it. Again… because they’re soulmates? Is the suggestion here that those matched on The One will always love each other regardless of conflict or harm done to each other?
The closest the show comes to challenging that notion is when Rebecca’s soulmate — who she was matched with before the company launched under nefarious circumstances due to Rebecca and James having to illegally obtain DNA info to run trials— realizes the extent of Rebecca’s betrayals and cruelty. But that moment gets cut short by yet another one of the show’s twists that prioritize plot over character. We’re once again left holding nothing.
So the show really drops the ball when it comes to some of these side characters and the way their stories reflect societal changes brought about by The One, but then when it comes to the murder storyline its so hellbent on developing, it’s unsatisfying, too. The show is inconsistent in the ways it draws Rebecca’s arc, making a jagged mess of it. Rebecca is honestly the most captivating at her most evil. But the show weirdly attempts to backtrack and make it seem like she hasn’t always been this way, that wealth and power corrupted her and shaped her into a new person altogether.
That would work better if we weren’t shown many examples of her being evil in the flashbacks. It seems Rebecca has always been driven by power, greed, and ego. The show tries to make a very big deal out of a choice that she makes that greatly betrays her soulmate near the end of the season, but it’s no worse of a choice than some of the previous ones she’s made. This is a woman who eagerly shouted at her henchman to shoot her former friend in the knee — an order that not even her henchman will go through with because it’s too much! Then, we’re later expected to believe that same friend would eventually come around and tell Rebecca that she’s not really a bad person but that they just got caught up in something bad? It’s so wildly unconvincing.
The One’s premise is positioned to explore such interesting themes and emotional stakes, but it says nothing new about soulmates, about tech’s impact on relationships, about morally corrupt capitalists. For what it’s worth, AMC’s Soulmates has a very similar premise but manages to be a lot more skeptical about it, yielding better storytelling and character work overall. If you’re as weary of soulmate mythos as I am, that show rather than The One might be your better match.
Kate Winslet as Mary Anning and Saoirse Ronan as her lesbian lover in upcoming romantic drama Ammonite.
Kate Winslet has emphatically hit back at pearl-clutching critics of lesbian drama Ammonite, saying that she, above all, “champions same-sex love stories”.
Speaking to Attitude magazine, the 45-year-old actor explained how people have taken offence at its same-sex love story captures just how important telling queer stories are.
The movie sees Winslet’s real-life palaeontologist Mary Anning fall for Saoirse Ronan’s Charlotte, a waify, grief-engulfed wife of a baronet.
Both stars went to their gay friends for advice on how best to represent the queer experience on-screen – one that came very close to not being told at all.
Kate Winslet: ‘I hope that we are able to normalise same-sex connection on film’
Director Francis Lee, who also oversaw 2017’s critically-acclaimed God’s Own Country, revealed that he faced pushback from the press and from Anning’s descendants about his decision to portray her as queer.
The filmmaker said he doesn’t understand why historic figures are presumed to be straight until proven otherwise and insisted that Ammonite is not a biopic.
Kate Winslet echoed this, given that there is a “lack of historical evidence” on her sexuality.
“There is no historical evidence whatsoever to suggest she had relationships with men, none,” she said. “And she was not married.
“So, I think it should be permissible to explore an alternative love life for that individual, to delve into what might have gone on in the inner workings of their heart.
“And I don’t understand why that matters. I don’t understand what difference it makes to who Mary was and her extraordinary achievements, to pair her with a woman.
“For me, I absolutely love and champion same-sex love stories and any LGBTQ stories that we can possibly get our hands-on.
“And I hope that we are able to normalise same-sex connection on film without hesitation, secrecy or fear, by normalising these relationships.”
Winslet also lasered in on how the movie’s response would have been far less rabble-rousing if Mary’s love interest were male.
“Why does it have to be sensationalised or commented on or criticised in any way?” she explained.
“You know, I don’t actually know if it actually has been criticised, because I just don’t read things like that, to be honest.
“But what difference does it make? I wasn’t raised like that. That’s not how I was raised.
“What difference does it make? A person’s a person.”
Russell Tovey has revealed that he fell “desperately in love” with a “much older actor” while filming an early television series.
The gay actor opened up about coming to terms with his sexuality and his first major crush in an interview with Attitude magazine.
“I was doing a TV show and I was desperately in love with this much older actor and had such a crush on him, and I didn’t think anyone knew,” Tovey said.
“I thought I was hiding it very well, but I wasn’t. This older actress took me for a walk along the beach where it was filming and explained to me that I might be gay.
“She said, ‘If you are, that’s great; if you’re not, that’s fine. But you might be.’ It felt like, oh, that’s an option. That is something I can possibly be. That’s what those feelings I’m having are.”
Russell Tovey felt ‘lost’ as a younger gay man
Tovey continued: “It’s confusing because you’re living in a world where you’re being told there’s nowhere you can look to understand, what are my feelings?
The only place I’ve experienced some sort of homophobia was once at a Soho House festival.
“You feel lost and at that age, to have someone put their hand out and go, ‘Come here. This is just me giving a bit of advice.’ It stayed with me forever and changed everything.”
Elsewhere in the interview, Tovey opened up about a bizarre homophobic experience he had at a Soho House festival.
The Years and Years star said: “The only place I’ve experienced some sort of homophobia was once at a Soho House festival.
“Me and my friend Matt Kennard, who is actually straight, were at the bar getting drinks and somebody says, ‘Come on, gay boys, hurry up, gay boys.’ We ended up having a scrap with the guy. It was just like, ‘Excuse me? What the f**k is going on? This is f**king Soho House, of all places!’ It was so preposterous and bizarre.
“It was so odd. Homophobia is so odd. It’s just so odd,” he said.
Shopping for wedding products can be daunting as an LGBTQ+ couple, as it often involves sifting through endless items that say “His and Hers” and “Mr. and Mrs.” So, we did some of the sifting for you and found some great products designed especially for you. Spice up your wedding or home with these gorgeous items that honor your LGBTQ+ identity and love:
The Brilliant Earth MX Collection
Conflict-free diamond company Brilliant Earth recently launched the MX Collection, a collection of gender-neutral wedding and engagement rings designed to “blur the lines between traditionally feminine and masculine styles.”
Whomst among us has a recommendation for a favorite sleep mask? Your friendly neighborhood soft butch is in the market for one! She also made you this Wednesday Pop Culture Fix.
+ Netflix’s new YA vampire series, First Kill, has a tagline that looks like something out of a fanfic I would click on immediately. Sarah Catherine Hook and Imani Lewis are headlining.
In it, when it’s time for teenage vampire Juliette (Hook) to make her first kill so she can take her place among a powerful vampire family, she sets her sights on a new girl in town named Calliope (Lewis). But much to Juliette’s surprise, Calliope is a vampire hunter, from a family of celebrated slayers. Both find that the other won’t be so easy to kill and, unfortunately, way too easy to fall for…
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Heather Hogan is an Autostraddle senior writer who lives in New York City with her partner, Stacy, and their cackle of rescued pets. She’s a member of the Television Critics Association, the Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and a Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer critic. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
I Think I Love You is a bisexual YA F/F romcom told in alternating perspectives between Emma and Sophia. Emma is a romantic. She loves love, and she’s happy to play matchmaker with her friends. Sophia is the anti-romantic: after her parents split up, she now doesn’t believe in (romantic) love. When Emma tries to make a bisexual romcom to enter in a film contest, Sophia refuses, hoping to direct something artsy and tragic. Their bickering splits the friend group in half–but this is a romcom, so it doesn’t end there, especially when her friends come up with a scheme to try to reunite the groups.
This is a classic enemies-to-lovers/hate-to-love romance story, chockful of tropes. Emma and Sophia get in heated arguments, hurling out insults that cut to the quick–but even when they’re fuming, they’re still absentmindedly noting how the other’s face lights up when she laughs. At first, I was worried that Sophia was too cruel in their arguments, but as the book goes on, they both give as good as they get.
Both the strengths and weaknesses of this story are in its relationship to romcoms: if that’s a format you love, you’ll probably enjoy this one. If you’re allergic to romance tropes, though, I’d advise giving it a pass. As much as the relationship between Sophia and Emma is the focus of the story, it’s not what I appreciated the most.
I read this for Book Riot’s All the Books podcast, where Liberty and a rotating crew of cohosts discuss the books out that day. I happened to pick two bisexual contemporary YA novels, both out March 2nd, that both discussed bisexuality as an identity category in a way that resonated with me. (The other is Follow Your Arrow by Jessica Verdi, which I will review soon!) In this one, Emma worries about feeling like she shouldn’t make a big deal of her bisexuality–but it is a big deal to her, and it’s a significant part of her identity. She worries about coming out to her parents. Partly because they have made some offhand ignorant comments in the past, but also because she doesn’t know how to communicate how important it is to her. I think that bisexuality is often downplayed as not significant: when bi women are in relationships with another woman, they’re still seen as basically a lesbian, and when they’re with a man, they’re seen as essentially straight. It’s not often respected as a distinct identity, and one that can be just as meaningful to that person as being gay is. (Which is to say that everyone has their own relationship to labels.)
I also enjoyed the relationship between Emma and her cousin, Kate. Kate is a fatshionista who is unfailingly kind, and Emma absolutely idolizes her. That is likely tied to Emma’s low self-esteem, but I liked seeing this fiercely protective relationship between the two of them: I don’t read a lot of stories with friendships or family relationships that are that intense unless they’re siblings.
I’ll admit, sometimes I Think I Love You verged on the melodramatic for me, but it delivers exactly what it promises. It’s a hate-to-love story with bickering, banter, and heartfelt moments. I was worried that one aspect of the plot was going in a wildly unrealistic direction, but I was happy to proven wrong. If you want a romcom read with a bit of cheesiness, but also a great discussion of coming out as bi, give this one a try!