Rainbow Family Collections: Selecting and Using Children's Books with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Content

Rainbow Family Collections: Selecting and Using Children's Books with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Content

Rainbow Family Collections: Selecting and Using Children's Books with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Content

Rainbow Family Collections: Selecting and Using Children's Books with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Content

Synopsis

Stephen Jay Gould was not only a leading paleontologist and evolutionary theorist, he was also a humanist with an enduring interest in the history and philosophy of science. The extraordinary range of Gould's work was underpinned by a richly nuanced and deeply insightful worldview.

Richard York and Brett Clark engage Gould's science and humanism to illustrate and develop the intellectual power of Gould's worldview, particularly with regard to the philosophy of science. They demonstrate how the Gouldian perspective sheds light on many of the key debates occurring not only in the natural sciences, but in the social sciences as well. They engage the themes that unified Gould's work and drove his inquires throughout his intellectual career, such as the nature of history, both natural and social, particularly the profound importance of contingency and the uneven tempo of change. They also assess Gould's views on structuralism, highlighting the importance of the dialectical interaction of structural forces with everyday demands for function, and his views on the hierarchical ordering of causal forces, with some forces operating at large scales and/or over long spans of time, while others are operating on small scales and/or occur frequently or rapidly.

York and Clark also address Gould's application of these principals to understanding humanity's place in nature, including discussions of human evolution, sociobiology, and the role of art in human life. Taken together, this book illuminates Gould's dynamic understanding of the world and his celebration of both science and humanism.

Excerpt

Twenty-five years ago, I got a phone call from a friend of a friend, asking me for picture book recommendations for her unborn child. Children’s librarians, it seems, are never able to leave work — we’re used to new parents who are so eager to share books with their children that they approach us when their children are still in utero — and so this wasn’t out of the ordinary. What made the call unusual was that the caller identified herself and her partner as lesbians and told me their baby had been conceived by alternative insemination.

“What kind of books will our daughter find?” she asked me. “Are there books out there about families like ours?”

Unfortunately, I had to tell her that there was hardly anything that showed a child with gay or lesbian parents. At the time, there was just one book about a child with a lesbian mom, When Megan Went Away, which had been published by a small press called Lollipop Power in 1979. But it dealt with the break-up of a lesbian relationship, and was hardly the sort of book this mom was looking for. Instead, I found myself recommending picture books that showed single-parent families, books that at least depicted a world from which her child would not feel excluded. I also recommended books that challenged traditional gender roles, reflected diversity and independence, and featured strong girls and women, qualities I came to think of as “lesbian family values.” We had to get creative in those early years of the first wave of the lesbian baby boom.

A few years later, Lesléa Newman self-published her groundbreaking picture book Heather Has Two Mommies, which would later be picked up as the first title in a new children’s imprint from Alyson Books, a well-established gay press. Soon they were publishing original picture books, such as Daddy’s Roommate by Michael Willhoite and The Duke Who Outlawed Jellybeans by Johnny Valentine. Other small presses — particularly feminist presses in the United States and Canada — began to publish a handful of picture books for kids in gay and lesbian families, and some presses, such as Two Lives, were created for this express purpose. But with a few exceptions, they remain outside the mainstream of U.S. trade publishing all these years later, gay penguins notwithstanding.

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