It is not everyone’s idea of an occasion to celebrate but a publisher named Alyson Books has brought out a twentieth anniversary edition of the famous child’s primer on same-sex relationships: Heather Has Two Mommies.
In full colour! gasps New Republic reviewer Ellen Handler Spitz delightedly. She observes:
This deceptively simple percept marks a two-decades-long saga of social change: when Heather first saw the light of day, it had been rejected by over fifty publishers, was eventually printed through donations, and the four thousand dollars that were raised proved insufficient to produce a coloured picture book.
Even now, though, this “passionate and brave story” of two women who “fall in love and decide to bring a child into the world and raise her together” has been produced minus eight “crucial” pages -- by an LGBT publisher, no less -- as was the tenth anniversary edition. Author, Leslea Newman, cut them when she was told they were a “deterrent” to introducing the book into classrooms.
The pages deal with “the friendship of two women, Kate and Jane—their growing love for one another, the joining of their lives, their desire for a child, the pregnancy of Jane, and the birth of little Heather.” These pages are critical, says the reviewer, to explain the shock and dismay of Heather when she realises at school, “I don’t have a daddy.”
No worries. The politically correct teacher is there to reassure the little girl that all families are different and every family is, in that wonderfully inclusive term, “special”. In her introduction Ms Handler Spitz, Honors College Professor at the University of Maryland, takes this idea as her theme:
Twenty-first century American families come in a dazzling array of sizes, shapes, colors, and gender-slash-generational patterns. This reality deserves to be reflected in the literature children read. Until fairly recently, however, children’s books have privileged a paradigm of homogeneity and heterosexuality.
She takes the opportunity to talk about two other books in this genre: And Tango Makes Three -- a “true story” about two supposedly homosexual penguins and their chick, published by Simon and Schuster - and In My Mother’s House, published last year by Puffin, which makes a point of portraying “homophobia”. If you don’t know these books the review will give you an idea of what the major publishers, and schools, are now prepared to take on.