In a year rife with violence and political turmoil, it can be difficult for us to focus on the positives–like the fact that gay marriage is now legal, which means that same-sex partners being parents is becoming more “normalized” in the media.
Now it’s 25 years later, and Slate recently interviewed Newman, who identifies as a lesbian, along with writer Christine Baldacchino, who just published “Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress,” a children’s book about a gender nonconforming schoolchild.
When asked what prompted her to write the book, Newman told Slate:
“This has become lesbian lore over time, but it’s actually true. I was walking down the street in Northampton, Massachusetts—Lesbianville, USA—in 1988. And a woman stopped me and said, “I don’t have a book that I can read to my daughter that shows a family like mine. Someone should write one.” By someone, she meant me. I grew up in the 1960s with no books about Jewish kids. I knew how alienating it could be to not see a family like yours in a book. You don’t belong, you think—there’s no place for you, because your family is different, and our culture says difference is inferior rather than wonderful. I took it seriously and felt like maybe I could make a difference in a child’s life.”
She want on to explain how the reaction in 1989 was, of course, outrage:
“From the very beginning, lesbian mothers were thrilled. But there were people who were less than thrilled. The book very quickly became this cultural icon that stood for the destruction of civilization as we know it. It was burned, banned, defecated on, challenged in libraries, returned to libraries with the pages glued shut, read on the Senate floor into the congressional record. Anti-gay protesters blew up the cover and toted it around on placards in protest.”
However, kids were never outraged, Newman added:
“Never. Because kids aren’t born with hatred. They aren’t born with this preconceived notion that this is a family, and this isn’t. That has to be taught.”
Isn’t it funny how kids often get the memo wayyyyyy before the adults do? Gotta love our world, sometimes.