‘Heather’s Mommy’: Teach Understanding

453958479I had the pleasure of interviewing Leslea Newman when she was speaking at Penn State on National Freedom to Marry Day. Self-identified as a poet, Newman is probably best known for the controversial children’s book she published about a child with two lesbian mothers, Heather Has Two Mommies, which garnered a lot of attention.

Please read on to learn about this fascinating female author.

Author Leslea Newman, who has been called the Erma Bombeck of the lesbian community, manages to find 87469420humor in even the bleakest situations.

In response to theories that teaching children about homosexuality may alter their sexual preferences, Newman joked that reading thousands of books about straight people had no effect on her sexual orientation.

Newman, writer of the controversial Heather Has Two Mommies, spoke at Penn State University on February 12, coinciding with National Freedom to Marry Day. She discussed the uproar surrounding the publication of her book in 1989 and touched on the common struggles of lesbian and gay communities nationwide.

[pullquote align=”left|center|right” textalign=”left|center|right” width=”30%”]Newman joked that reading thousands of books about straight people had no effect on her sexual orientation.[/pullquote]

Newman said she was surprised by the attention the book received. By 1994, Heather was the second most banned book of the year, knocking Madonnas’ Sex out of its position. It was headline news and she has since been coined the “most dangerous living writer in America.”

100193987She appeared amused by this title. She said she has also been accused of having a radical message. Newman emphasized that while the book became controversial, her goal in writing it was to educate children about family diversity.

But her troubles began long before the book even made it to press. After submitting the book to more than 50 publishers, many of whom recognized the need for such a book but would not “touch it,” she said she decided to publish the book herself.

She said she recognized how important it is for a child to see his or her own family represented in literature. She said she remembers feeling alienated growing up as a Jew in Brooklyn because the books she read rarely reflected her own life and family.

Not surprisingly, when she was approached by a lesbian couple she knew about writing a children’s book illustrating a family with same-sex parents, she took on the challenge. At the time, she said, there weren’t any around. This was her first children’s book.

She said children have had a positive reaction to the book. One child thanked her for writing a book about “her family.” Another child of  heterosexual parents, she said, was intrigued by the idea of having “two mommies.” Read more…

Reprinted with permission from Voices.

Authors & Books: