April 22, 2015
In 1988, after a lesbian mother told writer Leslea Newman about the lack of children’s books showing families like the one she and her partner shared with their young daughter, Newman decided to write such a book. It was an illustrated book about a fictional child named Heather and her happy life of love and laughter with her two mothers, Mama Kate and Mama Jane. The book was titled Heather Has Two Mommies; and, in a warm, gentle tone, it showed various kinds of diversity in families, while emphasizing that love is what makes a family. Not only did Newman find it impossible to find a publisher in spite of fifty attempts, but when she at last self-published it with a friend who had a desktop printing business and it became available in bookstores and libraries, an ugly, mean-spirited controversy arose that made it one of the most banned books of the 1990s. A new 2015 edition has just been published to commemorate the book’s 25th anniversary.
Listen to an 11-minute interview with the book’s author, Leslea Newman, as she talks about the new edition (on NPR’s Here and Now radio program). She also comments on the recent controversy about the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in Indiana.
You can also read a detailed article about the book’s fascinating history from the USA Today website, written by Associated Press writer Leanne Italie.
And, if you’re not familiar with the book (or even if you are), watch this 8-minute video of Catherine Dent of the writers’ group, Pen Center, USA, as she reads the original edition of the book to an audience. You’ll feel as though you’re in a circle listening to a children’s story hour at the library or hearing a bedtime story. And you’ll shake your head in utter astonishment that such a sweet, loving story could have been considered so “evil” —and continues to be so regarded by some groups today.