This Day in June by Gayle E. Pitman, illustrated by Kristyna Litten.
Magination Press, American Psychological Association, Washington, D.C., 2014.
Informative fiction, 36 pages.
The story of Pridefest presented through a parade for family discussion.
This was one of the picture books Husband bought that I mentioned before. I struggled reviewing it since my feelings are mixed. While characters of color are included in this book, it struck me that all the couples included seemed to be either white, or of mixed race. None of the families had two adults of color.
This was compounded by the backgrounds. The foreground was done in full detail in a vintage style that I often quite like. However the background was line art with only a few colors filled in here and there. Therefore, though I assume not all of the parade-goers are intended to be white, they all appear white. A simple solution would have been to fill in the background with another color to make it clear that the attendees are diverse.
Another problem was the level of dress. Perhaps because Wisconsin is generally colder than San Francisco, I haven’t seen people in their underwear at Pride. This raised questions from the kids. We have a male friend who wears skirts sometimes and dhotis are common in our neighborhood, they just questioned why some people were shirtless.
The final difficulty was pages 10 and 11. The artwork includes an individual dressed as a nun with a faint bindi. Others wear portions of the nun’s garb as well as bindis. One man has a blue painted face that I really hope is not intended to represent Vishnu or Kali, and several are wearing what I hope are not Sikh turbans. Only one character on these pages is dark skinned. Two have tanner skin, while the rest appear white.
The end text explains:
“The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence is a group of artists, activists, and self-described nuns for the queer community that formed in San Francisco in 1979. The Sisters organized primarily to advocate safe-sex practices and to help AIDS patients when other social service or community groups would not. The group is devoted to community service and outreach and to promoting human rights and respect for diversity.” page 30
I can see why they were included as an important part of Pride. However, we teach the kids to be respectful of all religions. As an adult I can understand that they’ve adopted religious symbols as a protest against and mockery of groups that claimed to love everyone but were allowing some people to suffer terribly. However, that’s a fairly complex discussion for a picture book!
Now that I’ve detailed the issues, let me tell you what we loved. This book shows all the kid-friendly things that you could want to know about Pridefest. The artwork is gentle, but with a great sense of dynamism. The parade is moving and readers are enticed to turn the page. The short rhyming text combined with the longer endnote explanations should have made this perfect for a variety of ages.
Aside from detailed endnotes explaining the groups represented on each page, there’s also a four page Note to Parents and Caregivers with extensive information on how to talk to kids about sexual identity and gender orientation. This note will apply to any parent or teacher but seem especially geared toward heterosexual parents.
“Many heterosexual parents want to talk to their children about sexual orientation, believing that prejudice and discrimination against LGBT people are wrong, but may feel as if they lack the tools to have these conversations.” page 33
After reading this section, I realized that while this appears to be a picture book, it’s geared toward an older audience. We were hoping the simple rhyming text and vibrant colors of this book would be a great way to introduce our youngest family members to Pridefest, but we’ll probably get more use out of this when they’re older.
How effective this book is for your school or family really depends on your context. For a same sex couple where both partners are people of color, this book might not work. Ditto if your children aren’t accustomed to seeing men in women’s dress, vice versa, or people of either gender wearing little clothing in public. If your family is or interacts with religious people who are Sikh, Hindu, or Catholic, you might want to skip that page or this book.
Also, this book doesn’t contain much about transgender or intersex people (some people in the illustrations could be trans or non-binary). However, covering the history of Pridefest and gay rights organizations is already a lot for a picture book!