This summer, we received a note from a subscriber sharing their displeasure with the feminist and bookish baby feminist book choices. It was from a Queer Abolitionist Lesbian Family who decided to suspend their subscription. While the note was gentle, supportive, and kind it also levied a heavy critique on our book choices. Admittedly, I took it personally.
It was June, and families received “Love in the Wild” and “I Love Daddy Every Day." The former explores same sex and non-binary relationships in the wild. The latter, is a celebration of racially and ethnically diverse children enjoying quality time with their Dads. In my opinion, together, they represented a balance of representation and inclusion that was both age appropriate and fun. "I Love Daddy Every Day" depicts fathers engaging in nontraditional activities like dress-up with their kids; a nod to more expansive examples of parenting. I felt particularly proud of my choices as they checked off many boxes of what I seek to create through the subscription since its inception in January 2020.
The vision for Feminist & Bookish is centered on creating a community of people all reading the same book at the same time then, entering into conversations with one another via the book club or their immediate tribes. My goal was and continues to be to elevate intersectional feminist books by, for, and about womxn and girls from around the globe. I am intentional about selecting books that affirm, challenge, and nurture a deeper curiosity of humans, cultures, and ways of being different from our own.
We did not start with books for children. However, motivated by Emiliano and my own sense of dread of not preparing him to be an ally, I decided to expand the subscription to include baby (0-5yrs), budding (5-9yrs), and middle grade (5-9yrs) feminist titles. I was also inspired by the breadth of forward thinking and powerful stories of love and resistance available for all ages. I mean, I’m 42 years old and do not remember EVER having books of this quality at my fingertips as a child. Every day, as I’m ordering books for the store, I say to myself, our kids do not have to be ignorant, intolerant, or otherwise. The world has changed; we now have language that wasn't available a week ago. And frankly, I want to be part of facilitating the exposure and access to this new world for our families.
The reality is, I will not always be successful and, I’m ok with that. Liberation work is imperfect and will always be. While the note from my beloved Queer Abolitionist family stung, I was grateful for the invitation to reflect. First and foremost, they were correct and justified. They are not interested in reading books about kids loving "their fathers” everyday since we are all bombarded by white heteronormative stories every single corner we turn. As a lesbian couple, this is not their experience. And, I’m sure, they’re like, I’ll be damned if I pay for more examples of heteronormativity. Period. Done. Received. Accepted.
I also took stock of our book choices for the subscription and saw that while we are being inclusive and representative across six selections, it may not seem so if a family is only receiving one. We do post each month's books online with the hopes that you see and appreciate the full story. However, I get it, the intention is good, and is of no import when your family is not represented in your specific subscription as it is not represented in the wider society. Period. Done. Received. Accepted.
A sobering moment indeed. One that I continue to sit with as I work to figure out how to make adjustments that allow for the widest representation of identities.
What the note help to further crystallize is: we are doing the work. The truth is, the task at hand is enormous and the space is small. There are only 12 months for us to elevate as many identities and stories as possible. To keep the subscription accessible, sometimes, we can only choose one book to do so. That will never meet everyone’s perspective or needs all the time. However, I would argue that while I understand this heteronormative story is common, I can’t say that I am exposed to non-white representations of child and father relationships in a children's book or otherwise doing ordinary, silly things. In other words, there are other identities at play which need space and deserves room in our collective conversation. This is not and cannot be a zero sum game; there is a world where we all exist in equal measure. I'm working toward being better at envisioning it via our book choices.
Every month, my greatest intention is to ensure that all families feel reflected in our choices and that each of us are introduced to one another via a book. I will not always get it right and again, I’m at peace with that. Liberation work is messy and imperfect. The challenge is to meet every day as a chance to grow and do something differently. I will continue to work hard at representation and invite you to share books that you think we should consider. Liberation work is not done in solitude; we need community. This subscription is a collective endeavor; your voice matters.
So, thank you to the family that pushed me to a place of deep reflection and to all of you who I know will write back. I look forward to growing under your watchful, loving eyes.
One last thing before I go. We are once again expanding. We are adding “romance” novels to our subscription service. We’ve had such success with genre and it’s time we
Thank you for dialoguing with me. I look forward to your feedback.
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