Books

Published on July 28th, 2014 | by Catherine Hernandez

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Catherine Hernandez on the FLAMINGO RAMPANT BOOK CLUB

When my daughter was about four years old, another child told Arden her face was fat. I cannot begin to describe the lethal cocktail of anger, despair, fear and rage I had knotting in my stomach. The world I tried to build around my kiddo, in which one looks with wonder onto each part of the miraculous machine that is the human body, came apart brick by brick thanks to the snarky remark of this nasty, pint-sized fat-phobe. I knew the source of this – the pint-sized fat-phobe’s mother also had a few things to say about my weight on numerous occasions.

“When I look into the mirror, I feel ashamed” were the last words I heard from my daughter’s mouth before we drove at full speed to Parentbooks in Toronto to buy a stack of aggressively self-affirming reads, which were the kiddo equivalent of Iylana Vanzant’s Tapping the Power Within but with multi-coloured cartoons and pop-up illustrations.

Like she was bring trained for a spelling bee — or perhaps the zombie apocalypse — we read these books each night before bed. Each day before daycare. Each day after I came home from working at the theatre. Finally after a month of drilling it into her head that she was so very beautiful, just the way she is, she turned to me, held my face in her tiny hands and said “Mama. I love myself now. Can we read something else?”

Now imagine Arden had come to me at that age and told me she was taunted because she is the daughter of a radical, queer woman of colour; that she is part of a chosen family of LGBTQ2S Black, Indigenous and Of-Colour artists and activists who live lives that turn gender and race on its head daily?

We would have most likely been without books, with me searching endlessly on the internet, and my child still at square one saying, “When I look into the mirror, I feel ashamed.”

I know this is the main reason I have been ugly-crying out of happiness (like, full out, on my knees, palms up, tissue box empty) about being one of the authors who have been hand-picked by author/publisher S. Bear Bergman to be part of the Flamingo Rampant Book Club. The subscription series of six books (one every other month delivered to your door) will celebrate the great and wide variety of LGBTQ2S kids, families, and communities; half of them written by people of colour with actual people of colour characters featured in them.

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As a brown queer woman, this is a miracle considering the industry average of children’s picture books which feature people of colour is a sad 7%. So…like…there will be people who look like me and my spawn in those pages? And those people won’t be grocery store owners? Or wise elders with long beards? Or sassy maids? And these books won’t focus on bullying and harassment but rather celebrate the family we actually are?

The miracle too is that since Bergman has launched the Kickstarter to get the series up on its feet, close to $12,000 has been raised by a whopping 113 backers in only 5 days. Obviously he has hit a chord. And obviously Bergman knows what he is doing since his original Kickstarter almost doubled its original goal in an effort to publish gender independent kids books through Flamingo Rampant in the first place.

My contribution to the series will be my first children’s book called M is for Mustache: A Pride ABC Book. Based on my many marches with my own child during what she called “Rainbow Time”, the book will follow in an ABC format, a small child as she gets ready to march alongside her mama at Pride. “A is for Ally which mama and I try to be every day”; “M is for Mustache which mama draws on my face before we march”; “Q is for Quiet Down, which mama and I will never do. Which is why mama and I will always scream and shout” are some of my favourite pages so far.

My fellow femme, Mohawk and Cayuga artist and shaman Kiley May is also on board with their Onkwehon:we (Indigenous) story of a gender-independent young child finding the power in his long hair and his own expression of gender.

I can’t tell you how thrilled I am to be a part of this; to slowly rebuild this house of wonder around my now- ten-year-old daughter page by page of these forthcoming books. To celebrate the family we are, the arduous journey we have travelled and the many marches we have walked, helps me know that change is within our grasp. My ultimate goal is that somewhere in what we hope will be a massive, worldwide diaspora of these books if the Kickstarter is successful, there will be a child holding their parent’s face in their tiny hands repeating Arden’s words: “Mama, I love myself now.”

To join the club and make history, contribute now.

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About the Author

Catherine Hernandez

Catherine Hernandez is the Artistic Director of Sulong Theatre Company, a twice-published playwright, proud queer woman of colour and single mama. On September 21 2012, Catherine immersed herself in a lifeboat filled with filthy water for 24 hours without access to food. The event, named Operation Lifeboat, raised money and awareness for the UN-Natural recurring disasters in the Philippines. It involved more than 45 artists worldwide who performed each hour of the event and resulted in over 30 hours of watched video footage and more than 1100 viewers worldwide. Her newest play, The Femme Playlist, will premiere at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre in Oct 2014.



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