Tag Archives: homophobia

You Be You! The Kid’s Guide to Gender, Sexuality, and Family

Written by: Johnathan Branfman

Illustrated by: Julie Benbassat

For ages: 7-11

Language: English

Topics Covered: Gender, Sexuality, Trans Experience, Family, Discrimination (Transphobia, Homophobia, Sexism) Privilege, Intersectionality, Allyship, Attraction & Romance, Friendship

Summary: 

This little book hopped off the shelf and into Lee’s hands like it was meant to be! In just 73 short, beautifully illustrated pages, author Johnathan Branfman and illustrator Julie Benbassat have created the guide that I wish I had had when I was young. In very clear and sensitive language, Bronfman outlines the basics of X and Y chromosomes, but then goes a step beyond to talk about people with any variety of chromosomes, matter-of-factly stating “not everyone is born with a body that fits these expectations of male and female…people who aren’t male or female are called intersex” (16-17). Later chapters (which are short and to the point, averaging out at 10 pages or less) also make space for cis and trans gender identities, while also pointing out “some people don’t identify as either boys or girls. Many people who feel this way identify as gender non-binary, genderqueer, gender non-conforming, or gender fluid” (24)

You Be You effortlessly and explicitly includes many intersectional identities that rarely find a place in an introductory book for this age group, (not just featuring disabled people in illustrations but calling out ableism in the text) but the wording never comes across as heavy handed, a large part of that due to Bronfman’s experience as a summer camp counselor. The text is engaging and does not have the “parental lecture” quality that some early-childhood books on “tough subjects” can have. You Be You shows the reader, whether they are a parent or child, that there is no reason to be afraid of these subjects! Honesty, compassion and affirmation are the backbone of these chapters, especially the fantastic section that covers privilege and intersectionality.

And it’s not just the words that blew me away-the illustrations feature depictions of tricky subjects such as privilege and allyship in a way that I have not seen before in books for children or adults! Using the colors to represent discrimination (red) and allyship/compassion (blue) the emotions surrounding each experience are clear and comprehensible for readers of any age.

I just can’t say enough about this book-it should be available to everyone and anyone. The inclusion and true diversity represented inside the pages make this a must-read for anyone trying to learn more about identity and how to talk about challenging concepts like intersectionality and privilege with compassionate but realistic language. We hope you find it as revelatory as we did, and spread it in your circles!

About the Author & the Illustrator:

Jonathan Branfman, Ph.D. is a Gender Studies researcher and children’s book author. His work focuses on LGBTQIA diversity and social justice. His book, You Be You!: The Kid’s Guide to Gender, Sexuality, and Family, is an illustrated children’s book for ages 7-11 that makes gender identity, sexual orientation, and family diversity easy to explain to children. Throughout the book, kids learn that there are many kinds of people in the world and that diversity is something to be celebrated. It covers gender, romantic orientation, discrimination, intersectionality, privilege, and how to stand up for what’s right. The book was illustrated by Julie Benbassat.

Jonathan can be contacted via his website at https://jonathanbranfman.com

Julie Benbassat is an illustrator and recent RISD graduate. You can find her in Brooklyn, NY eating soft tofu stew. Her work delights in the eccentricities of the natural world, indulges in the fantastical, and highlights the bridge between the cute and the horrific. In spare moments, she relishes reading sassy nonfiction, hiking wooded expanses, and watching bad (but good) horror movies.

King and the Dragonflies

Written by: Kacen Callender

Cover Art by: Tonya Engel

For ages: YA

Language: English

Topics Covered: POC-Centric Narratives, Family, LGBTQ, Death, Relationships, Friendship.

Summary: We got this book from a friend who received a pre-release copy from the ALA Conference!  We are so excited to have been able to both read and review the book before the release date, because it was incredible!

King’s brother, Khalid, has just died.  He died abruptly, and King’s family is in shambles.  King is also trying to reconcile with who he is as a person along with the grief consuming him.  A few months before Khalid’s death, Khalid overheard King and his friend Sandy talking late one night during a backyard camp out.  Sandy had confessed to King that he was gay, and King responded that he might be gay too.  Khalid told King the next morning that he heard them in the tent, and that King shouldn’t hang around with Sandy anymore or people would start to think that King was gay too.  So King stopped being friends with Sandy, but King misses him and is filled with guilt about the ordeal.

King is also convinced that Khalid is now a dragonfly, that he shed his human skin and is now travelling the world as a jewel-toned bug.  On his way to the bayou to look for Khalid the dragonfly, King runs into Sandy for the first time in a few months and also the first time since Khalid’s death.  They have a brief conversation, and part ways.  When Sandy turns up missing, King is worried he’ll be implicated if anyone finds out that he was possibly the last person to see Sandy.

It takes a trip to Mardi Gras, letting go of secrets, and a wonderful Auntie to help the James family become close again.  Nothing we can write about the book can do the plot justice, and convey the emotion and strength in Callender’s words.  Highly recommend, I read this in a single afternoon!

About the Author & the Cover Artist:

79veuN9R_400x400Born and raised in St. Thomas of the US Virgin Islands, Kacen Callender is the award-winning author of the middle-grade novels Hurricane Child and King and the Dragonflies, the young-adult novels This Is Kind of an Epic Love Story and Felix Ever After, and the adult novel Queen of the Conquered.

Kacen was previously an Associate Editor of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Hachette Book Group, where they acquired and edited novels including Tyler Johnson Was Here by Jay Coles, the New York Times bestseller Internment by Samira Ahmed, and the Stonewall Honor award-winning novel Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World by Ashley Herring Blake.

They enjoy playing RPG video games in their free time, and they really wish they had a dog.

Kacen currently resides in Philadelphia, PA.

Tonya Engel is the cover artist for this stunning book!

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The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali

Written by: Sabina Khan

Cover Art by:

For ages: YA book

Language: English

Topics Covered: LGBTQ, Family, Marriage, Independence, Love, Acceptance, LGBTQ Violence, Homophobia, Bangladeshi Culture & Traditions.

Summary: I could NOT put this book down.  I was instantly hooked.  Warning: you will feel ALL the emotions during this read.

Rukhsana is a teenager, just a few months away from graduation.  Rukhsana’s parents are Bangladeshi, and very strict.  They have no idea that she is dating a white girl named Ariana.  Rukhsana’s parents in fact, would love to arrange a marriage for her but Rukhsana is able to secure a full ride to CalTech for physics and bide some time before that happens.  However, one day Ariana is over and Rukhsana’s mother catches them kissing.  All of a sudden, she is whisked away to Bangladesh to visit her “ailing grandmother”, but then ulterior motives are uncovered and Rukhsana is informed she is not allowed to leave the country until she agrees to a formal engagement with a suitable husband-to-be.  After a botched escape plan where Rukhsana’s passport hiding place is discovered and a tumultuous fight with Ariana over the phone, she feels alone and defeated.  Rukhsana is then informed she must be married before leaving the country, locked in a room, and a shaman is called to perform an exorcism of the bad spirit (jinn) that is making her act so disobedient.  Then Rukhsana meets someone named Sohail, a boy whose parents are pushing for him to get married.  But it turns out, he’s already dating someone…someone handsome that lives in the United States.  Sohail and Rukhsana hatch a plan to feign an engagement and then flee before the wedding where they will part ways and link back up with their partners.  Sohail is also a famous blogger, but he writes about what is wrong with Bangladesh and calls for reform-specifically with the anti-LGBT policies currently in place.  He has thousands of weekly readers but is also being followed by extremists known for violence.  When eating lunch together in a cafe, some thugs sit near the pair to intimidate Sohail.  He quickly wraps up lunch and they finish eating in his office, laughing off the incident.

When the day of the wedding ceremony comes, Rukhsana plans to sneak out of her family’s home into a taxi with her younger brother and go to the airport.  Sohail will do the same and they will catch the flight together.  When Rukhsana arrives, Sohail is late.  She waits as long as she can, but gets on the plane alone and makes the long trek back to America, where some friends pick her up and let her stay at their house.  When Rukhsana finally turns her phone back on, she has many missed calls and voicemails from her parents.  Thinking that they are angry at her for skipping out on the expensive wedding, she ignores them and takes a few days to attempt emotional healing from the extreme trauma and duress that she has just endured over the last few months stuck in Bangladesh.  Her friends sit her down, and tell her she needs to listen to the messages.  Sohail is dead.  On the way to the airport he is murdered viciously with a machete by the thugs, because he is gay.

I won’t spoil the ending, but just know that it will wrench your heart from the very depths inside your soul and be impossible to put down.  I was reading it through tears, enraptured at the emotional complexity of the characters, and the growth of Rukhsana throughout this life-changing endeavor that she found herself inextricably linked to, unable to escape.

About the Author & the Illustrator:

sabina-profileSabina Khan is the author of THE LOVE & LIES OF RUKHSANA ALI, a YA Contemporary, was released Spring 2019 from Scholastic. She is an educational consultant and a karaoke enthusiast. After living in Germany, Bangladesh, Macao, Illinois and Texas, she has finally settled down in beautiful British Columbia, Canada, with her husband and three daughters, one of whom is a fur baby.