My Pride book turns ONE today! And it has been such an exciting and interesting year. So much learning and so many amazing new people in my life because of PRIDE. So happy birthday, little book! And as if to help celebrate, these newly printed copies arrived in my mail box today- complete with shiny Stonewall Honor sticker!
I wrote PRIDE because I thought it was important, but a year later– after talking to thousands of kids and teens in classrooms in small towns and big cities, private schools and public ones, from rural BC to Toronto and Montreal– I think that writing and talking about LGBTQ issues with young people is even more important than I realized. Over the past twelve months, I have heard so many stories from students and teachers: inspiring stories that show how far we’ve come and heartbreaking stories that show how much work we still have to do. I’ve received emails from teens, from teachers, from parents. I heard from a mom whose daughter came out because my presentation at her school had “made her feel brave” and from a librarian whose young gay son read my book and couldn’t wait to attend his first Pride events. I’ve spoken with teachers who were starting GSAs in their schools and advocating for their LGBTQ students, and with administrators and school trustees working to make their schools more inclusive and safer for all.
PRIDE has had a few road bumps on its journey into schools, some of which I wrote about here (see page 18) during Freedom to Read Week.
But overall, the reception has been overwhelmingly positive. PRIDE won a Stonewall Honor and was one of nine Canadian books selected for the USSBY Outstanding International Books list. It was chosen for the OLA Best Bets, and is currently a finalist for the BC Book Prizes, the Red Maple Award and the Hackmatack Award. And every one of those committees is made up of librarians, teachers, book reviewers, book sellers and other book lovers who are helping get books like PRIDE into the hands of young readers. Book people are pretty awesome…. but even within our wonderful kid lit community, I don’t think that could have happened even ten years ago.
Politically, 2017 has been a difficult and disheartening year for people who care about LGBTQ rights and social justice in general, and many of the young people I’ve spoken to in these last three months have expressed fears about the future. Last week, one boy- maybe twelve years old- asked me if I thought what was happening to gay men in Chechnya could happen here. Kids as young as ten have asked if Trump will take away marriage equality in the US. And in all honesty, it is hard to feel as optimistic about the direction of change as it was a year ago when the book was published. But having met so many writers, teachers, librarians, bloggers and activists who are resisting oppression and fighting for equality makes me hopeful that the gains of the past decades will not be lost. And the young people I’ve met show such incredible awareness, compassion, and commitment to social justice– and that makes me even more hopeful about the future.