Heather Has Two Mommies
|LC Class||PZ7.N47988 He 2000|
First published in 1989, Heather Has Two Mommies is a children's book written by Lesléa Newman with illustrations by Diana Souza. This ground-breaking novel was one of the first pieces of LGBTQ children's literature to garner broad attention. While the book is often noted as the first lesbian picture book, Jane Severance's book, When Megan Went Away, also has lesbian characters and debuted ten years before Newman's.
The idea for Heather Has Two Mommies was not Newman's own. While out for a walk, Newman was approached by lesbian parents and asked to write a children's story about a family like theirs. The parents explained that there were no books that they could show their daughter that portrayed the life of a family with lesbian parents. Newman wrote the story for this purpose, but did not expect the book to gain widespread controversy.
The story is about a child, Heather, raised by lesbian women: her biological mother, Jane, who gave birth to her after artificial insemination, and her biological mother's same-sex partner, Kate. At Heather's playgroup, her family situation is discussed simply and positively, as are those of other children in other family units. At first, Heather becomes upset when she realizes that many of her other peers at the playgroup have a daddy and she does not. Molly, the caretaker at the play group, ensures that all the children at the play group understand that all families are special and no family type is better than any of the others.
The American Library Association ranked it the 9th most frequently challenged book in the United States in the 1990s; a similar phenomenon can be seen in the Sugartime! episode of the American television series Postcards from Buster. In the 1980s, comparable political controversy erupted in the United Kingdom over the book Jenny Lives with Eric and Martin. Comedian Bill Hicks famously included the book in one of his stand-up routines.
The book and the controversy over it were parodied in the 2006 Dav Pilkey book Captain Underpants and the Preposterous Plight of the Purple Potty People. In it, the parallel-universe Miss Singerbrains (the school librarian) invites the two main characters, George and Harold, to read the book Mommy Has Two Heathers.
Doris Robinson, the regional services manager at Fairview Park Regional Library in Cleveland, claims that books such as Heather Has Two Mommies should have a place in schools and libraries around the country, "as long as they tastefully, accurately and appropriately portray the subject matter." Furthermore, Robinson recognizes that keeping LGBTQ subject matter from children would do them a disservice as homosexual couples become a recognized part of society. Robinson asserts that because homosexual families deserve respect, exposing children to Heather Has Two Mommies will teach them to be more accepting of these families.
John Leo, the editor in chief of Minding the Campus, believes that while accepting homosexuals in today's society is important, books like Heather Has Two Mommies have a different purpose, to "celebrate the wonders of double-mommy and double-daddy households." Leo insists that there is a difference between celebrating and respecting various types of familial structures and that schools should not take part in promoting certain familial structures over others. Leo is concerned that various religious conflicts could occur when children are celebrating gay family structures at school.
In Fayetteville, North Carolina, people tried to have Heather Has Two Mommies banned from local libraries and schools. They were unsuccessful in their attempt, so instead they paid for advertisements in local newspapers to convince citizens to vote against the construction of 5 new libraries in the Fayetteville area. The advertisements conveyed that the libraries were in "pursuit of legitimizing homosexuality" and compared homosexuality to "prostitution, bestiality or incest..."
According to Jennifer Esposito, a professor at Georgia State University, Leslea Newman attempts to normalize lesbian family structure in Heather Has Two Mommies but unintentionally does just the opposite. When Heather acknowledges that she does not have a daddy it makes her sad. Esposito argues that because Heather gets upset that she does not have a father instead of wondering why she has two mothers, it portrays that there is a problem with having two mommies. Furthermore, Esposito believes that Heather Has Two Mommies "dequeers" lesbian households by making them equivalent to heterosexual households. She believes that this does a disservice to those children that live those households because their experience in the real world is a lot different than what is portrayed in the story. Esposito thinks that books dealing with lesbian families should take the approach of informing people that these households are just as normal as other households while at the same time addressing the unique problems they face.
- Homosexuality in children's literature
- Daddy's Roommate - portrays a gay couple in a similar positive light. It became point of discussion in the 2008 US Presidential Election.
- The Rainbow Cubby House - similar book in Australia.
- Jenny Lives with Eric and Martin - similar book that caused controversy in the United Kingdom.
- "Bart Has Two Mommies" - an episode of The Simpsons parodying the controversy.
- Book Review: Heather has Two Mommies
- Hetter, Katia (March 25, 2015). "'Heather Has Two Mommies' comes out again". CNN. Retrieved 6 December 2018.
- Crisp, Thomas (2010). "Setting the record 'straight': An interview with Jane Severance". Children's Literature Association Quarterly. 35 (1): 87–96. doi:10.1353/chq.0.1950.
- Peel, Katie R. (2015). "An interview with Lesléa Newman: A punchy new Heather, Dolly Parton, and Orange is the New Black". Journal of Lesbian Studies. 19 (4): 470–483. doi:10.1080/10894160.2015.1057076.
- "The More Things Change ... Heather has Two Mommies Turns 20." 2009: 58. Biography In Context; Gale. Web. <http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/A210441012/BIC?u=wash43584&sid=BIC&xid=cc667152>.
- Annotated Bibliography of Children's Books With Gay and Lesbian Characters Resources for Early Childhood Educators and Parents Archived March 14, 2005, at the Wayback Machine
- Newman, Leslea (1989). Heather Has Two Mommies. Alyson Books. ISBN 1-55583-543-0.
- American Library Association (2013-03-26). "100 most frequently challenged books: 1990–1999". Advocacy, Legislation & Issues. Retrieved 2019-01-28.
- BERNSTEIN, MARGARET. "Children's Books on Gay Lifestyles are Causing some People to Squirm." THE SEATTLE TIMES, 1991, NewsBank. Web.
- Leo John. "Heather Has a Message." US News & World Report. August 17, 1992. Web.
- Newman, Leslea. ""Heather" and Her Critics." 1997: 149+. Literature Resource Center; Gale. Web. <http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/A19225959/LitRC?u=wash43584&sid=LitRC&xid=325dc1d1>.
- Esposito, Jennifer (2009). "We're Here, We're Queer, But We're Just Like Heterosexuals: A Cultural Studies Analysis of Lesbian Themed Children's Books" (PDF). Educational Foundations. 23 (3–4): 61–78.
- "Once Elected, Palin Hired Friends and Lashed Foes" Jo Becker, Peter S. Goodman and Michael Powell. New York Times' September 14, 2008