Entertainment

Behind 'A Family of Their Own': The Personal Beginnings of My First Fiction Novel

Author Malcolm O. Varner explains the motivations behind his first novel, "A Family of Their Own."

Growing up without a mother and having a father who was mostly absent throughout my adolescence gave way to parenthood and family being touchy subjects for much of my adulthood. I can recall my twelve-year-old self asking what my mother was like, how she looked, what she did for a living, and why she had abandoned her own two kids. There's one day I keenly remember when my younger sister and I discussed our plans to write Oprah in hopes of reuniting with this woman we only knew from our dreams, but I ultimately never wrote the letter out of fear. And for the father who had raised me throughout most of my school age years, a man that I referred to as "Duck," I only called him dad once before he died in 2011. Although he did his best as a single father, our relationship was significantly strained by his drug addiction and incarcerations during my middle and high school years, not to mention my own effeminate traits. If it wasn't for my grandmother stepping into the picture after one of his jail stints, my attitude towards family would've been indifferent at best. She provided me with a stable foundation in life that included home cooked meals, a peaceful and meticulously decorated home, and enough love to let me know that there was someone in this world who cared for me. She was someone in whose eyes I was special.

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Gay Dad Life

Gay Dad Creates Coloring Book with LGBT Families

Ever looked for a coloring book with LGBTQ families? You probably couldn't find one — until now.

Have you ever searched for children's coloring books that feature families with gay parents? If you have, your efforts were probably unsuccessful. That's because, until now, there weren't any coloring books with LGBT families. At all. Well, except for one on Amazon. Literally, one single title to represent us all.

Gay dad Mark Loewen wanted to change this. "I couldn't believe that almost 200,000 children raised by same-sex couples in the US couldn't see themselves in coloring books. And that's just one country!"

Loewen already included gay dads in his first picture book, 'What Does a Princess Really Look Like?' (2018), because he saw the need for LGBT characters in stories that didn't revolve around a specific LGBT-issue. "There are some really good books out there that explain our families. I wanted to write one where the family is just who they are, and where they don't need to be explained," Loewen states about his picture book debut.

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Change the World

New LGBTQ Children's Book Is About Two Moms — but Isn't About Being 'Different'

"Mighty May Won't Cry Today" is a relatable story celebrating the LGBTQ community, kids with same-sex parents, diversity and inclusion

Check out this 'Q & A' with Kendra and Claire-Voe Ocampo, authors of a new LGBTQ children's picture book, 'Mighty May Won't Cry Today.'

​Tell us a bit about yourselves!

Our story began 10 years ago in Boston when we fell in love. We got married in New Jersey in 2014, just months after same-sex marriage became legal in the state. Now six years later we are a happy family of four, moms to two daughters, Xiomara and Violet. When we're not writing or working our day jobs, you might find us eating Spanish tapas, video gaming, or debating over watching a sappy rom-com or the latest Sci-Fi flick on Netflix.

What inspired you to write the book?

Our inspiration to write the book began in 2016 after our first daughter was born and we began reading her children's books. We quickly saw that most of them featured a traditional family. It saddened us that our family was so little represented in the books Xiomara read, and we worried that she would feel like we were different (in a negative way) from other families. In fact, we learned that a study out of the Cooperative Children's Book Center of Education found that of 3,700 books surveyed, less than 1% were children's picture books containing LGBTQ+ content. It only made sense to write a children's book of our own!

What is the book about?

Mighty May Won't Cry Today tells the story of May, an imaginative and determined girl who tries not to cry on her first day of school. May's first day of school is filled with many adventures and emotions as she is faced with unexpected, embarrassing and overwhelming moments. Young readers will relate to the experiences of May's day—riding the bus for the first time or forgetting her favorite drink at home. At last May will face the ultimate challenge and she cannot hold back her tears. With the help of her two moms, she finds out why it's OK to cry and that even adults cry, both happy and sad tears!

How is this book unique from other children's books?

Not only is this book unique because it shows non-traditional families in children's books, but it also shares a unique message for kids and adults of all ages—learning that it's beneficial to cry when dealing with emotions like sadness, fear, embarrassment and frustration.

Shira Levy, School Psychologist and Positive Psychology Practitioner says about Mighty May: "I absolutely love Mighty May Won't Cry Today. It's a story about grit and perseverance, and teaches children about emotional intelligence and the fact that it's okay to experience a wide range of emotions. That's actually really good for our brains because when we make mistakes and we learn new things, our brains GROW. I highly recommend Mighty May Won't Cry Today."

What will gay, bi and trans fathers love about your book?


Fathers and kids will love the poetic rhymes, colorful designs and lovable "Mighty May." It's a beautiful story with a positive message about embracing different families and encourages an environment of inclusion from an early age. It is a great learning tool to teach kids that it's OK to cry and how to use mindful techniques to work through emotions.

When can we buy the book and how can we support it?

The illustrations for the book are almost final, but in order to fund the final illustrations and printing of this book, we launched a Kickstarter campaign on February 1, 2020. We would love it if you could join us on this journey. Please VISIT our Kickstarter page, LIKE our Facebook page and SHARE our story with your friends and family. We are counting on the LGBTQ community as our advocates and we know that together we will successfully bring this story to life.

Please post below and tell us: what are you excited about related to Mighty May? What do you think is important about telling this story? We can't wait to hear your thoughts.

Thank you for reading!

Kendra & Claire-Voe Ocampo, creators of Mighty May Won't Cry Today

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/mightymay/mighty-may-wont-cry-today-an-lgbtq-childrens-book

www.facebook.com/mightymaybooks

Change the World

This LGBTQ Children's Book Is About "Everyday Adventures"

"Little Panda's First Picnic," is a children's book that's about an adventure — where the parents just happen to be LGBTQ.

Guest post written by Denise Sensiba

When was the last time you read a book to your child that didn't make a big deal about the parents being LGBT and instead just followed the family on their everyday adventures? Or when was the last time you read a children's picture book that was explaining in detail what a heterosexual couple is? Probably never.

As a parent, prior nanny, early childhood music educator, and current psychotherapist, I have read my fair share of children's books and have always found it to be an enjoyable part of my life. Unfortunately, LGBT families have an incredibly small fraction of the children's books market. The few books that I encountered about same-sex parents did not follow the family as a normal family but focused on nothing more than the same-sex parents. They don't take you on adventures, or teach everyday educational lessons that our children need. Some of these books even deliver a weird message in between the lines saying, "see, same-sex couples can be loving parents." I wondered how that is teaching our kids that there is nothing unusual about LGBT families?

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What to Buy

A Gift Guide for LGBTQ Inclusive Children's Books

Need some ideas for good LGBTQ-inclusive children's books? Look no further than our gift guide!

Every year we see more books released that feature our families, and we're here for it! We're especially excited for the day when diverse and LGBTQ+ inclusive books are less of "the odd one out" and rather considered part of every kids' everyday literacy.

To help us reach that day, we need to keep supporting our community and allies who write these stories. So here's a list of some of the great books that need to be in your library, and gifts to the other kids in your lives.

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Gay Dad Life

Karamo Brown Co-Writes Children's Book with Son, Jason

The 'Queer Eye' star and his son named the story on a family mantra: You are Perfectly Designed

When his sons, Jason and Chris, were young, "Queer Eye" Star Karamo Brown repeated the same saying to them: "You are perfectly designed."

That mantra is now a Children's Book, cowritten by Karamo and his 22-year-old son, Jason, who used to come how and "say things like, 'I don't want to be me, I wish I was someone else, I wish I had a different life." As a parent, that "broke my heart," Karamo told Yahoo! Lifestyle. "I would say to him, 'You are blessed and you are perfect just the way you are,' as a reminder that you have been given so much and you should be appreciative and know that you're enough — I know that the world will try to tear you down, but if you can say to yourself, 'I am perfectly designed,' maybe it can quiet out some of those negative messages."

The illustrations, by Anoosha Syed, also make a point of displaying families of a variety of races and sexual orientations throughout the book.

Read more about Karamo's fascinating path to becoming a gay dad here, and then check out the video below that delves deeper into the inspiration behind "You Are Perfectly Designed," available on Amazon.



Gay Dad Life

"Fridays with Fitz": A New Kid's Book Based Upon the Son of These Two Dads

Tracey Wimperly, author of the new children's book, said she hopes to give a more honest portrayal of the role grandparents play in the lives of children.

Guest post Tracey Wimperly

I've recently written a children's picture book (aimed at 2-4 year olds) called "Fridays with Fitz: Fitz Goes to the Pool." Every Friday - when his two dads go to work - Fitz and his grandparents (my husband, Steve and I) head off on an adventure. Through the eyes of a curious and energetic 3 year old, even ordinary adventures, like riding the bus or foraging for fungus in the forest can be fun and magical.

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What to Buy

Sick of Switching Genders on Their Daughter's Kids Books, These Moms Created Their Own

Keren Moran, co-founder of Mememe Press, created a customizable line of books that is inclusive of ALL families

Guest post written by Keren Moran Co-founder at mememepress.com

We spent the first 4 years of our daughter's bedtime cheerfully snuggled up reading books, swapping genders and pronouns, populating her picture books with little vignettes of happy gay families like ours. This worked fine until the day she realized Sally and Conrad, the kids in 'The Cat in the Hat' have a mom and a dad (not two moms like us) and was NOT impressed with our deception.

From that point on she took it upon herself to tirelessly police our reading in to the hetero normative narratives that matched the text (what she couldn't read she expertly deduced from the pictures) and most of the representations in the book-world around her.

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