Queer Kids Book Club: Julián Is A Mermaid

I’d like to get back into blogging and I thought I’d start with an easy, once a week type deal where I focus on specific books I love. And I realized that there are many weekly book blogs, which are great, and I love, but I haven’t seen one focused specifically on books that feature queer kids or families. So I’m going to start one. Welcome! Let’s jump right in, shall we?

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I hope all of you have seen this book already. Julián Is A Mermaid by Jessica Love came out this summer and quickly joined my list of favourites- not just queer books. Any books. It’s beautiful, heartfelt, endearing and charming. Literally all of those things, on every page.

 The entire book is fully of dreamy, beautiful illustrations I can’t get enough of.

The entire book is fully of dreamy, beautiful illustrations I can’t get enough of.

This perfect story follows Julián, who loves mermaids, and his abuela. He has beautiful dreams and fantasies of being a mermaid, and finally decides to take down a curtain in his abuela’s house to wrap around himself and make into a tail. Instead of being angry (though the expression on her face when she discovers him adds the absolute perfect amount of kid tension!) she takes him to the Coney Island Mermaid Parade. It is one of the most wholesome books I’ve had the pleasure of reading.

 See? Perfect level of kid tension.

See? Perfect level of kid tension.

So many- so, so, so many- books that feature children who are gender non-conforming focus on overcoming oppression. The child who is non-binary, trans or gender non-conforming in these stories often deals with bullying, family that is unsupportive, at least at first, and the stories usually focus on overcoming that. This one does not. This is about a little boy who wants to be a fabulous mermaid and his abuela who loves him. It is exuberant, radiates pure love and is just a total treat.

 I cannot overstate how gorgeous this book is.

I cannot overstate how gorgeous this book is.

Children- no matter how they present, no matter their gender identity- deserve to see themselves in books that show their joy. Not every book for queer kids needs to be (or should be, frankly) about being true to yourself under external pressure. Cisgender and heterosexual children have a vast array of stories that reflect themselves and their joy. Queer kids deserve the same.

And the fact that this story features a Latino child makes it all the more incredible. White cis-het kids (specifically male) feature in the vast majority of children’s literature. The numbers are bleak and depressing. And while queer kids need representation in stories- not all folks who reside on the LGBTQ2SA spectrum are white. Obviously. So when you’re looking for two categories already underrepresented (queer children and children of colour) to be represented in the same space, in one child- well. It’s like finding trying to find a unicorn. Or, in this case, a mermaid.

I’d love to hear what you all thought of this book, and what it meant to you or your own gender non-conforming little ones. (And for those who are as obsessed with these boy mermaid nesting dolls- here’s the link to the store!)

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(A note about the word queer: Queer is, much like many colloquial terms, one that is slowly being reclaimed by folks on the LGBTQ2S+ spectrum, to mean a variety of different things. Some folks, particularly those of older generations who remember it being a slur, are not comfortable with it. I am a millennial, I love the word queer, and am happy to continue using it and reclaiming it to describe myself and my friends. I use the word queer because while pansexual- being attracted to folks of any or no gender- is technically the most accurate description of my sexuality, it doesn’t feel right to me. I wouldn’t use pansexual to describe myself. It doesn’t fit. Queer does. But what’s acceptable to me, may not be to another. Just like other groups of people, queer folks are not a monolith. Ask. Respect people’s identities and words for them. Words matter. )