American first-time author Judith Benjamin’s foray into children’s literature was precipitated by one curly question from her three-year-old granddaughter: “Where’s my Daddy?”
“When she asked me that question, I floundered,” Benjamin told Sydney Star Observer.
“The interesting thing is this three-year-old can tell you everything you want to know about sperm donors — her mothers have told her all about her origins — but seeing the other kids around her, she could sense that something didn’t compute.”
And so the 30-page picture book And Baby Makes 4 was born. The book is unique among gay children’s literature in that it doesn’t bring the issue of gay parenting to the forefront of the story.
Rather, it tells the tale of a young girl adjusting to the new addition to her family, a baby brother. The fact that she has two mothers is evident in the colour photographs that dot every page, but barely rates a mention in the accompanying text.
“My daughter and daughter-in-law were very strongly in favour of making sure gay parents weren’t the crux of the story. They’re ready to move on from that; their community accepts them,” Benjamin said.
Giving a touch of authenticity to the story, the photos on each page are actually of Benjamin’s daughter and her family. This also served a practical purpose, as Benjamin could not afford to pay an illustrator for the independently published book.
“A book like this has to find its market, and it’s really such a small niche. It’s gay parents and it’s progressive straight parents who want their kids to understand that there is a range of families out there. Realistically, I would be delighted if I sold 500 copies of the book.”
And while And Baby Makes 4 depicts the life of a same-sex family in all its realistic, day-to-day detail, Benjamin did take poetic license with one element: the recent addition to her daughter’s family, a baby girl, was recast as baby Jacob in the book.
“The story needed a little dose of testosterone, so I made the new baby a boy. At one point my granddaughter actually told her mother that she wanted to have Jacob instead!”
info: And Baby Makes 4 is available at The Bookshop Darlinghurst and The Feminist Bookshop.