Local sex educator and all-round gem Cory Silverberg has done us all a huge favour by writing What Makes A Baby, a book for kids about sex.
Funded through Kickstarter, it's going to be brilliant and beautiful once it's published and I want to help drum up support. Here's our interview.
Tell me how the project came about.
I've dreamed for many years about writing a series of three books for kids about sex. I always imagined starting with older kids first, but then my friend Jake emailed me. He and his partner had a four-year-old and were about to have another baby. Their son started asking questions about the new baby and so they began the process of explaining reproduction and family. In addition to talking about sex, they wanted a book about it.
All the books about where babies come from tell one story: mommy/egg + daddy/sperm = baby/you. There are stories about other kinds of families (I think everyone knows about Heather Has Two Mommies) but they don't cover the sex education aspect, which is, as a sex educator, what I'm most passionate about.
I wanted them and their son to have a story that wouldn't require them to redact every other word in order to make it true for them. I also hated the idea that their son's first experience with sex education was going to be about how his family is "different," where "different" is code for "not as good as others."
In your research, did you find that kids who come from non-traditional families have ideas about what a family should look like? Have you found a common thread among kids about what family means?
Well, first I'll say that anyone who generalizes about kids of this age - four to seven - is a fool! Kids are always changing. There aren't any generalizations I can think of other than that every kid is really their own person.
But I've noticed that kids who grow up in families that talk openly and find ways to communicate the fact that we all have differences and similarities tend to be less fazed by differences in others. The challenge is to figure out a way to talk to young children about the way difference plays out in the world, and in a way that makes sense to them.
The hope is that my book does a small part to help. It tells children the basics about baby-making that are true for all humans and then it prompts parents to tell their child the unique story about how he or she came to be. With older kids this could open up conversations about other ways to make babies. But to be honest, most kids this age aren't interested in a lot of details. I think they are going to like the illustrations much more than my words!
You're passionate about telling stories that include all of us. How did you get to the heart of the matter without getting bogged down in the infinitesimal details that can make activism so exhausting and stressful?
That wasn't hard for me because it's what I do every day and because I genuinely want to start conversations that include as many of us as possible. Working for over 15 years as an ally in various disability communities has taught me everything I need to know about inclusion and access. It's not easy work, and I absolutely get bogged down, but I know how to ask for help and I have amazing collaborators.
Also, I know it won't be perfect but it'll be a good start. Nothing more, nothing less.
You've already surpassed your Kickstarter goal but why is it still important for people to contribute?
The project closes at 9:20 am on March 16. Even though we surpassed our initial goal we very much want and need people's support. The project wasn't and isn't about making money. It's about getting the book out there as far and wide as possible. So pre-selling more books is going to help us do that in a few ways.
First, the money we save on a larger print run will go toward free books for shelters, bookmobiles, libraries and community groups. These places can't afford to buy beautiful hardcover books but the people who use their services deserve those books as much as anyone.
The second plan - not yet finalized because this is all happening so fast - is to use a significant portion of the additional money to develop a digital companion to the book. This would be a book available on any computer or tablet. What's exciting about this is that many of our backers have asked about translations. Right now we can't afford to print the book in translation. But if we build it online we can easily allow readers to read it in any number of languages. It extends the book's reach and makes it more affordable and accessible.
For those who love books I'll also say that this is the first print run and I don't know that the second will be produced at the same quality. The book will absolutely keep going after Kickstarter, and since we don't have a publisher or distributor taking a percentage, more money can go into book production.
Backing the project even at the $1 level is a way of saying that there is a need and desire for stories that include more of us. I'm already hearing from media fascinated by the size of the response. While I've been saying this for years, it's nice to have numbers back up the fact that being inclusive is not being marginal, that when you make something that everyone can feel part of you actually make it better.