By Kelly McDonnell
This article was first published January 8, 2021 in Tagg Magazine here.
Indiana-based author Rebecca Stanton wants children to know that love is love.
Stanton self-published her first illustrated children’s poetry book, Under Our Roof, in September 2019. She said she’d always wanted to write a children’s book, but she never thought that it would be so personal.
When Stanton’s oldest daughter was planning her birthday party and a sleepover, another parent refused to let their child sleep over because of Stanton’s same-sex marriage. Stanton saw her daughter endure hurt and confusion, and she said she had to “step up as a parent” to do something to heal that pain and counter that discrimination.
Colorful, two-dimensional illustrations by Kristy Gaunt, a Florida elementary school art teacher, depict happy moments between two mothers and their two children. The family flies a kite, plays a board game, catches fireflies and holds each other when they cry.
“Everything you see in this book, you see any other family doing,” Stanton says.
Stanton said the images were inspired by her own favorite memories with her three children and wife. When Gaunt would share sketches with Stanton, she always showed them to her children for their approval. When writing, Stanton asked her kids to help her come up with rhymes for the book.
“I wanted them to see themselves in this book,” Stanton says. That’s the reason she decided to self-publish, even though it was difficult and expensive. Self-publishing kept her writing and editing process “personal” and “authentic.”
Without a publisher, Stanton has been primarily promoting her book through social media and in freelance articles with Gay Parent Magazine, but she’s struggled making a profit on her book.
Despite this, she’s been reminded how important books like these are for representation of the LGBTQ community. Stanton said she was worried how her local community would react to her book, since she tends to lead a private life. She said she also knows that some people believe that children are too young to talk about LGBTQ topics.
In her small town, she doesn’t know many other LGBTQ people. While her two-year-old daughter is comfortably expressive about having two moms, teachers and other adults don’t know how to address same-sex families.
“They kind of stumble,” explains Stanton. “I struggle finding words for it, but they just need to know it’s okay to talk about it. … [The book is] not about sex, it’s just about family.”
One powerful quote in the book is, “Love is what you do and not what you say.” It accompanies an illustration of the family huddled inside having a picnic on a rainy day.
“We teach the kids, no matter what we do, we make sure we’re here, present,” Stanton says. “They know we mean it. Instead of saying it, just show it.”