Amy Asks a Question… Grandma – What’s a Lesbian? (1996)

Amy Asks a Question… Grandma – What’s a Lesbian? (1996) was written by Jeanne Arnold and illustrated by Barbaba Lindquist, partners and co-founders of the book’s publisher,  Mother Courage Press.

Amy, a young girl with lesbian grandmothers, is called a lesbian at school when her and some girl friends hug after winning a soccer game. Amy is confused and later asks her mother what “lesbian” means. The girl’s mother brings her to Grandma Bonnie who provides a detailed and celebratory description of what being a lesbian means to her.

The wordy book scattered with a few black-and-white drawings, introduces several aspects of lesbian culture: pride parades, rainbow flags, pink triangle pins, and commitment ceremonies/handfasting. It provides a positive and passionate description of lesbian love and community.

I am not sure who the intended audience is. The book is far too wordy for young children. The description of lesbian culture is so detailed that I can’t imagine anyone reading it wouldn’t have already answered the question – what’s a lesbian? – for their audience. Even within the text, Amy’s ignorance and need to ask about the meaning of “lesbian” is awkward. She knows her gay uncle died of AIDS-related complications, but doesn’t know what a lesbian is. I found that a bit farfetched.

I don’t recommend this book for the purpose of introducing children to sexual identities and cultures, but it is a fun addition to adult collections because of it’s celebration of lesbian love. For instance, when describing being lesbian to Amy, Grandma Bonnie says: “The benefit of being a lesbian is one of the best kept secrets ever. And it’s more than just making love, it’s being in love with, laughing and crying, sharing experiences together with each other and other women an children – and men we can trust.” Lines like this, references to the Michigan Womyn’s Festival, and paganism, make it worth the purchase if you can find it used!

This review is part of my “Snapshots of LGBTQ Kid Lit” project. I’m working on a book, The New Queer Children’s Literature: Exploring the Principles and Politics of LGBTQ* Children’s Picture Books, which is under contract with the University Press of Mississippi. Part of my research is identifying and interpreting English-language children’s picture books with LGBTQ* content published in the US and Canada between 1979 and 2019. Follow my blog to follow my journey!


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