Supporting gender and sexual orientation diversity is important: It’s sometimes a matter of life and death


Children’s Book Review

Made By Raffi by Craig Pomranz

by Sally Ember, Ed.D.

July, 2014

It’s not often that two people who knew each other as teenagers both become authors around the same time, but here we are, Craig Pomranz and I, both from Olivette, MO (a suburb of St. Louis), finding this new outlet for our creativity!

Craig is one year younger but was two grades behind me in our high school due to district entrance deadlines. It was quite “scandalous” at the time that I chose him to be my among my good friends, because I was a popular, powerful senior and he was a lowly sophomore in our three-year, Ladue Horton Watkins High School in 1971.

Why did I pick Craig out of and lift him from the kiddie pool? Because he was amazingly talented, charismatic, charming, intelligent, fun and earnest, even then. At our almost-clueless ages of 15 and 16, we bonded over musical and dramatic theater, party games, sex, jokes and movies.

We were also both not exactly cis-gender or completely heterosexual. In those ways, we kind of “met in the middle” and found a lot of common ground. We are still doing that, over forty years later. Craig and I both have wanted our experiences to be utilized so that we could be helpful to younger people in our professional work (as I have) and our writing.

This spring, Craig authored and this month published s wonderful, unique children’s book, Made by Raffi, that I’ll let him tell you about from an email he recently sent to me:

“I wrote the book to support young boys and girls who are perceived as ‘different’ because of their appearance or hobbies. It is a funny, colorful book with a serious message and will interest those who care about promoting diversity and embracing our differences, as well as all children seeking to fit in. This is an important topic for today…”

Craig went on to explain: “I have really become interested in the idea of how we tell our kids what is ‘appropriate’ activity based on gender. Most of the parents of young kids I know are trying, on the one hand, to let them follow their own interests, but on the other are concerned about their kid’s fitting in and not being teased. As a result, atypical hobbies and behaviors are only encouraged so far.”

He knows I AGREE with him completely, so he asked me to review and help promote his great book. Here I am, doing just that.

Buy this book. Share it with younger readers and even younger pre-readers. Talk about it. Allow Raffi’s story to raise questions and stimulate important conversations. Donate it to schools, libraries, homeless shelters, runaway hostels, children’s hospitals, youth mental wards, rehab centers.

I mean it. Made by Raffi should be everywhere so that gender disphoric and gender diverse youth can find it. It doesn’t matter that it’s a “children’s book.” That just makes it an easy read, brief but pithy. Also, the brevity and easy language mean that a young person who still has trouble with reading or whose English isn’t great could understand and benefit from it.

Why do I do this when I’m not a professional book reviewer? Because supporting gender and sexual orientation diversity is important: it’s sometimes a matter of life and death.

Craig wrote to me to share “some shocking stories”:

  • “A principal told a boy he could not bring his ‘My Little Pony’ lunchbox to school because it was a ‘trigger’ for teasing and bullying.

  • “The same week, a girl was expelled from a Christian school because of her short hair, perceived masculine look and interest in sports.

  • “A woman in Portland killed her child of four because she thought he ‘acted, walked and spoke like a gay person.'”

Craig continued in his email to me: “I would love to help those raising children—-and that includes parents, teachers, friends and relatives (the wide range of ‘families’ out there)—-who have had to deal with the issues of teasing and bullying and the difficulty we all have in defining who we are.”

From the book’s description:

Raffi is a shy boy who doesn’t like noisy games and is often teased at school. But when he gets the idea of making a scarf for his dad’s birthday, he is full of enthusiasm even though the other children think it is ‘girly’ to knit. Then the day draws near for the school pageant, and there is one big problem: no costume for the prince. And that’s when Raffi has his most brilliant idea of all — to make a prince’s cape. On the day of the pageant, Raffi’s cape is the star of the show.

Raffi cover

Age Range: 5 – 9 years

Grade Level: Kindergarten – 4

Hardcover: 40 pages

Publisher: Frances Lincoln Children’s Books (July 29, 2014)

Illustrated by Margaret Chamberlain

Buy link: http://www.amazon.com/Made-Raffi-Craig-Pomranz/dp/1847804330

If you read the book, let Craig and others know on Twitter @MadeByRaffi

LIKE and comment on the book’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/MadeByRaffi

I am so proud of my dear, longtime friend, Craig Pomranz! Spread the word! Visit his new blog!
http://craigpomranz.com/made-by-raffi/

Bonuses!

Craig sent me some snippets from readers all over the globe who have already shared and appreciated Made by Raffi. Here are a couple of those.

From a man in Istanbul:
Today I enjoyed to preorder your beautiful and meaningful children book for my cousin. Especially here in Turkey we need to learn respect to the one who is different than us. Thanks for your effort to make the world a better place to live.

Another fan wrote and sent Craig a photo:
I just wanted to send you this lovely picture of Isak, 7 years old, who has been inspired by Made by Raffi (Norwegian edition) to knit a scarf for his younger cousin (maybe as a Christmas gift). His mother tells me that they have been reading the book several times now, and that he’s trying to read it by himself, too. Greetings from Norway!

Isak

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