Brooklyn based author and illustrator Jessica Love are receiving many accolades for her first book, Julian Is A Mermaid, about a child’s experience with gender fluidity.
The children’s book has won the 2019 Stonewall Book Award and is also nominated for the prestigious Waterstones Children’s Book Prize.
The story in Julian Is A Mermaid follows a young child who sees women dressed up as a mermaid on the Subway.
Inspired by this, they recreate the looks they have seen at home. When their Nana sees them dressing up, she gives Julian a pearl necklace and takes them to see the famous Coney Island Mermaid Parade.
Following the realisation that there were very few books about genderqueer and transgender kids on the market, Love spent five years writing and illustrating the book.
She was also inspired by her transgender friend, who wasn’t openly trans until later in life.
“I have a friend who is trans, but he didn’t transition until much much later in life,” Love told PinkNews. “He was in his 50s when he finally was able to live like a man, and that was the result of some pushback when he was younger.”
“Talking to him and thinking about his journey got me curious about what kind of literature there is out there for kids who might be asking themselves these questions, and I started reading blogs of families who had children who were questioning their gender.”
Love also said that during the time she wrote the book, she was watching RuPaul’s Drag Race which led her to think “a lot about costumes and what a profound thing playing dress-up actually is, and how to tell a story in which that particular magic is quietly celebrated.”
RuPaul tweeted an endorsement of the book last summer.
LOVELY Children’s Picture Book "Julián Is a Mermaid" by Jessica Love @Jessica67755257 https://t.co/WR1M9MLiWz pic.twitter.com/vCaWuCzp4o
— RuPaul (@RuPaul) June 8, 2018
Jessica initially intended for Julian to discover drag queens on their way to a ball but decided to use mermaid symbolism after learning about their significance to the transgender community.
“I was reading all these parenting blogs, and this theme of mermaids is a thread that runs through so many of these different kids’ experiences,” Love recalls. ‘There’s something about mermaids. Who knows if that’s because they’re magical creatures who can live between two realities or because they don’t have any genitals, or because they’re fucking great.”
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