Miriam B. Schiffer
Miriam B. Schiffer is a co-author of the children’s book review column “The Reading Chair” in Young Children, a journal of the National Association for the Education of Young Children. Stella Brings the Family is her first book.
Stella Brings the Family tells the story of Stella, whose class is having a Mother’s Day celebration – but what’s a girl with two daddies to do? It’s not that she doesn’t have someone who helps her with her homework, or tucks her in at night. Stella has her Papa and Daddy who take care of her, and a whole gaggle of other loved ones who make her feel special and supported every day. She just doesn’t have a mom to invite to the party. Fortunately, Stella finds a unique solution to her party problem in this story about love, acceptance, and the true meaning of family.
What motivated you to write a book(s) that is specifically inclusive of LGBTQ families/issues?
I had planned to write children’s books that included a diversity of families, such as LGBTQ families, although I didn’t imagine I’d write one specifically about LGBTQ inclusiveness. One day, a colleague, who often came to me for picture book suggestions for her daughter, was lamenting the lack of books that reflected their two-mom family. I loved giving her book suggestions, but here I could only help so much. She was right. There aren’t enough.
I imagined her little girl surveying her bookshelf and not finding her family represented there, and I was struck anew by the unfairness of it. I created the character of Stella, a child with two dads who also finds that certain social constructs (Mother’s Day, in Stella’s case) exclude families like hers. But how to solve such a problem? I thought back to my colleague’s daughter, how her family gave her everything she needed and more. That theme – the sufficiency and wholeness of my colleague’s family and of Stella’s family – led Stella to a solution.
For a child, family is the person or people who love you and who take care of you, physically and emotionally. Whether that’s two dads, an aunt, a grandma, a mom, or someone else, a child deserves to know that her family is just as valid as anyone else’s.
What does “equality” look like to you?
Equality means the same legal protections, the same social supports, and a society that gives all people the same benefit of the doubt. I hope that books like Stella Brings the Family spread awareness of LGBTQ families, so that our next generation of citizens and lawmakers can’t imagine not treating families like Stella’s with the same understanding and inclusion.
Whose books do you admire and why?
Vera B. Williams has been on my mind. She passed away recently, in October 2015, leaving us with an incredible legacy of children’s books. When she published A Chair for My Mother in 1982, books were far less inclusive than they are today. But there was Williams with a story about a girl named Rosa, being raised by a working-class single mother, sharing their home with her grandmother, saving money to recover from a house fire. Williams’ stories emphasized family and expanded the kinds of families children have come to see in their books.
What’s coming up next for you?
After writing about Stella’s wonderfully engaged and capable family, I’m going in the opposite direction for my next project. I’m working on a satirical children’s book about a family that is over-the-top incompetent, but in a zany and fun-loving way.