Robin Stevenson talks Pride and celebrating diversity

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There is a whole lot more to Pride than rainbow flags and amazing outfits. For LGBTQ people and their supporters, Pride events are an opportunity to honor the past, protest injustice, and celebrate a diverse and vibrant community.

Robin Stevenson is an award-winning author with many books for kids and teens, and her first non-fiction title is Pride: Celebrating Diversity and Community (Orca Book Publishers, 2016), a timely and thoughtful look at Pride Day. Pride was named the Stonewall Honor Book in Children’s and Young Adult Literature in 2017, received the 2017 USBBY Outstanding International Book prize for grades 6–8, and has received a number of other accolades and glowing reviews.

In honour of Pride Month in June, we’re thrilled to share this interview with Robin about Pride, her writing, and the impetus behind the book.

Tell us about your book.

Pride by Robin StevensonI am so excited for my newest book, Pride: Celebrating Diversity and Community. It will be my twentieth book—but it is my first work of non-fiction, so it is very different from anything I have written before. The book is aimed at kids ages 10-14, and covers the history of Pride, explains some of the diverse identities that make up the LGBTQ community, and looks at some of the ways Pride Day is celebrated in both North America and around the world. It also explores some of the challenges that the LGBTQ community continues to face. It is full of wonderful photos of people celebrating Pride—from kids on Salt Spring Island to Uganda’s very first Pride parade.

What was it like to see your story come alive visually through pictures?

Hunting for photos and seeing the design process unfold was really interesting. My other books are novels, so once they are written and edited, that’s pretty much the end of the process for me. With Pride, it was just the beginning. I searched for photos to illustrate the chapters I had written—archival photos of early LGBTQ demonstrations and the first Pride parades, photos of kids and families at Pride events today, and photos of Pride parades from all over the world. People were very generous and shared so many gorgeous photos of their families, and I wish we could have included all of them.

Once the text and photos were laid out, we could see where there there was room for additional sidebars, so I was able to add a few more facts and quotes. When I first saw the pages with all the color and design elements and images in place, I couldn’t believe how fabulous it looked. Rachel Page, the designer, really put her heart and soul into this project and it shows: it’s a rainbow of a book and I couldn’t be happier with how it looks.

Does your book have a niche market it may appeal too?

When I began writing Pride, I was thinking of LGBTQ kids, and of kids like my son—kids with queer parents—because I think these kids so rarely see themselves represented in the pages of the books they read. There are some lovely picture books with LGBTQ characters, and a rapidly increasing number of teen novels, but there is still very little for middle grade readers—and as far as I know, nothing at all about Pride. So I wanted to write something to help fill that gap.

But as I wrote, I realized that Pride needed to have a much broader audience. The history of Pride is the history of a social justice movement—a fight for diversity and freedom and equality—and it’s something all kids should learn about. For readers who aren’t connected to the LGBTQ community—who may not know what all those rainbows stand for—Pride offers an introduction to who we are, what we are celebrating, and why we are still fighting for change.

Do you gravitate toward a certain genre or type of writing?

I mostly write realistic, contemporary fiction. I am interested in people—what they experience, how they see the world, and how they relate to each other. I worked as a counsellor for over ten years and I think that is a significant influence on my writing—all those years of listening to people’s stories! But I love reading science fiction and fantasy, so maybe eventually I will take a shot at writing something in those genres.

What types of conversations do you hope will come out of your book?

Writing Pride made me realize both how far we have come and how far we still have to go. Despite huge progress towards LGBTQ rights in much of the world, young LGBTQ people continue to face rejection, bullying and violence, and are at increased risk for depression, suicide and even homelessness. The best way to counter ignorance and prejudice is with education, and I wanted to contribute something to that effort.

The LGBTQ community is a beautiful and brave and diverse community, and I hope that readers enjoy meeting some of the many wonderful children, teens, families and activists in the pages of this book. Like the civil rights movement or the women’s suffrage movement, the fight for LGBTQ rights is an important part of our shared history.

I hope that this book will help many readers understand more about the decades of struggle that lie behind the rainbow flags they see in Pride parades. Pride is about freedom, equality and acceptance of diversity—and those are ideals that we can all support and celebrate.

Tell us a little known or interesting fact about yourself!

As well as being an avid reader, I enjoy gaming—and attended Minecon in 2013 in Orlando!

Robin Stevenson is the award-winning author of many novels for kids and teens. Pride: Celebrating Diversity & Community is her first nonfiction book. Robin has been part of the LGBTQ community since she was a young adult and has been taking part in Pride celebrations for thirty years. She lives on the west coast of Canada with her partner, Cheryl, and their twelve-year-old son. For more information, visit www.robinstevenson.com or follow her on Facebook, Twitter or Goodreads.

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