When author and activist S. Bear Bergman surveyed the landscape of Canadian children’s picture books dealing with LGBTQ themes, an unforeseen disparity emerged. “Every single one of the books was about bullying,” Bergman says. “All the bullying depicted was pretty mean and vicious – taunting, ostracizing, and so on…. What we have now is not working. This is not how I want to send my kid off to sleep.”
And so, the Flamingo Rampant Book Club! was born. The club, which is an outgrowth of Bergman’s successful Kickstarter campaign to launch the Flamingo Rampant press three years ago, works along the lines of a subscription service: six times a year, people who have signed up will receive a new book focusing on LGBTQ themes and subjects, each title specially commissioned for the club. According to Bergman, books will be physical, though there is some interest in making ebooks available at a future date.
A Kickstarter campaign to fund the Flamingo Rampant Book Club! launched on July 11 and runs until Aug. 12. Bergman is looking to raise $49,o00, which will go toward paying writers, artists, graphic designers, and the person who handles order fulfillment out of the “Flamingo Rampant Nest” in Philadelphia, PA. The group needs 450 subscribers to sign up (or to donate the equivalent of a subscription in dollars), and it is targeting individuals, families, schools, and libraries.
The first club titles will include M Is for Mustache by Catherine Hernandez, artistic director of Toronto’s Sulong Theatre, and an Indigenous story about “a gender-independent young child finding the power in his long hair,” to be written by Mohawk/Cayuga writer and performer Kiley May.
“It was a primary tenet of the project that at least half of the books would feature kids of colour, and at least half the authors would be people of colour [or] racialized people,” says Bergman. “And that’s feature, as in, the book is about them. Not that the brown kid gets one thing to say on page seven but is otherwise absent.”
In addition to creating books for children in the LGBTQ community, Bergman is also taking up the rallying cry of the popular #WeNeedDiverseBooks Twitter hashtag campaign. “The picture-book industry as it stands right now is producing seven per cent of books that centre on kids of colour (and I’m pretty sure half of them are about the American Civil Rights movement). That’s a shameful percentage, and Flamingo Rampant Book Club! is going to do better than that.”
Although Bergman admits to a bit of nail-biting about the feasibility of reaching the $49,000 crowdfunding goal (Kickstarter projects are all-or-nothing: if the full amount is not raised by the close date, none of the money pledged gets paid out), there is a general optimism about the chances of getting the endeavour off the ground. “This project constitutes an expansion of the original [Flamingo Rampant press] mission to include not just gender-independent kids and families but all kids and families in the LGBTQ2S communities – and everyone who loves and supports us.”