The Jewish High Holiday season begins this week, so let’s take a look at some new stories that feature queer, Jewish families, including a children’s picture book and a grown-up memoir by a woman with four lesbian moms.
Meryl Gordon’s The Flower Girl Wore Celery is one of two children’s books to gain publication through a writing contest hosted by Keshet, the national organization for LGBTQ Jews, in partnership with Kar-Ben Publishing. (The other title, The Purim Superhero, came out in 2013.)
Gordon’s book, with dynamic, whimsical illustrations by Holly Clifton-Brown, tells the story of young Emma, who is asked to be the flower girl at her cousin Hannah’s wedding. Emma is excited, but has some misconceptions. She thinks she will dress as a flower—until her mother tells her she’ll wear a “celery dress” like the bridesmaids. She then imagines a dress covered with stalks of celery. When she hears there will be a “ring bearer,” she envisions a furry “ring bear.” About Alex, to whom her cousin is engaged, she knows nothing.
She is surprised to learn that celery refers to the dress color; that the ring bearer is a human boy; and that Alex is a woman. “No celery. No bear. And two brides! Nothing was what she had imagined,” she thinks—but takes it all in stride. Gordon doesn’t dwell on the fact that the couple is female, even as she acknowledges that it might be unexpected (but no more so than anything else). This makes the book a great choice for any parents wanting to show their children various types of families, as well as for same-sex parents and our kids.
The wedding is definitively Jewish: there is a rabbi (a woman) and Jewish wedding traditions like reading the ketubah (wedding contract) and stepping on wine glasses. Publisher Joanna Sussman told me, “We were seeking great Jewish-themed stories featuring same-sex families that would be of interest not just to the LGBTQ community, but to the community at large.”