Children's Authors: Leslea Newman and Candy Gourlay
"All the stories were of these pink-skinned children with fluffy pets", a Filipino children's author who never saw "herself" in kids' books talks to an American author
Leslea Newman has written more than sixty children's books. She says she can't remember a time when she didn't want to be a writer. As a teenager Leslea got her work published in magazines and she also worked as Alan Ginsberg's apprentice. When a friend told her she couldn't find any books for her daughter that portrayed a family like hers, with two lesbian parents, Leslea decided she needed to do something and wrote the children's picture book Heather has two Mommies. When it was published in 1989 it caused outrage "It started getting challenged and banned and I got called all kinds of terrible names". Twenty-five years later the book has been re-released, to a much kinder reception.
Candy Gourlay grew up in the Philippines and fell in love with books as a child, but says "all the stories were of these pink-skinned children with fluffy pets", and she came to the conclusion that Filipinos were not "allowed to be in books". So her first novel was set in London with English characters and an agent said "why does your book look like that?", because it had no connection to Candy's experience. Candy took this advice on board and since then has created imaginary worlds with Filipino characters for her young readers. New technology has a role in Candy's work, she says that children have so many things "clamouring for their attention", so you've got to compete and embrace "their world". She does this with her novel Shine, which combines ghosts and the internet.
Picture: Leslea Newman (Left) Credit: Mary Vazquez; Candy Gourlay (Right) Credit: Cindy Bajema/Sambat Trust