Books

Sylvia and Marsha Start A Revolution (Joy Michael Ellison) – Book Review

In today’s world, LGBTQ+ rights and representations are still being fought for, and remain a ‘hot button topic’ for a lot of people. There are hate groups that will bombard television networks or movie studios for any queer inclusion in their entertainment, and here in the UK there’s an incredibly vocal movement of transphobes who are actively fighting to have trans rights removed.

In this kind of environment it’s incredibly important that children are introduced to the queer community from a young age, to show them that we exist, and that we’re also just regular people. Not only will this help to destigmatise the existence of the LGBTQ+ community, but will also help any child who is questioning their own gender or sexuality.

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Sylvia and Marsha Start A Revolution is a book designed for younger children, and aims to introduce them to the transgender community, as well as two of the women who helped to birth the entire queer movement: Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson. The book isn’t very text heavy, but it manages to get the information across really well, and is accompanied by beautiful and bold illustrations by Teshika Silver. It shows the basics of who the women are, and what it meant to be trans at that time, and how the police were against anyone who was a part of the LGBTQ+ community. However, I do get the sense that whoever is reading the book to the child would need to know a little about the events too, as I imagine there will be a few questions asked as the story unfolds.

Whilst the book gives a very sanitised version of events, and hardly even brings up the riots, it could be used as a starting block. This is a way of introducing a child to this history and these events, but you’ll definitely want to explain more to them, as it does paint a somewhat unrealistic version of history. But then I don’t think a book aimed at such young children could really do the history of Sylvia, Marsha, and the Stonewall Riots justice as it’s too deep, and frankly upsetting, a thing to convey to a child. But as an introduction to the concept of trans people, of the queer community having to fight to be seen as human beings, it’s really good.

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The back of the book also contains a glossary of terms that are used, explaining what it means to be trans, or some of the slang that was used as code words for police. This is useful both for children, and for parents who might not know everything on the subject.

     
     
     
     

I’m sure that there will be some angry transphobes who will be foaming at the mouth at the mere existence of a book for children that acknowledges that trans people exist, but those are outliers. This book is sure to be a welcome and useful addition to any home library or school, where it can educate, and tell children about a moment in history that went on to change the world.

Sylvia and Marsha Start A Revolution is out now from Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

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