The Purim Superhero is, as far as I can determine, the first LGBT-themed Jewish children’s picture book. I wrote about it for Tablet magazine. And believe me, this is a definite DON’T READ THE COMMENTS situation. (Ha, like I listen to myself.)
I’ve been trying to think of other children’s books with gay and Jewish characters. The Popularity Papers: Research for the Social Improvement and General Betterment of Lydia Goldblatt and Julie Graham-Chang by Amy Ignatow is the first book in a charming series about two pals trying to gain middle-school social success. One of the girls has two dads (so of course, the series is targeted by would-be book banners), but it is not the Jewish character, Lydia Goldblatt, so I’m not sure this counts. Laurel Snyder’s Penny Dreadful has a character with two moms, and some Jewish names, but no real Jewish content. Then there’s Chag Sameach, by Patricia Schaffer, a book from the ’80s about Jewish holidays — it’s out-of-print and way dated, but it does include a two-mom family (in the 80s!) and adoptive and non-white Jewish families, so rock on with your bad self, Patricia Schaffer. I really liked The Berlin Boxing Club by Robert Sharenow, for older middle-grade and young adult readers, about a secular Jewish kid in Nazi-era Berlin who befriends boxing legend Max Schmeling. I put this one on my best Jewish Children’s Book roundup of 2011. It’s a great “boy book” — a good buy for guys who may not be big reading fans — because it is full of sports and hitting and bullying and macho-ness. But it is also sweet! And despite its butchness, it isn’t at all homophobic; there’s a brave, heroic trans character called The Countess.
In the young adult category, I admired Gravity, by Leanne Lieberman; it’s a YA novel about an Orthodox girl who realizes she’s gay. (And wow, that is NOT the cover it had when I read it. What is up with the miniskirt? Insane.) David Levithan’s Wide Awake has a gay Jewish teenage boy, a love story, AND a gay Jewish president. (It’s set in the future. But hey, a decade ago it was hard to imagine we’d have a Black president so soon either.)
Help me out, people: Other LGBT Jewish kids’ and YA books? Surely there are more than this!