Children's Book Challenges Homophobic Russian Law

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Monday August 23, 2021

Author Lawrence Schimel poses wiht Russian translations of his children's books
Author Lawrence Schimel poses wiht Russian translations of his children's books  (Source:Lawrence Schimel/Instagram)

A children's book that stood up to Hungary's anti-LGTBQ+ laws is now challenging Russia's longstanding "no homo promo" law as well.

The book features two "families with same-sex parents," UK newspaper the Daily Mail reports, and "has been published with an 18+ content warning in Russia as part of a campaign to challenge the country's LGBT+ propaganda law."

Last month, the book — which comprises two stories that originally published separately, and are now under a single title — was published in Hungary, with a fine of 250,000 forints (about $835) subsequently being levied on a bookshop chain, Líra Könyv, "for failing to clearly indicate the book contained 'content which deviates from the norm,' " UK newspaper The Guardian reported.

"American author Lawrence Schimel and illustrator Elina Braslina's picture book tells about a morning and an evening in the lives of two children with same-sex parents," the Guardian detailed, going on to note that the edition includes two stories originally published as separate books: "Early One Morning," about a small boy and his two mothers, and "Bedtime, Not Playtime!" which concerns two fathers and their daughter.

"The Russian translation, by Dmitriy Kuzmin, combines both books under the title 'Mothers, Fathers and Kids from Dusk till Dawn,' " the Guardian noted.

LGBTQ+ equality organization Sphere published the book because no publishing companies would do so, thanks to a Russian law from 2013 that labels discussion, acknowledgement, or expression of support for the LGBTQ+ community as "propaganda," and criminalizes such content in any context where children might be exposed to it. Sphere's publication of the book is part of an effort to abolish the anti-gay Russian law.

Moreover, Sphere stated, the book "is not only about LGBTQ+ families, but for them. In that sense, this book stands on its own as the very first of its kind in Russia."

The children's book had to include a warning label saying that it was for people 18 years of age and older, Sphere noted.

"This is the ridiculousness of the propaganda law, which only raises discrimination against LGBT+ and limits access to information," the group added.

The author and illustrator contributed the book as a donation to Sphere and the cause of abolishing the Russian anti-LGTBQ+ law, the article noted. Schimel added that efforts to overturn the law are "so important. Not just for kids who might be in same-sex families or discovering their own LGBT identity, but for all kids to see these families that exist in the world — even in Russia — and to prevent a generation from growing up brainwashed by this political homophobia."

A spokesperson with Sphere told the Guardian that the group was braced for some sort of government action against the book's publication.

"We are not thinking of commercial distribution," the spokesperson said, according to the Guardian. "For us this is a way of giving representation to LGBTQ+ families and, in some way, of adding a whole new dimension and momentum in fighting the discriminatory legislature."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.