#HFGather: Pride & Joy, an Antidote for Erasure

Jun 21, 2023 | HFGather, LGBTQIA+ Voices, Podcasts

If you missed the live session, you can watch it here.
Please note: closed captions are available in the video below. You can see them by hovering over the bottom of the video and choosing the “CC” icon.


Authors NoNieqa Ramos, Vicki Johnson, Alexandra Villasante, and author/illustrator Emily Rosenthal gathered together to talk about illuminating and joyous books that they’ve loved, and projects that have brought pride and joy to their lives, even in unexpected places. Em Dickson joined in conversation from the perspective of reader, writer, librarian, and founder of Pronouns May Vary.

The Panel Discussion

Alex introduced Vicki Johnson and her upcoming debut picture book, MOLLY’S TUXEDO (illustrated by Gillian Reid).

Alex then introduced NoNieqa Ramos, Em Dickson, and Emily Rosenthal.

The panel kicked off with a discussion about why the gathering was titled Pride and Joy; and how queer creatives are finding joy—even in today’s climate of book bans, anti-trans legislation, and other current events.

Finding Joy

NoNi offered thoughts that while sometimes finding joy can be work, other writers and illustrators in this community have served as a highlight and an anchor of joy for them.

Vicki jumped in and added that while writing, she feels a sense of responsibility to young readers, and is happy to have community to share that with; we’re all going through this together.

Em added that showing joy in and of itself can be an act of defiance in the face of grief and trauma. This quote resonated:

“Sometimes it doesn’t feel like existing is enough; but existing…existing is enough.”

NoNi added:

This idea that we get to do this for kids—the fact that we are grown, and that we are healthy, and that we are showing joy—is showing them the possibility that whatever they might be going through right now; we’re standing here as artists, as illustrators, as librarians, as teachers, and we’re making stuff! We’re making art! And they look at that, and they can say: ‘That’s a possibility.’


And for some kids, it’s wonderful they can see that in their own homes. You’ll meet kids who have wonderful households where you know they’re accepted exactly as they are. I’m talking specifically right now about queer kids. But you’ll also see other kids who are not, and who don’t have that. And when you put that story—that flag—in your in your book, they see it. And that’s like that sort of: ‘Hey you matter, and you count, and keep going.’

Turning Joy Into Action

Alex explained that when she contemplates how to turn her feelings of joy and resistance into action, she remembers that authors and illustrators have the ability to create new worlds, characters, and situations where there is support and joy—and that’s really a super power, and a concrete way that creatives can act.

Emily agreed, and also said that writing and creating can be a powerful way to process what’s happening in the world, which is also a gift.

Vicki added:

When you publish a book, you’re given a little bit of a platform really…I’ve had an opportunity to do some interviews or different things like podcasts, and I think that’s a really powerful position to be in, right in this moment; to talk about the issues in addition to the craft. I mean I know sometimes we’re leaned on heavily to talk about these bans because of being a queer trans author, but I do I feel like it’s a responsibility. I also come from a background of activism and things like that, too, so that might be part of it.

Alex, NoNi, Emily, and Vicki also talked about how the plot of MOLLY’S TUXEDO, and what it offers to kids and caregivers in terms of shared insight into each other. Em also jumped in and talked with Alex and NoNi about how books like MOLLY’S TUXEDO and others can give children language and expression to understand their own experiences.

Alex shared her favorite craft book by Charlie Jane Anders, called NEVER SAY YOU CAN’T SURVIVE.

Vicki talked about how creatives can also channel feelings of anger and frustration into inspiration, and shared the story of how the idea for MOLLY’S TUXEDO was born (out of a reaction to two current events). NoNi agreed, and shared how their work can be an outlet for despair.

The group also talked about how recommending, sharing, and amplifying books can be a way to find joy. Em shared how there are still gaps in queer representation and intersectionality in books, and how it’s important for us to make space for them.

Vicki also commented on how she finds joy in nonfiction books that center the history of the queer community, and how it’s been great to see progress in this area for young people (even if we do have a long way to go).

Alex shared TRANSMOGRIFY, an YA anthology edited by G. Haron Davis that is all magical stories by and about gender-diverse creatives.

The group also talked about that important role that educators and librarians play in making these books available for kids, and how the unifying themes of kindness, respect, and understanding shine in these books.

Everyone also shared how kids just seem to “get” kindness, acceptance, and joy intrinsically, and what a source of joy that is as well.

More Book Recommendations

Alex recommended THE EDGE OF BEING, and ZIGGY, STARDUST & ME, both by James Brandon, GENDER QUEER by Maia Kobabe, YOU BROUGHT ME THE OCEAN by Alex Sanchez/illustrated by Julie March, and KISS NUMBER 8 by Colleen A. F. Venable/illustrated by Ellen T. Crenshaw.

NoNi shared THE DARKNESS OUTSIDE US by Eliot Schrefer, and Alex shared nonfiction by the same author, QUEER DUCKS (AND OTHER ANIMALS).

Alex also shared NIMONA by ND Stevenson, which is coming out on Netflix soon.

Vicki shared A CHILD’S INTRODUCTION TO PRIDE: THE INSPIRATIONAL HISTORY AND CULTURE OF THE LGBTQIA+ COMMUNITY, by Sarah Prager/ illustrated by Caitlin O’Dwyer.  She later shared GRANDAD’S PRIDE and GRANDAD’S CAMPER, by Harry Woodgate.

NoNi also recommended watching The Owl House, available on Disney+.

Em said if you like The Owl House, you might like THE GOLDEN FROG GAMES by Claribel A. Ortega (second in the series WITCHLINGS).

In the chat, Em also mentioned upcoming titles including STARS IN THEIR EYES by Jessica Walton (they/them) and As’ka (Ashka) [AN MG graphic novel first published in Australia in 2021 and publishing in the States in August], NIGHT OF THE LIVING QUEERS, edited by Shelly Page and Alex Brown [A YA horror anthology in August], BEING ACE edited by Madeline Dyer [a YA anthology October], AND DON’T WANT TO BE YOUR MONSTER by Deke Moulton [August].


Then then panel took questions from the audience, including ways to brace for the future of LGBTQIA+ writing, creating, and publishing, and how we can crate more opportunities like this. The panel also shared additional resources available for the community.

Listen to a podcast version of the #HFGather:

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