Argues that queer picture books with main characters of color can disrupt structures of power in both literature and real life
Coloring into Existence investigates the role of authors, illustrators, and independent publishers in producing alternative narratives that disrupt colonial, heteropatriarchal notions of childhood. These texts or characters unsettle the category of the child, and thus pave the way for broader understandings of childhood. Often unapologetically politically motivated, queer and trans of color picture books can serve as the basis for fantasizing about disruptions to structures of power, both within and outside literary worlds.
Fusing literary criticism and close readings with historical analysis and interviews, Isabel Millán documents the emergence of a North American queer of color children’s literary archive. In doing so, she considers the sociopolitical circumstances out of which queer of color children’s literature emerged; how a queer and trans of color aesthetic translates to picture books; and how the acts of imagination and worldmaking inspired by picture books produce a realm of freedom, healing, and transformation for queer and trans of color children and adults. Coloring into Existence explores the curious ways that queer and trans of color publications “color outside the lines”—refusing to conform to industry standards, intermixing fiction with nonfiction, and mobilizing alternative modes of production and distribution to create new worlds.
Isabel Millán is Assistant Professor in the Department of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at the University of Oregon. She is author and illustrator of the queer bilingual children’s picture book Chabelita’s Heart/El corazón de Chabelita.
In this magisterial study, Isabel Millán sweeps across all of North America—Mexico, the U.S., and Canada—to recover a genealogy of queer and trans of color picture books. With incisive questions and insightful close readings, Millán shows how picture books are sites through which queer and trans of color communities have “colored,” or reimagined, themselves to create new worlds. Comprehensive, lively, and inspiring, Coloring into Existence is a landmark in the field of children’s literature.
~Robin Bernstein, author of Racial Innocence: Performing American Childhood from Slavery to Civil Rights
Offers a significant and distinctive contribution to the field, building upon recent scholarship on queerness in/and children’s literature and childhood. Coloring into Existence is cutting edge and making original theoretical and scholarly interventions, speaking in important ways to growing efforts to diversify children’s literature.
~Julia L Mickenberg, author of Tales for Little Rebels: A Collection of Radical Children's Literature