The Danger of a Single Image

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Children’s books featuring non-traditional families, particularly same-sex parents, have slowly entered the mainstream, with titles like King & King (2004), and tango makes three (2005), and Molly’s Family (2004). But books for children of this kind are only available overseas. This all changed some two years ago when a friend told me that a children’s book tackling lesbian parenting was coming out. I was at once thrilled. Ang Ikaklit sa Aming Hardin (2012) is the first children’s book in the Philippines that embraces same-sex parenting. Breaks from the norm of this order in what can sometimes be a fiercely conservative country are few and far between. So I’m stoked to be taking part in the Ikaklit blog tour as a celebration of sorts, culminating no less on International Women’s Day. That said, let me provide you with a preview of what I’ve gotten so excited about.

Ang Ikaklit sa Aming Hardin begins with a little girl relating the everyday goings-on in her family. Her parents take her around town. And, as parents are wont to do, they also encourage her to take to their hobby of gardening. She’s living a happy and healthy life with her two mothers. But the happy bubble of her home life bursts the minute she steps into school as the little girl takes note of a wall mural depicting a mother, father, and their child. She is struck by the image, not because of what’s there, but because of what isn’t: a happy family of two mothers and their child. This encounter between the little girl and the wall mural is the central image of the story. It is pivotal. It both introduces and contains the core of the dilemma upon which the story is hinged.

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The encounter with the mural is powerful because it speaks tons about how social and cultural reality is constructed, including how the perception of this reality by its diverse participants is shaped. I saw in that encounter how dangerous images really are, how damaging, especially for very young children. Like the little girl in the story, the first mental map or schematic of reality that children bring to school is derived from their day to day experiences at home. When the girl finds what she has lived to be real absent from the narrative of what is normal and acceptable in school, it is easy to imagine the many different paths this encounter could lead to, many of them bad: alienation, resentment, inferiority, anger, etc – you get what I mean.

This reminded me of a talk given by Chimamanda Adichie. Young Chimamanda was an avid reader of children’s books. But she was not contented by simply reading stories, so, she began writing her own stories about white boys and girls, too. Of course, there is nothing wrong with writing about the adventures of white boys and girls, except that Chimamanda is a native of Nigeria and is not a white girl. She had learned from the books she had read as a young child that only white girls and boys existed in books and were fit for literary adventures. What this illustrates is how  presenting only singular images is exclusionary and makes outsiders out of those who are not represented by the single image. This is how otherness is created. Drawing from Chimamanda’s statement about the dangers of a single story, it has become even clearer to me why Ang Ikaklit sa Aming Hardin is an important landmark for children’s literature in the Philippines.

Ang Sumulat at Gumuhit

Ang Nagsalin at Nag-Layout

You can check out what other people had to say about Ikaklit:

Vlad Gonzales (Guro, Kritiko, Manunulat)

Rose Torres-Yu (Guro, Kritiko, Manunulat)

Poti Padilla-Quintos (Nanay)

Ging, Rose & Roni (Rainbow Family)

Roni (Batang may dalawang nanay)

Or grab a copy of the book from the following bookstores:

IBON BOOKSHOP
#114 Timog Ave., Quezon City
(632) 927-7060 | 927-7061 | 927-7062
UP PRESS BOOKSTORE
E. de los Santos Street UP Campus, Diliman, Quezon City
(632) 926-6642
POPULAR BOOKSTORE
#305 Tomas Morato Avenue, Quezon City
(632) 372-2162
MT. CLOUD
Casa Vallejo, Upper Session Rd. Baguio City
(074) 424-4437 Mag-PM


You may also send an email to publikasyong.twamkittens@gmail.com for inquiries.

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2 thoughts on “The Danger of a Single Image

  1. Pingback: Ang Ikaklit sa Aming Hardin Blog Tour | Xi Zuq's Nook

  2. Pingback: Book in the Mail Unwrapped: Janus Silang at Ang Tiyanak ng Tábon | Titser, Titser!

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