*Disclaimer: This book was received for free by the author in participation for the All is Assuredly Well Blog Tour.
For a chance to win a free paperback copy of this book, please read at the bottom for details.
As a mother and a gay rights activist, I really enjoyed All is Assuredly Well by Professor Gore and Maestro Wilson.
All is Assuredly Well is a children’s book about a gay couple, whom one of them is a king, wanted a child, specifically a princess. King Phillip would wish upon a blue star for a princess. Each and every night and morning, there was still no baby. When King Phillip asked the Blue Star why no princess, the Blue Star would guide him on a journey of trials and tribulations.
I loved how there was a yearning for a child (such as myself and my family), a gay couple (whom I have seen real life couples grow from this journey and are wonderfully happy), and the challenges to adopt. The challenges of getting a baby.
I had the pleasure of doing an interview with the author(s). Keep reading . . .
The book All is Assuredly Well is an unconventional book. With today’s society, was it a tough decision to write a beautiful book such as this one?
Why for the decision to write it in a children’s book and not in a novel?
Why choose a gay couple? What was the inspiration?
I spent two hours on the witness stand in Federal Court on my 47th birthday as an expert witness and a plaintiff testifying against the City of Wichita Falls when they passed a law to ban books from the children’s section of the public library. The two books that were the impetus for the lawsuit were Heather Has Two Mommies (1989) and Daddy’s Roomate (1991). They were about children who have same-sex parents.
I was an expert witness because I am a multicultural education professor (now emeritus) with expertise in how literature affects children from diverse groups. I was one of nineteen plaintiffs out of conscience.
The ACLU provided our legal counsel, and of course, we won the case. America won the case. The First Amendment prevailed. In America, you have the right to determine what you read, but you have no right to determine what I read or what my child reads.
Before the lawsuit, I had carefully followed the lack of development of the nearly nonexistent canon of picture books for young children depicting people of color. I would send my multicultural classes to our university’s children’s library and have each student select ten picture books at random from the shelves. Then each student would peruse the books and write down whether the book was about a child who was white, African American, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, or other ethnicity; or had a disability
They returned to class stunned that 99% of the books the combined class found were about white, non disabled children (or anthropomorphized animals).
But a tiny number of picture books featuring persons of color were emerging, books about famous African Americans: Rosa Parks, George Washington Carver, Jackie Robinson. This was a beginning, but books about adults do not offer children the same things that books about children offer children.
A children’s book offers a child either a mirror or a window. A mirror reflects a child’s own lived experience; a window shows her the lived experiences of other groups. White children had many books that were mirrors of their lives. They had few windows into the lives of children of color. That was bad enough.
But while children of color had many books that were windows into the lives of white children, they had essentially no books that were mirrors of their own lives. Ditto children with disabilities.
Likewise, children of same-sex parents had NO books about families who looked like theirs EXCEPT FOR Heather Has Two Mommies and Daddy’s Roommate. No books. Zip. Zilch. None. I began to follow the lack of development of this cannon with the same passion that I had followed the others for years.
Over the decades the canon of picture books for children of color began to grow slowly. Not so much the canon of children with disabilities.
And the canon of picture books depicting same sex families wasn’t growing at all. Not until 2005, some fifteen years after the publication of Heather and Roommate, did the next well-known book enter the canon: And Tango Makes Three. A nonfiction picture book, Tango tells the true story of a zoo keeper who noticed that two gay male penguins were trying to nest. He gave them an egg, and they hatched and raised their baby. In 2017, Tango was still on the list of the ten most-frequently banned books in America.
So that brings me to your questions. I felt civically and spiritually called for decades to write a picture book for the young children of same-sex parents. I wanted to create mirrors for these children so they could see families that looked like theirs.
The fact that this book would create a window for the children of families whose parents were heterosexual to see into the lives of children whose parents were gay or lesbian was a nice side benefit.
So six years ago, I turned sixty and decided I had to write the book. I wanted a co-author to share the journey with me, so I asked the man who had first recognized and encouraged my wordsmithing talent to co-author: my music teacher and junior high band director, Maestro Wilson.
We worked over the phone (350 miles apart) an hour every night, seven days a week, for five months to perfect our 1000-word story. Then I sent it off to seven agents seeking “children’s picture books about diverse families.” I never received a single response. Apparently diverse families meant ethically diverse.
I learned that The Big Five shied away from picture books about LGBTQI families because their library market was so limited for such books. Librarians didn’t want to go through what our Wichita Falls librarian had endured. I learned that micro-houses would have to be the ones who published such books, micro-houses who published out of conscience, not out of financial incentive. Those micro-houses weren’t listed in Writer’s Market.
I put the manuscript away until after I retired and moved to a senior citizen’s community where I joined a writer’s club. When I read it to the members, they received it enthusiastically and insisted that I self-publish. That began my journey that culminated in the release of our book on July 1, 2019, in celebration of the beginning of the 50th year of the Stonewall Revolution.
I noticed there was a lot of blue in the book: the blue star, the king’s robes, the color of the princess’ hair. What is the symbol of it?
In color symbolism, blue is the color of deity. Blue Star is the manifestation of deity in our fantasy world. Blue also symbolizes wisdom, faith, and fidelity.
The night sky under the blue star is blue with purple. Our illustrator, Angie F. M. Trotter, said, “I paired purple with the blue in the night sky because I didn’t want a solid color sky, and purple is in the blue family.”
The king’s robes are purple for the traditional color of royalty in the western canon.
Because Milliflora is the daughter of Blue Star (created from flower brought to her by the birds who were King Phillip’s intercessors to the star [part of the back story not stated in this book, but in a later one]), my co-author, Maestro Wilson, and I knew that we wanted her hair to reflect something of her mother. In later books, we wanted her hair to turn color when she experienced strong emotion.
Artist Angie said that we needed to put blue and purple in her black hair to reflect her mother from the first picture, so that’s what she did.
The blue in King Phillip and Don Carlos’s bed linens and nightclothes represent their fidelity to each other.
You may have missed the vine throughout the book, and since we’re talking color, I must address the vine. First, the vine symbolizes the Deity in the Christian tradition; the berries symbolize the people connected to the vine. Maestro Wilson is Roman Catholic, and Artist Angie and I are Episcopalians. We are strongly influenced by our faith, and both our religions put great stock in symbolism. Therefore, when Angie wanted to incorporate the vine and its fruit throughout the book, Maestro Wilson and I were on board.
Attending to the vine, you will note that Don Carlos is wearing clothing with vines in every picture. Starting with the first time we see him (not on the cover, but in the book), and the blues (and shades thereof) in the vine of his vest and tie are pale, bordering on translucent. Only when he takes Milliflora into his arms for the first time do the shades of blue become saturated.
This is to symbolize his transformation from husband to father, his immediate faithfulness to the new child that his husband has given him.
This is important because King Phillip had baby fever; Don Carlos did not. He was bewildered by the change in his husband of many decades, and while he wanted to support his husband, he didn’t quite understand Phillip’s desperate need for a child. Note that when King Phillip finds him by the closet under the stairs and asks if he’s seen the baby, Don Carlos sighs and responds resignedly that he has not. He wonders if King Phillip has lost his mind.
Also note that in the illustration where the king is once again at the window praying for a baby, Don Carlos has dressed in his most alluring manner: he’s wearing the equivalent of skinny jeans to show off his muscular legs, and he’s covered all the age lines in his face with cosmetics. But alas, the king has baby fever and is not interested in romance.
On the cover, you will note that Don Carlos’s new night clothes are entirely covered in the vine, both the vine and his accessories reflecting the purple blanket that the baby is covered with to show his profound connection with her. His shades of blue reflect fidelity, and the purple that both he and Milliflora wear reflect their royalty.
We are so grateful that you asked us about the color and the symbolism. Thank you! Our book is filled with symbolism, from the hidden symbols Angie hid in the borders and stonework to the symbolism of every single flower and bird she drew.
The difficulty of the process that the king(s) had to endure to welcome the princess was hard. For someone such as myself who has made the decision to adopt was a no brainer. It gives the reality that adopting a child has a lot of challenges, did you or someone you know go though the same ordeals?
My brother was adopted, but that was before I was born, and since my father was the lawyer who handled the adoption, and it was nearly seventy years ago, I don’t think he had any challenges.
I have no children, and because I was a teacher or professor for 36 years; a housemother for sixteen teenage boys for 18 months at West Texas Boys Ranch; a “foster” mother for a year; and raised two young nephews for a summer when their parents were struggling to save their marriage, I helped hundred of people raise their children. It so happened that I was sterile, but I didn’t feel the need to bear or adopt children because my life was filled with children and young people for whom I cared. My need to mother young people was well satisfied.
However, after my involvement in the court case, I began watching news segments where same-sex couples were trying to adopt. I saw the struggles they faced because it wasn’t yet legal, and I also watched news segments on the difficulties of surrogacy and invitro fertilization.
Therefore, in our book of the Hero’s Journey of King Phillip to “earn” the right to a child, we used the trials and gatekeepers a metaphors for the difficulties people face in trying to have a family through adoption, surrogacy, or invitro fertilization.
I can close my eyes and see a little adopted Asian girl curled up in her gay daddy’s lap as he shares the book with her and says, “I had to wrestle a bear to get you!”
I can see a tiny surrogacy-conceived African American boy curled up in his heterosexual mommy’s lap as she shares the book with him and says, “I had to climb mountains, and crawl through tunnels, and cross creeks, and wrestle a bear to get you for my baby!”
I can see a lesbian bi-racial couple snuggled up with their invitro-born twins and say, “We nearly got bit by a fish, and we fell down, and got up, and kept going until finally we wrestled a bear to make you ours!”
So while I did not have children of my own, and Maestro Wilson had seven biological children in fourteen years, the news media ensured that we understood the struggles that families, especially same-sex families, endured to take their own Hero’s Journey into parenthood.
We salute the parents who have embarked upon that Hero’s Journey. And our most devout wish is that our book enriches the lives of the families, those of same-sex parents, those of heterosexual parents, and those of single parents, who share this book with their children to show their children how very much they were wanted, and how very much they are loved.
Bios of Professor Gore, Maestro Wilson, and Angela F. M. Trotter:
Professor M. C. Gore holds the doctorate in education from the University of Arkansas. She taught first grade through graduate school for 36 years in New Mexico, Missouri, and Texas. She was a professional horse wrangler and wilderness guide and continues to play clarinet in two community bands. She is Professor Emeritus from Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, Texas where she held two distinguished professorships. Her books for teachers and parents are shelved in over a thousand libraries throughout the world. She is retired and lives in Hot Springs, Arkansas.
Maestro Phillip Wilson was a public-school band director, music teacher, composer, and arranger for 28 years. His primary instrument is the trumpet, and he is also a campanero (bell ringer). Although he is over 80, he continues to serve as Music Director and Cantor at his church. He is a life-long resident of New Mexico and was born in Santa Fe. Although his genotype is Dutch and Scotch-Irish, his soul is Hispanic. He was Professor Gore’s music teacher and band director, and although the loving biological father of seven musical children, he is a soul-father of the hundreds of students he has taught.
Artist Angie F. M. Trotter holds a BA in Religion and Fine Art. Her pen and ink illustrations are a fusion of icons, illuminated manuscripts, stained glass window design, and her spiritual life. She is also a chronic migraine suffer and her art helps calm her symptoms. Her mother was a folk artist; her father was an architect and fine artist, so she has been surrounded by art her whole life. Her work has been compared to the masters of the Golden Age of British book illustration. She lives in Arkansas.
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*GIVEAWAY* – I just love these. For the chance to win a paperback copy of this beautifully written, and designed book All is Assuredly Well . . . What is your favorite childhood book and why? Mine would have to be Where the Wild Things Are. Not a fan of the movie as I am of the book. It was the adventure, and the pictures, and of course the Wild Things . . . And GO!!!