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A Jewish Feminist Contribution to Multiculturalism

Leslea Newman, whose story “A Letter to Harvey Milk” appeared in LILITH’s Fall 1988 issue, has recently received considerable attention for her children’s stories, noteworthy- independently-for their lesbian and Jewish contents.

Newman is the author of Heather Has Two Mommies (Alyson Publications,1989) a children’s story about a lesbian family which appeared on the original list of resources in the controversial Rainbow Curriculum of New York City’s public schools in Fall 1992. The curriculum was both attacked and promoted for including books such as Heather Has Two Mommies, which depict “alternative”—specifically, gay and lesbian—family structures.

Newman’s story “Remember That” was selected as a winner of the Highlights for Children annual fiction contest for stories focusing on ethnic cultures within the United States. It is significant that Highlights, a mainstream chi dren’s magazine with a circulation of almost 3 million, strewn across thousands of pediatricians offices, will feature a story both with Jewish content and authored by an “out” lesbian writer. The story depicts the affectionate relationship between a young Jewish girl and her grandmother, “Bubbe,” and the passing of ethical and spiritual values from the older woman to the child.

In addition, Newman’s children’s book Belinda’s Bouquet {Alyson Publications, 1991), focuses on a young girl’s learning to accept her body size in the face of pressures to diet. Newman’s other works include short stories, poetry, a novel, and nonfiction focusing on women’s relationships with food and their bodies.

Leslea Newman presents authentic and joyful portraits of children living in subcultural America, stories which teach tolerance and sensitivity. With an ability to charm a variety of audiences, Newman teaches by example that it is possible to pass safely between communities, as a Jewish woman and a lesbian, and to write openly and honestly about both worlds.