Saturday, June 23, 2012

Author, Claudia Eicker-Harris, on Cute Mice, Being a Mom and the LGBT Climate in South Africa

We spend a lot time looking for great Gay Friendly Kids books to share with our readers.

How excited are we to not just write about a sweet book,
but its author as well!

We Got personal with Claudia Eicker-Harris,

Please enjoy our Interview with a proud Lesbian Mom,  Author and Pioneer!



Author, Claudia Eicker-Harris






















DADsquared
What is the current climate in South Africa for LGBT citizens?

Claudia Eiker-Harris
On one hand we are extremely lucky. We have one of the most liberal and accepting constitutions in the world. South Africa was the fifth country in the world to legalise same-sex marriages. We are the first (and only I believe, although I stand to be corrected) country in Africa to legalise same-sex marriages. We can walk hand-in-hand through shopping malls and down the street, in most areas. We can adopt children and have children by using donor sperm and surrogates. On the other hand there are still dreadful hate crimes being committed against the LGBT community, specifically in the townships and rural areas where education is limited and ignorance is rife. Unfortunately, prejudice still prevails in many cultures. Corrective rape is a scourge which continues to go largely unreported. From a personal perspective, I have been very lucky and my wife and I have hardly ever experienced any issues.

D.S.
What kind of social and political changes have you seen over the last ten years?

C.E.H
Since we had our first democratic elections, there has been a visible social shift. Interracial relationships are more common and more accepted as are homosexual relationships. Previously disadvantaged individuals are being empowered more and more with women and black people becoming very visible in positions of power. Unfortunately it seems that the government sometimes falls into the trap of an eye-for-an-eye and there are also times when corruption overshadows the many positive moves that have been made over the years. Altogether though, we are an extremely accepting and liberal society and our children are growing up with an incredible sense of inclusion which I think will stand them in good stead as they go out into the world.

D.S.
US President Obama recently affirmed his support for Gay Marriage. His declaration has been dubbed by some, 'the shot heard around the world.' Did you LGBT residents in SA have a large emotional reaction to his stance?

C.E.H.
Absolutely. Facebook and Twitter were abuzz with the news. The more we are accepted on a global level, the more likely that acceptance is bound to filter through to other societies and the rest of our continent.

D.S.
How was the reception of your family and friends to you and your partner deciding to have a daughter?

C.E.H.
They were thrilled. Of course there were words of wisdom with regards to the difficulties that she would experience having to explain why she didn’t have a dad and had two moms instead and I deal with that in the response to the next question. We did see a psychologist about how we would deal with the future tricky situations to ensure that all of our family members were absolutely comfortable that we had taken all the right steps to prepare ourselves. Since day one, though, both of our families have been totally besotted with Eva and we have even had situations where, at grandparents day at school, she has had to share her four grandparents with children who don’t have any. Each set of grandparents has their afternoon with her every week and it’s the highlight of their (and I suspect, her) week!

D.S.
Has your daughter experienced any taunting or bullying because she has two moms?

C.E.H.
Back to your previous question and how it relates here – the warning from our parents that she may end up in some difficult situations has, to some extent, manifested and, now that Eva is five, we are starting to see their words of wisdom become a reality. There hasn’t been any intentional taunting, but children aren’t very tactful so they say things like ‘that’s weird!’ when they find out that Eva has two moms. Eva is amazing though and she handles every situation beautifully. In that particular instance (when the child said ‘that’s weird’), she just laughed and said, ‘no it’s not, it’s just normal.’ I thought she was going to say, ‘no it’s not, it’s just different.’ I would have been proud then, but I was even more proud of the response that she did give! Actually, the response I’ve heard most often from children when Eva tells them that she has two moms is, ‘Aw, you’re so lucky! I wish I had two moms’ (no offence dads!). We feel privileged to be able to educate the children and adults with whom our daughter interacts as to the fact that our lives are no different to theirs. I think this is what inspired me to write specifically LGBT orientated children’s books – they’re more for ‘normal’ families than they are for ‘alternative’ families! Once we’ve managed to create a shift in perception, we are half way there. I love seeing my daughter’s friends ‘click over’ when they realise that her two moms are the equivalent to their mom and dad and that she is just as normal as they are!























D.S.
Let's shift gears and talk about your newest work, Freddy and Frieda's Traveling Tales: Meet the Families, What would you say most inspired the characters Freddy and Frieda?

C.E.H
Funnily enough the book started off with a character called Pat the Pack Rat. But, on the very astute advice of my publishers, Pat became two mice. In this way I could represent both genders and the mice would, in the future, have each other to interact with. Also, mice are better received by the public. It was important that the characters weren’t geographically limited. They had to be able to speak about children from all over the world so as to be as inclusive as possible. In future books we will see how this advantage also helps children to learn a bit more about other cultures and traditions.

D.S.
What makes Freddy and Frieda unique?

C.E.H.
The book and the series is totally inclusive. There are no holy cows here. It will certainly be controversial in some circles and it will definitely make children ask questions that might make parents feel a little challenged and even uncomfortable. I think what makes it unique is that it tells it like it is – in no uncertain terms. It is very simple and very straightforward, which I think is what our world needs right now. We live in complicated times and a little bit of simplicity goes a long way.

D.S.
What are your hopes for Freddy & Frieda?

C.E.H.
I want Freddy and Frieda to free the minds of people around the world. I want the series to make children in every situation feel special at the same time as feeling normal. I want the children who meet Freddy and Frieda on the pages of these books to feel that they are understood and to feel confident to say ‘it’s not weird, it’s just normal’ when they are challenged about their situation. I think that, almost more than that, I want children and adults in ‘normal’ families to know that it’s okay to ask questions and it’s okay to be accepting. I want them to know that it’s okay to live in a world where, as long as children are loved, it doesn’t matter what their family portrait looks like.

D.S.
Will there be more books from you in the future?

C.E.H.
Yes, certainly. Writing children’s books is my life now. Freddy and Frieda have four more stories to tell. They will deal with disabilities, learning difficulties, social status and adoption. They are set in various countries around the world. I also have a book out called “Morty and the Selfish Elf.” It’s about helping children to understand that beauty comes from within. It can be purchased on Kindle or, in hard copy, by emailing me on
www.claudia@creativedirections.co.za

D.S.
How can readers and their parents keep up with you on the web?
Where can your book be purchased?

C.E.H.
Readers can order “Freddy and Frieda’s Traveling Tales: Meet the Families” on www.myfamilyproducts.net as well as via Barnes and Noble and Kindle. My author site will soon be live on www.claudiaeicker-harris.com Thank you so much for the opportunity to be on your blog, I truly appreciate it

D.S. 
We thank you!
Namaste





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