Self-published author Janai Akerele’s Why Do I Have Two Mommies? addresses the roles of same-sex families within communities and cultures that are still clinging to the traditional “white picket fence” family definitions. The children’s book includes an array of diverse characters who assist a little girl along her journey of discovering why her family is different.
Why Do I Have Two Mommies begins with a little girl names Angel who awakes from a nap at her grandparents’ house curious about why she has two mommies, when all of her friends have a mommy and a daddy. Angel wanders around her neighborhood, asking everyone from her friends to her dog why she has two moms, receiving a range of answers all revolving around how special her family is, until her parents come home and explain to her that she has two mommies because God trusted them to be her parents.
The more representation nontraditional families have the better, and same-sex families are not only different from heterosexual families, they’re different from one another as well. Every single family is unique, but in this book, all of Angel’s friends have one mommy and one daddy. We read this book to my stepdaughter before bed while we were on vacation, and she was confused right from the start because of this groundwork.
We live in a small, rural town in northern Pennsylvania, and our daughter’s first grade classroom is filled with students who have a variety of family structures. Some of them are being raised by grandparents, some by just one mom, or blended families with two dads and two moms, so none of them assume something is strange about their family if it doesn’t have one mommy and one daddy.
Our little girl wasn’t even aware to question the normalcy of her family before reading this book. While the premise is a vital one for those who are surrounded by the cookie cutter family structure, it might not be a perfect fit for children who are already comfortable in a more diverse setting. Although the author’s compilation of culturally diverse characters is commendable, it also implies Angel lives in a more open environment than one where everyone has one mommy and one daddy.
As Angel ventures from one friend and family member to inquire about her two mommies, each person she approaches is either “shocked” or “stunned” by her question. I think any nontraditional family, particularly ones who live within a more conservative setting, should be prepared and unsurprised to be asked about it. After all, how is asking why a child has two mommies any different than the run-of-the-mill “where do babies come from” question?
Once Angel makes her rounds, her mommies sit down with her to discuss what’s on her mind about her family and give an explanation to their daughter. This is the part of the story lesbian parents might take issue with if they are caught unaware by the mention of the word ‘God’, as we both were. So many families choose to raise their kids differently when it comes to spiritual beliefs that the inclusion of religion is often a no-no in a book targeted for youngsters unless it’s specifically marketed as such. Same-sex couples often don’t raise their children under the Christian faith due to the persecution of our community that’s often associated with the religion, so to see God mentioned as an explanation for Angel’s two mommies was surprising to say the least.
Aside from the brief mention of religion, one other qualm readers might have when they read this book with their child is the part that insists our families are chosen for us. Although the intention of explaining that every family is unique is poignant, lesbian families (including my own) have gone out of our way to explain that families can be whatever we want them to be because we choose them ourselves. Since our daughter is adopted, we emphasize how badly we wanted each other in the story of how we all came to be a family, so the idea that one family is chosen to be more or less “normal” than another could be concerning for a child to read.
Although some of the content is a bit of a miss for readers who are already members of a same-sex family, the benefits of this story lie in the impact it could make on those who are members of heterosexual families more. The target audience of Why Do I Have Two Mommies is better off being young children of straight families who aim to raise their kids with tolerance and acceptance rather than those who are already experiencing Angel’s life. I don’t know if this book will get much use on our own shelf, but I’d happily pass out copies to some of my ally friends, so don’t shy away from giving it a chance.