The publication of children’s books about gender identity in Portugal is still rare because the topic has not yet been standardized in public discourse, researcher Emanuel Madalena, who dedicated his doctoral dissertation to Luce, told the agency.
Emanuel Madalena, collaborating researcher at the Center for Languages, Literature and Cultures of the University of Aveiro, wrote a doctoral thesis on the presence of the topic of gender identity, in particular about transgender people, in children’s literaturewhich he later adapted into a book called “Challenge to Gender”, which will be presented in Lisbon this Saturday.
For the investigation, Emanuel Madalena reviewed a pre- and initial reading edition of books published between 2000 and 2019, bringing together 38 works edited in English, Portuguese and Spanish.
Of the books analyzed in the dissertation, there are two that deserve attention for their quality, noted by Emanuel Madalena, and which are published in Portugal: “O Jaime é uma sereia” by Jessica Love (Fábula), “which is in the process of canonization” by readers and ” Thiago’s Dresses” by Joana Estrela in her own edition.
Speaking to the Lusa agency, Emanuel Madalena argues that picture books for children about gender identity, and transgender people in particular, are “very important in providing information about identity to these children and informing people in general about this issue.”
In his book, published by the cultural cooperative Outro Modo, Emanuel Madalena writes that “children’s literature on transgender topics is important not only for transgender children, but for all children and for society as a whole” because it can foster “attitudes of acceptance and integration of differences.
The researcher does not have a clear answer why there are no more books on this topic in Portugal.
It’s not that the Portuguese publishing scene is far ahead in terms of trends – it isn’t – but maybe it’s a bit on the side of authors. The public discourse on these topics in Portugal itself needs more discussion, information, but it is enough for one of these players to want it, the editor has a strong desire to publish it or the author created it for something to happen, ”he believes. .
In the course of the investigation, Emanuel Madalena read some of these books to children and met with no resistance.
“This is a completely adult problem. (…) This is an essential question of a dual addressee: the book should be liked by both children and adults, and it is they who choose it, especially for early childhood,” he said.
The researcher believes that it is through independent publishers or those with greater creative and editorial freedom that more titles on these topics can be published.
“The independent publication is the firmest first step towards the centripetal path of legitimizing the transgender theme, from the fringe of the literary subsystem of children’s literature to its commercial center,” he wrote.
Emanuel Madalena believes that by reflecting changes in society, entering into public discourse, “emerging, controversial and sensitive topics end up being not so”, even if there may be moments of discomfort on the part of some readers.
“Like, for example, the topic of divorce, which was once divisive in children’s literature and is no longer so. It even seems ridiculous to think that talking about it with children is taboo,” he recalls.
Given that “books for children with transgender themes are still in their early stages”, Emanuel Madalena explains in the book that much of the literary output is still geared towards cognitive-pedagogical aspect, legitimation, and not in the game phase for younger readers.
Emanuel Madalena, PhD in Literature, MA in Editorial Studies and Education, hopes his work will contribute to “gender studies and the movement to include and make gender diversity visible in academic research.”
“Chalking Gender – Transgender in Children’s Literature” will be presented this Saturday at the Snob bookstore in Lisbon by André Tesedeiro and in the presence of the author.