Behind the Book: What Are Your Words?
last updated 15 June 2021
As we continue to celebrte Pride Month, What Are Your Words? (Little, Brown Books For Young Readers), has made a place for itself on young reader’s shelves. Since publishing last month, this title has sparked conversation of pronoun use among young people and adults alike. What Are Your Words? sets out to give children the confidence to embrace their identity and explore pronouns they feel represent them best. Bright Artist Anne (Andy) Passchier (they/them) personally resonates with the message of this book, and we had the chance to sit down with them to learn more about all that went into creating this book!
What message do you hope young readers take from this title?
I really hope the book can work towards normalizing talking about pronouns, for the kids who read the book, but also for the adults in their lives. Pronouns are not just a trans and non-binary issue. We all use them and it can be a really powerful feeling to have somebody refer to you with the right pronouns. In this day and age, it can still be daunting to introduce yourself with your pronouns, and I hope we can begin to work towards a world where it’s much easier.
I also love how the story emphasizes that pronouns and identity are fluid, and just like your interests and other qualities, it’s okay for them to change throughout your life.! I hope this book gives kids the confidence to explore their identity and try on different words until they find ones they’re completely comfortable with.
Finally, I really appreciate how Katherine emphasized that the pronouns you use don’t wholly define you as a person. Our gender identity is not all-encompassing. As trans and non-binary people we are whole, unique, and interesting individuals, and our pronouns only make up a small part of that. Pronouns are important, but it’s just as important to take into account the whole person and value everyone as a complete human being.
Tell us a little bit about the ways you personally connect and resonate with this title!
It’s really meant a lot to me. As a kid, I didn’t have any books that spoke about gender identity, and it took me until my early twenties to figure out what it meant to be non-binary. I really hope the book can provide comfort to trans and non-binary kids, and understanding to cis adults and young people alike. Having the right language to talk about topics surrounding gender and identity is so important, and I think this book really illustrates how we can approach these conversations from a place of care and compassion.
If you could use one word to describe your experience creating the art for this book, what would it be?
Riveting! The process itself was very fast as we completed the book in about six months, and since publication the book has gotten a lot of media attention. I think it’s really special that Katherine and I are both non-binary creators who were able to work on this project together. The topic is very close to our hearts, and it felt really good to be invited onto this project and to be able to tell our story together.
This title has already received so much praise. How does it feel for a project centered on representation to be making such waves with young readers?
The book has only been out since May 25th, so for about three weeks as I write this, and it’s been an absolute whirlwind. It’s both exciting and quite daunting, I’ve never had my art published in such large and widespread publications, so I hope the response stays positive overall. I’ve really found my passion in creating illustrations about social justice and LGBTQIA+ rights for young people, so I hope I get to continue doing it for a long time.
What illustration are you most proud of in the book?
Definitely the final spreads of the neighborhood summer party with everybody getting together! I love the overall color palette I picked for the book, and I think in those particular spreads all the brightness really comes together to create a great scene. It was important that while keeping a consistent style, we showed a variety of skin tones, hair styles, body types, and people with visible disabilities. I hope the final spreads come across the way I intended: a happy, vibrant neighborhood, with a diverse group of people all enjoying each other’s company!
Thanks so much for reading June’s Behind the Book blog! Check out our blog site each month to learn more about all things Bright reads and artists. Miss last month’s Behind the Book? Click here to read all about This is Ruby, illustrated by Alea Marley!