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I am constantly on the lookout for people who are doing amazing, inspiring, fun things in the world of sex and relationships. So, you just know I had to reach out to Feminist Press when I saw they were publishing a children’s book with the title, “Tell Me About Sex, Grandma.”
And what better time to celebrate kids and parenting and sex and divorce and healing than Mother’s Day?
Anastasia Higginbotham is the author of a series of books called Ordinary Terrible Things aimed at helping kids to understand and find words for things like sex, divorce, death, racism, and queerness. Anastasia’s books are about centering kids’ wisdom and giving them space to have a full range of feelings and permission to be who they are.
But the magic of these books is also in their healing power for grown-ups. If you were raped or molested, “Tell Me About Sex, Grandma” will offer a balm to your young self about what happened. If your parents split when you were young, “Divorce is the Worst” gives you permission to sit in those big feelings you may have tried to hide years ago.
This is the kind of stuff that overturns patriarchy and helps young people realize that they actually hold a tremendous amount of wisdom and power.
Also, at the end of this week’s episode is a sneak peek of next week’s incredible episode on abortion. Please do stay tuned.
In this episode, Anastasia and I talk about:
- How sex ended up in Anastasia’s Ordinary Terrible Things series which is about tough topics like death, divorce, racism, gayness & bullying. The truth is, sex SHOULDN’T be there, but because of our sex negative culture, it is. Anastasia has beautiful thoughts on why she included it.
- Kids learn that sex is a secret and yet it’s everywhere. There’s power in the things that are hidden and not talked about, so kids are naturally curious about this confusion contradiction. Also, the stories kids have about sex now are largely about how babies get made between a man and a woman – it’s not about pleasure and it’s heterocentric. Anastasia wanted to take that on.
- Trusting kids as the authority on their own lives and centering their wisdom and experiences.
- The danger in denying that young people have sexual identities, sexual feelings, and sexual curiosity, and how lack of validation creates a great deal of shame.
- Parents having too much invested in their children, which is why grandparents can be such a beautiful relationship between elders and youngsters and allowing youngsters to be who they are.
- Sexual abuse, consent, incest, and why it’s so critical to tell young people, especially girls, to tell them every single day that their body is theirs and no one else’s. That they have edges that they don’t have to share with others.
- Dawn’s favorite line from “Tell Me About Sex, Grandma” which is: “It belongs to no one else but you. No one else is allowed to boss you into sex, or to take it from you without your permission. You get to choose whether to do it. And the same goes for everyone. You choose for you, they choose for them.”
- Why Anastasia wanted to include rape and incest in a book about sex for 4-7 year olds, and how to do that without scaring them.
- As a young person, Anastasia said her heroes were the prostitutes of old Western movies. She wanted many lovers and women who didn’t take any shit. We talk about what it means to want to be scarred by love.
- Why trusting people when we’re first exploring sex and pleasure, especially as teenagers, is so fraught and challenging. Everyone is immature. So, the best you can do is know your body, know your desires, know what you want.
- The indoctrination of kids to ignore their body and boundaries by forcing them to override their own edges to kiss family or receive hugs that they don’t want.
- Allowing kids their pain and anger about racism and homophobia. We can have big feelings without defending or separating from our own humanity. We can be for justice, and Anastasia’s books are all about teaching us how to do that.
- What we can do when we realize we’re a collection of broken pieces, and why relying on children to be resilient is actually about asking them to exist in pieces, too.
Resources discussed in this episode
You can pre-order “Tell Me About Sex, Grandma” and purchase “Death is Stupid” and “Divorce is the Worst” from Feminist Press, and you know I love supporting feminist, independent sources, so please do buy from them over Amazon or a big box retailer.
About Anastasia Higginbotham
Anastasia Higginbotham is a writer and artist who created the children’s book series Ordinary Terrible Things, published by the Feminist Press. The series includes Divorce Is the Worst (2015), Death Is Stupid (2016), and Tell Me About Sex, Grandma (2017). It’s been embraced by children and adults for empowering and trusting kids as the authority on their own lives. Higginbotham makes the books in collage on brown grocery bag paper with clippings from magazines and catalogs, and bits of fabric and jewelry that have special meaning.
Higginbotham’s series is informed by more than 20 years as a speechwriter for New York City nonprofits that combat all kinds of injustice. For 10 years, Higginbotham taught full impact self-defense to kids and adults with Prepare Inc., coaching students ages 6 and up to breathe, talk, and fight their way through confrontation and attack scenarios. Her essays have appeared in Huffington Post, Ms., Bitch, The Sun, Women’s Media Center, and The Women’s Review of Books. She’s featured in the anthologies, Listen Up: Voices from the Next Feminist Generation, 30 Things Every Girl Should Know About Women’s History, and Yes Means Yes: Visions of Female Sexual Power and a World Without Rape. She is a 2015 Hedgebrook Fellow.
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