A series of recent donations of nearly 500 books made the Arne Nixon Center for the Study of Children’s Literature at California State University, Fresno the largest collection of LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning) books in the United States.
The announcement of the books comes as California prepares to be the first state to require public schools to teach about contributions made by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender role models by January 1 according to the Fair Education Act (SB 48) signed by Governor Jerry Brown July 14.
The Arne Nixon Center collects and preserves materials of historical and artistic significance related to literature for young people.
“This collection is really important because people need to be able to see themselves in literature and equally important for others to see people different from themselves in literature in order to see that they might not be so different,” said Jennifer Crow, Literary Services Specialist at the Arne Nixon Center.
The first set of donations included several hundred books from Michael Cart, former director of the Beverly Hills Public Library, author, editor and longtime Arne Nixon Center book donor.
His gift inspired Kathleen Horning, a close friend of Cart’s, to donate 144 LGBTQ-themed books to the center. Horning is the director of the Cooperative Children’s Book Center of the School of Education at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and has authored multiple books.
Her gift includes picture books, young adult novels, non-fiction, graphic novels, board books, anthologies, advance reading copies, and some bilingual and translated titles.
Another of Cart’s friends, Nancy Silverrod of the San Francisco Public Library, has pledged additional LGBTQ books from her personal collection. She is a former youth services librarian who has compiled several LGBTQ bibliographies.
The first book for children to depict LGBTQ issues appeared in 1967.
The Arne Nixon Center collection includes a book called “A Tango Makes Three,” which is one of the most controversial books on the banned and challenged list since 2005 by the American Library Association, Crow said.
“The book is based on a true story about how two male penguins built a nest together,” Crow said. “A penguin egg was found by a zookeeper and put it in the penguins nest. The two male penguins took the egg as their own and raised the chick.”
Horning’s gift included “Jesse’s Dream Skirt,” the first picture book about a transgendered child written in 1979. It also included the 1989 self-published edition of “Heather has Two Mommies,” which went on to trade publication and controversy.
The donations also include a collection of articles and early bibliographies on LGBTQ subjects. A bibliography of these titles have been compiled by a Henry Madden Library volunteer.
“We probably have one of the largest collection of LGBTQ literature for research in the nation, which is a feat for Fresno State,” Crow said.
The collection is open to the public during regular business hours, Monday through Friday from 8 am to 5 p.m. None of the collections at the Arne Nixon Center check out, but they are available to the community at large for use in the Henry Madden Library.