Definitions

lives with

Jenny Lives with Eric and Martin

Jenny lives with Eric and Martin (ISBN 0-907040-22-5), originally Mette bor hos Morten og Erik, is a black-and-white picture book by the Danish author Susanne Bösche, published in 1981 in Danish and in 1983 in English. It was perhaps the first English-language children's book to discuss homosexuality.

Plot

The story describes a few days in the life of a five-year-old named Jenny, her father, Eric, and his boyfriend Martin who lives with them. Jenny's mother Karen lives nearby and often visits the household.

The book covers such small adventures as

  • Jenny, Eric and Martin going to the laundrette together
  • Jenny, Martin and Karen preparing a surprise birthday party for Eric
  • Eric and Martin having a small quarrel and making up
  • A woman expressing homophobic disgust when passing the family in the street. This is the subject of a later discussion between Eric and Jenny.

Purpose

Bösche has spoken of her motivation in writing the book:

I wrote Jenny Lives with Eric and Martin back in 1981 because I became aware of the problems which some children face when meeting family groupings different from the ones they are familiar with, ie mum and dad, possibly mum and dad divorced, maybe a step-parent.

Despite these intentions, the book has been categorized as "homosexual propaganda" by some, which has led to much of its influence and even notoriety.

Political influence

In 1983 the Daily Mail, a right-wing tabloid newspaper, reported that a copy of the book was provided in the library of a school run by the left-wing, Labour-controlled Inner London Education Authority. The resulting moral panic made a major contribution towards the then Conservative administration's subsequent passing of the controversial Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988, which forbade the "promotion" of homosexuality by local government. (An article about Section 28 in The Times of May 29, 1988 notes the then-current notoriety of the book.)

In the US in the 1990s, "Heather Has Two Mommies" became a similarly politicised book.

References

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