By: Amber Leventry
My partner, Amy, and I have three beautiful kids thanks to the generous donation—let’s call a spade a spade—expensive contribution of a sperm donor. And now that our oldest child is almost four years old, we have started to talk to her about that donor and her conception. Why, you might ask? Eva is beginning to see herself as a kid with two moms, and while that is a great thing, it’s also different from most of her friends. How she was made is different too.
But, again, why talk about that so early? For a lot of reasons, but a big one is that we want Eva to feel comfortable and proud of her place in this world and our lives. We want her to grow up with the full understanding of how much Amy and I wanted and love her.
When author Christy Tyner and her wife wanted to start the conversation with their donor-conceived children about their family’s origin Tyner couldn’t find a children’s book to help with that explanation, so she created one. She was inspired to give the LGBTQ community something it needed. In her words, “high-quality children’s books that represent us: our love for our family, our pride in our kids, and our collective commitment to truth and equality.”
It all comes back to sperm. In order to have this conversation, we needed to start at the beginning. At conception and with books about conception, specifically Zak’s Safari: A Story about Donor-Conceived Kids of Two-Mom Families.
Written by Christy Tyner and illustrated by Ciaee Ching, Zak’s Safari is a child’s first person account of his family and how it was made. Using the pride, excitement, and matter-of-factness of a child’s voice, Tyner lets Zak tell us about the “breathtaking, rip-roaring, electrifying, mind-blowing, heart-pounding adventure of family.”
Zak explains that it takes a sperm and an egg to make a baby; he explains the differences between families and the different ways those two things come together. (In case you are worried, there are not details in the mentioning of how those two things come together. Feel free to insert your terms of logistics; intercourse, insemination, and implantation are not talked about.) Zak gushes about his mothers’ use of a sperm donor and how that donor must have been pretty awesome to have helped create such an awesome kid.
Zak’s Safari is more than a biology lesson; it is a children’s story about family. Using beautiful illustrations and subtle, yet powerful pictures of affection between his mothers and himself, Zak’s Safari normalizes the meaning of family, even when families look different. It gives donor-conceived children, their friends and their friends’ parents the images and words to explain a big concept in simple and loving terms.
As much as Tyner hopes Zak’s Safari will start many conversations about your children’s donor and their conception, I hope she and illustrator Ciaee Ching team up for many more wonderful books representing my family and yours.