I received an email from a customer yesterday. She had received the book and was planning ahead, looking for answers when came the obvious question from her son: ‘Mum, who is You-Know-Who?‘ Great question!
Actually, there is a bit of a story to it. We first had the idea for the book in the wake of the marriage equality referendum in Ireland. Maybe it’s the (half) Irish (lapsed) Catholic in me, but I was overwhelmed by that victory for equality in such a religious country and I felt so frustrated about the situation here.
A lot of that frustration went the way of then Prime Minister, Tony Abbott. So when we wrote the first draft of this book, You-Know-Who was called a ‘Certain Someone’ and that Certain Someone was modelled on Abbott. He did turn up to the wedding but only when it was over, causing our little heroine Phoebe to ask ‘Was he always late to the party?’. Here’s an illustration we created for the last page of the book that went with that storyline – but it didn’t make it into the final book (check out the rego!).
Midway through creating the book, the leadership spill happened and Turnbull was elected as our PM. We decided to take this opportunity to re-think the story. The illustrations were bringing our story to marvellous life by then and we started to get more attached to Phoebe and to see things more from her point of view. We didn’t want to make her sweet story into a political campaign, and we wanted to acknowledge the real concerns that Phoebe might have when thinking about her mums’ getting married, so we created a deliberately ambiguous You-Know-Who character, designed to encourage families to talk about who this person might be in their lives.
It’s fair to say that most families have a You-Know-Who, even in their direct family circle, perhaps a disapproving grandparent or uncle. I know we have one in our family. We wanted the book to provide a way for families to talk about that person – why they might feel that way, and the journey they might need to come on to fully embrace a same-sex union like the one portrayed in the book. It’s a hard thing to do, but it’s necessary to explain disapproval and prejudice to our children. Most of the time, people do come around, and of course that’s why You-Know-Who attends the wedding at the end. But we didn’t want to belittle how hard this journey, sadly, sometimes still is.
In the happy situation that a child (or her parents) don’t have to contend with that immediate problem, then we thought conversations might broaden to include disapproval and prejudice in authority figures, such as community leaders, religious leaders and politicians.
We included some cheeky little illustrations of You-Know-Who authority figures, which we hoped might give parents a smile when reading the book. Most are easily recognisable, we hope!
Some (older) children might be able to grapple with the topic of why authority figures even have a role to play in these kinds of issues. All of these issues – and lots more – are dealt with more comprehensively in the teacher’s notes that accompany the book. You can download them here.