The realization that most children’s books are set up against a background which reflects very limited, traditional, rigid family structures and gender roles was our catalyst for developing the concept for a non-normative, anti-discriminatory form of children’s literature.
We find that in most children’s books parents are represented as straight, married, loving and caring, harmonious, understanding, reasonable couples, which, in our point of view, very often doesn’t match the children’s reality. This form of representation creates an ideal of how a “normal” family should be, excluding those whose families don’t match this ideal. As a consequence, some children might feel like outsiders/aliens due to the fact that their families are different from this pre-established (and idealized) norm. They feel they are the exception, when in fact the normative idea represented in most children’s books is actually the exception.
This understanding led us to elaborate our concept of non-normative, anti-discriminatory children’s literature. We don’t only want to address family structure issues, but to include and demystify other sorts of discriminatory sources (gender, migrant background, sexuality...). In our opinion this is necessary as it is not possible to fight social exclusion mechanisms by isolating only one type of discrimination, while disregarding others.
According to our concept, children's stories should not be focused on presumed “deviations” of normative ideals. By focusing on the presumed differences between “normal” and “exceptional” people/lifestyles (even if this is done with good intentions), the norm is reinforced. Even if such books then try to bring across that these “others” “nonetheless” are “normal people”, in fact they make it understood that “normal” people are supposed to live very differently from the ones portrayed in the story. In order to avoid emphasizing the dichotomy of the “normal” and the “deviation” and thereby upholding this attitude, in our opinion children's stories should present a broad variety of identities, lifestyles, backgrounds and orientations as normality. This can be achieved when stories are set against a background that contains a wide range of options as normality. The different options are not hierarchized, instead they are all equally “normal”.
We don’t want our book to be about other people’s mistakes in representing reality. Instead we intend to decontextualize these issues from their social minority/exotic status.
Our intention is to work against excluding mechanisms that can be found in present society, by establishing an almost utopian acceptance of so-called deviant identities and models. We hope to encourage children to find surroundings that allow them to be “as they are”, instead of trying to fit in by contradicting their “way of being”.
We want to encourage a child's freedom to see and perceive their world and their own potentials/possibilities without moral restraints, to break through the already existing alternatives, to not hierarchize different values or life choices and promote moral relativity. The presence of hierarchies in different options results from defining normality and „the other“. We want to overcome this hierarchization that leads to social exclusion by neutralizing „the other“, including them into normality. We thereby seek to deconstruct and dispel normality as a concept all together because the idea of normality itself cannot exist without the ideas of “we” (the normative collective) and „the other“.