FREMANTLE children’s author Yohann Devezy is calling on teachers to celebrate diversity in his debut book about the LGBTIQ+ community–Hugo: The Boy With the Curious Mark.
The book follows a young boy with a rainbow birthmark on his forehead. He feels isolated and ashamed because no one else has the mark, so he embarks on an adventure to find a companion with the same condition.
“As a member of the LGBTIQ community, we spend many years ashamed of our difference” said Mr Devezy.
“I wanted to tell a different story; that difference is wonderful and should be embraced.”
Mr Devezy is now openly gay and happily married, but says writing the book brought back some painful memories.
“I remember being called fag and all sorts of names since I was five years old to about seventeen. I hope a book like this will prevent a lot of children having the same upbringing as I did. If my book helps just one young person, I’ll call it a success.”
Mr Devezy also hopes parents can use the book to start a conversation with their children about sexuality.
“When I came out to my mum, she was very upset. It wasn’t because I was gay, but because I’d held it from them for so long. She really felt as though she’d failed. If she had this kind of book it probably would’ve helped her and my dad discuss these issues with me.”
Mr Devezy provides notes with the book, explaining how teachers can engage students in discussions about gender.
He says LGBTIQ+ teaching resources are limited, and some parents don’t want their kids to learn about it: Earlier this year parents in the UK complained about the increased focus on LGBTIQ+ rights in the sex education curriculum.
Mr Devezy says his book celebrates all differences and is not solely about gender.
“It’s a very happy book. Often with books about the LGBTIQ+ community it’s very heavy to take in. I think that we need to show that there are beautiful stories and there are happy endings.”
On Saturday April 27, Rabble Books & Games in Maylands will host their monthly Drag Queen Story Hour, where Hugo: The Boy With the Curious Mark will be read by drag queen Veronica Jean Jones.
by CHARLIE BRAY