Promised Land is a new children’s book by New Zealand-based authors, Adam Reynolds and Chaz Harris. Last year, their crowdfunding campaign received global media attention, and at last, the story is available to buy.
Promised Land is an illustrated fairytale of a kingdom of equality, ruled by a queen who remarries an evil man. The evil step-king wants to reign the enchanted forest and sacred land that is protected by the family of a young farmer boy. The queen’s son; a young prince, and the farmer’s boy are friends and eventually fall in love. The story teaches love and equality and encourages LGBTQ acceptance.
Diversity is not the whole story and the characters feature as part of a wider story that stands on it’s own. This was an important distinction from other LGBTQ themed children’s books for co-author Chaz Harris, who told Teen Vogue, “I don’t just stand around all day talking about ‘being gay’. My life is a story of which being gay is a part.”
Authors Adam Reynolds and Chaz Harris spoke to Teen Vogue on what inspired them to create the project. “I wanted to create the kind of story I wish I’d had growing up, one where the sexuality of the characters was not the defining focus or a reason for any conflict,” said Reynolds.
Harris spoke about the necessity of visibility and a positive portrayal of LGBTQ characters in our culture, which is important when you consider the role media culture plays in shaping how we see ourselves as individuals. “If you don’t see yourself in stories,” said Harris, “you don’t see yourself in the world. I grew up without any stories to show me that ‘happily ever after’ could even exist if I was gay. That makes coming to terms with your sexuality a very isolating and traumatic experience for many young people. With everything happening in the world right now, we need to change the message of fear and intolerance towards anyone who is different.”
Harris told Teen Vogue that both himself and his co-author were bullied through school and felt unrepresented in the media culture around them as children. “My own peers had already absorbed the message that being gay was such an awful thing and that created a sense of shame about who I was when I was still trying figure that out. I think I spent a long time denying it, to myself and others, or wishing I could change it. That was a really damaging and isolating experience and I think we need to change the message to let all young people know it’s okay if you’re gay (or bi/trans+).”
“It’s also important to note that I was exposed to 99.9% heterosexual media my whole life and I’m still gay – if more LGBT characters are represented in a positive light in these kinds of stories, perhaps in future there will be more love and acceptance from their peers instead of hate or intolerance.”
“If you don’t see yourself in stories, you don’t see yourself in the world, and the world is a much better place with you in it.” – Chaz Harris
You can order Promised Land the book, audiobook and e-book here.