Lesléa Newman is a prolific writer, poet, and human rights activist. She is the author of over 60 books and edited collections including the groundbreaking children’s book Heather Has Two Mommies, the first children’s book to portray lesbian families in a positive way, and the award-winning short story A Letter to Harvey Milk. Newman’s writing often explores lesbian identity, Jewish identity, and the intersection and collision between the two. She has received many literary awards including Poetry Fellowships from the Massachusetts Artists Fellowship Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, the Highlights for Children Fiction Writing Award, the James Baldwin Award for Cultural Achievement, and three Pushcart Prize Nominations. Nine of her books have been Lambda Literary Award finalists.
Lesléa Newman. Photo © Mary Vazquez
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Born in Brooklyn, New York.
Graduated with a Bachelor in Science from University of Vermont, with a self-designed major of Creative Writing and Social Services.
Received a Certificate in Poetics from the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa Institute, after having studied with Allen Ginsberg, Peter Orlovsky, Ted Berrigan, and Anne Waldman.
Published the poetry chapbook Just Looking for My Shoes, Back Door Press, Englewood, CO.
Worked as a reader for Mademoiselle and Redbook in New York, NY.
Began teaching creative writing at summer program at Mt.Holyoke College and continued through 1987.
Published the novel, Good Enough to Eat (Firebrand Books).
Studied with Grace Paley at Cummington Community for the Arts.
Published the short story collection A Letter to Harvey Milk (Firebrand Books).
Married Mary Vazquez (though gay marriage has no legal status).
Published Heather Has Two Mommies (In Other Words Publishing), the first children’s book about a young girl with two moms. Illustrations by Diana Souza.
Received poetry fellowship from the Massachusetts Artists Fellowship Foundation.
Received Highlights for Children fiction writing award for “Remember That.”
Received the James Baldwin Award for Cultural Achievement from the Greater Boston Lesbian/Gay Political Alliance.
Published the children’s book Too Far Away To Touch, about a little girl whose favorite uncle is a gay man living with AIDS, illustrated by Catherine Stock (Clarion Books).
Published the anthology The Femme Mystique (Alyson Books).
Received a poetry fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.
Delivered keynote address for University of Wyoming Gay Awareness Week; arrived on campus the day Matthew Shepard died.
Published Still Life with Buddy: A Novel Told in Fifty Poems, which tells the story of the passionate friendship between a lesbian and a gay man living with AIDS (Pride Publications).
Published poetry collection Signs of Love (Orchard House Press).
Received fiction writing grant from the Money for Women/ Barbara Deming Memorial Fund, Inc.
Published short story collection, Girls Will Be Girls (Alyson Books).
Published Runaway Dreidel! illustrated by Krysten Brooker (Henry Holt Books for Young Readers).
Published The Best Short Stories of Lesléa Newman (Alyson Books).
Published Paula Tiene Dos Mamás, (Spanish edition of Heather Has Two Mommies) illustrated by Mabel Piérola (Edicions Bellaterra).
Legally married Mary Vazquez.
Published the middle grade historical novel Hachiko Waits, with illustrations by Machiyo Kodaira (Henry Holt Books for Young Readers).
Published The Boy Who Cried Fabulous, illustrated by Peter Ferguson (Tricycle Press).
Received Cat Writers Association Muse Medallion for Best Children’s Book for The Best Cat in the World illustrated by Ronald Himler (Eerdmans Books).
Held faculty position at Stonecoast MFA in Creative Writing Program at University of Southern Maine where she taught through 2009.
Became a Bat Mitzvah at Congregation B’nai Israel, Northampton, MA.
Received “Continuing the Legacy of Stonewall” Award from the Stonewall Center of University of Massachusetts Amherst.
Featured as two-part clue in New York Times crossword puzzle: “with 42 across Lesléa Newman book” (answer: Heather Has Two Mommies).
Published poetry collection Nobody’s Mother (Orchard House Press).
Appointed poet laureate of Northampton, MA (two-year term).
Published the novel, The Reluctant Daughter (Bold Strokes Books).
Published Mommy, Mama, and Me, and Daddy, Papa, and Me, illustrated by Carol Thompson, the first board books for children with same-sex parents (Tricycle Press).
Received Alice B. Reader’s Appreciation Medal for Lesbian Fiction.
Received American Library Association Notable Book Honor for Mommy, Mama, and Me.
Became a faculty member of Spalding University's brief-residency MFA in Writing program
Received American Library Association Stonewall Book Award Honor for Mommy, Mama, and Me, and Daddy, Papa, and Me.
Returned to Laramie, Wyoming to visit the site of Matthew Shepard’s murder. Wrote October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard, a book that tells the story of Matthew Shepard’s murder and its aftermath in a cycle of 68 poems (forthcoming from Candlewick Press).
Received Hachamat Lev Award from Keshet.
Published Donovan’s Big Day, illustrated by Mike Dutton (Tricycle Press) a children’s book that celebrates the marriage of Donovan’s two moms.