2012 - 2013: Leslea Newman

Award-winning author, poet, and lesbian and gay rights activist Lesléa Newman delivered the annual Visiting Lectureship in Human Rights on Wednesday, March 27, 2013.

About Lesléa Newman

Sixty-five years after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was crafted, sexual minorities are still fighting for full equality in the West. The high-profile struggle to overturn laws and change deeply ingrained values is most often on display in the courtrooms and legislatures. But some of the most enduring work takes place in our children's libraries and classrooms.

Newman first gained prominence as the author of Heather Has Two Mommies, the first published children's book to portray a loving family with two lesbian parents. Her ground-breaking story overcame publishing troubles, as well as a difficult public reception, to find a cherished place on the bookshelves of a generation. Her pioneering work has continued with several more children's books on lesbian and gay families, including the delightful board books Mommy, Mama, and Me, and Daddy, Papa, and Me.

An ambitious writer, Newman's works for adults encompass short story, essay and poetry. She covers broad territory, from Jewish-American identity, to eating disorders; from lesbian romance to the experience of loss. Her award-winning short story, A Letter To Harvey Milk has been made into a film and adapted for the stage. Her latest book October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard is a poem cycle commemorating Matthew Shepard's impact in the years since his tragic murder.

Newman studied poetics with Allen Ginsberg and Anne Waldman at the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa Institute (now Naropa University), and has taught at Clark University and the University of Southern Maine. Currently she is a faculty member of Spalding University's brief-residency MFA in Writing program where she teaches writing for children and young adults.