LGBT Pride Parade takes Spotlight in Professor’s New Story
The shelves in Gayle Pitman’s narrow office are stuffed with books. The City College psychology professor’s wall features titles such as “Anorexia and Bulimia” and “The Complete Grimm’s Fairy Tales,” nestled next to each other on the top shelf, right above her copy of “The Ethical Slut” and “The Polyamorists Next Door.”
“My ‘Intro to Psych’ students come in and they’re like ‘whoa,’” says Pitman with a laugh., “This reflects a lot of my interests. I’m interested in gender issues. I’m interested in sexuality. I also just love to read, and I have a sort of eclectic set of tastes in my reading material.”
Pitman, who has taught at City College since 2001, also has a deep love of writing. She maintains an active blog, wrote the textbook for her “Psychology of Sexual Orientation” class, and has her first children’s book, “This Day in June,” coming out in May from Magination Press.
“Backdrop: the Politics and Personalities Behind Sexual Orientation Research” was published in 2011. In the book, Pitman details how sometimes more can be learned from the situations behind the research into sexual orientation than the research itself.
There are no bold words or dry definitions in the paperback, which looks more like a novel than a classroom resource. “This ended up not being so much of what you typically see in a textbook,” says Pitman of her book.
In the introduction of “Backdrop”, Pitman writes that she spoke with psychologist and LGBT researcher Esther Rothblum. “As she was telling me about one of her early research studies, she said, in a somewhat offhand way, ‘There’s a story behind every research study.’” Pitman used this as a launching point and began telling the tale of sexual orientation research, which, Pitman writes in the book, “has been like a series of slowly unfolding subplots, with lots of twists and developments.”
“My students say—well, what are they going to say, they’re in my class—they give me good feedback. They find it interesting—they find it informative—so that’s good,” Pitman says.
At first, Pitman thought about writing the book in a more standard textbook style, then changed her mind. “I just thought, ‘Gosh, I’m going to bore the daylights out of my students with this,’” she says. “I was really thinking that this is such inherently interesting stuff, and I don’t want to bore my students. I’d rather write it in sort of a creative nonfiction, narrative nonfiction style.”
Pitman sets down the copy of “Backdrop” she has been holding and reaches for her bookshelf, pulling out a large and colorful copy of “This Day in June” with a smile. “This is my children’s book coming out in May,” she says. “I’m super excited about that.”
The vibrant, rhyming book describes the sights a child would see at a LGBT— Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender—pride parade.
“I self-published ‘Backdrop,’” Pitman says. “But to have a ‘real’ publisher [Magination Press] pick up [“This Day in June”] makes me feel legit.”
“The illustrator did such a fabulous job,” Pitman elaborates about “This Day in June.” “I love how it’s so not toned-down. It’s just real. It’s what kids would see and what they would glom on to.”
In the back of the book, there is a section of information for older children and parents on LGBT history and culture, which Pitman says is a particular point of pride.
In an increasingly large anthology of LGBT-centric children’s books, Pitman says there are lots of stories about kids with to same-gendered parents. “But there’s way more to it than that,” says Pitman. “Besides, what little kid wouldn’t want to read about a big party?”
“This Day in June” is available for pre-order from Magination Press for $14.95: http://www.apa.org/pubs/magination/441B151.aspx
Originally published in the Express – City College’s student-run newspaper on 3/11/2014. Find the Express Story HERE.