Proud of Me

Authored by Sarah Hagger-Holt
Published by Usborne

Proud of Me: A story of self-discovery, love and family. Proud of Me follows two siblings named Josh and Becky. The children of two mums that were conceived by the same sperm donor and born just over a week apart, the pair have always been inseparable. But as life becomes increasingly complex, the two characters find their worlds moving in different directions. Despite feeling loved by his parents, Josh feels incomplete not knowing the identity of his donor father and is compelled to piece together his family history. Whilst her brother searches for the truth, Becky begins to question her identity when she develops feelings for a new girl in Year Eight. With the pair struggling to understand themselves and what they are going through, can they find the courage to seek support from one another?

Written in dual narrative, Josh and Becky’s perspectives provide readers with same-sex parents a vital opportunity to feel seen and heard. Sarah Hagger-Holt explores aspects of everyday life and some challenges that children born within nuclear, blended or single-parent families might not consider. Things such as having to explain their family to new peers, expecting questions about who their biological mother is and fear of being judged can make life a little trickier. What is so vitally important is that Hagger-Holt provides children with an authentic representation of an LGBTQ+ family, who no doubt draws upon her own experiences with her partner and children. Amidst some of the challenges within the plot, this novel also provides a warm representation of loving parent relationships between Mum, Ima and their two children. Here, we see parents that want the best for their children seek to support them and make mistakes along the way.

At various points throughout the story, readers are reminded of the clash between progress for the LGBTQ+ community and the presence of homophobia in the UK. Whilst discrimination is not the sole focus of the story, interactions between the characters will increase the reader’s awareness of the need to be an ally and combat homophobia. Within Josh’s narrative, it becomes clear that a lack of acceptance and understanding continues to infiltrate interactions between young people in secondary school. Throwaway homophobic remarks are entrenched in the conversations that Josh overhears between ‘friends’. Over time, he learns that ignoring these comments not only damage his sense of self but confirms to these peers that homophobia is acceptable. Hagger-Holt also highlights how historical homophobia continues to be felt when Mum and Ima touch upon the presence of Section 28 during their youth. The lasting impact of having a part of their identity criminalised is felt in Ima’s concern for how her daughter may be perceived and treated within society. But this story is not without light. Through the newly formed Pride club at school and the joy and belonging that this brings different students, readers see that steps continue to be made towards a community of inclusion and acceptance.

I regard this book as a necessity for a Secondary School library and vital reading for young people in Key Stage Three and Four. Proud of Me would support individuals coming to understand their sexuality. It would also affirm the conflicting emotions that some children without a relationship with one or more biological parents may experience. This could span across a range of readers: children that have been adopted and children within a single-parent family or a same-sex family. At its heart, Proud of Me glows with the importance of openness, honesty and support from friends and family, which is an excellent message for children to take away.

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