LGBTQ+ in Norwegian Children’s Books – Marta Breen and Jenny Jordahl

In Hungary, the “protection” of our children against the so-called “gender propaganda” is still a hot topic, both in education and in the closely related book market. We have already written about the high importance of (gender and LGBTQ+) equality in the Norwegian education system, more specifically in foreign language education. What we are still owing you is a brief overview of Norwegian children’s and youth books, as this could also be an inspiration for our community.

We mentioned earlier that, compared to a continental European city, Trondheim does not have a bustling social scene, but something that compensates us a bit for this is the public library system. Everyone can join free of charge and have access to an amazing selection of Norwegian and international content, be it books, films or music. The combination of favorable lending conditions and the library’s super-equipped building makes going to the library, and thus reading, a very popular activity in Norway. Libraries are full of children, families – and well, us.

What impressed us most were the children’s and youth books, which we checked out not only out of professional curiosity, but also because as intermediate language learners we find them to be at our current level of language proficiency. And we have to say that it is very refreshing to see the wide range, as well as the high quality of the books, both in terms of content and graphics. And let us not forget: the extent to which they are promoting inclusive values.

In this article, we will focus on one example, the books of Marta Breen and Jenny Jordahl, who have collaborated on a number of children’s and youth books, mainly on feminist themes (Marta is responsible for the text, while Jenny for the illustrations). The co-authors were recommended to us by our Norwegian teacher – the same teacher, by the way, who was at Pride with her daughter as an ally. So, another brownie point for the Norwegian education system (and for Heidi herself, of course)!

Here’s one of our favorite books by the authors: Patriarkatet faller – Sexismens historie og kvinners motstandskamp (The fall of patriarchy – The history of sexism and resistance of women’s, 2021). The book is basically about patriarchy, but it also has a chapter on LGBTQ+ history. The funniest thing is that the historical arc of the book is to determine which historical figure deserves to be on the Podium of Sexism (Aristotle ends up with the gold medal), and the punchline is: Viktor Orbán also gets an “honorable mention” in this contest (see picture below).

The good news is that one of Breen and Jordahl’s books is available in Hungarian, even if in a shortened version: Women in battle: 150 years in search of freedom, equality and sorority (Kvinner i kamp; 150 år med frihet, likhet, sosterskap, 2018). This is why we had heard of them even before we moved to Norway, even though we didn’t realize they were Norwegian.

This book is not explicitly lesbian either; it is feminist, but there’s an LGBTQ+ section (even in the Hungarian) volume. Reassuringly, it seems to be available for order even now, despite the Hungarian government’s persistent efforts of censorship, in second-hand bookshops and even in the notorious, government-affiliated bookchain Libri.

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