What Makes A Baby?: An Interview With Cory Silverberg About His Upcoming Book
I was really thrilled to see the Kickstarter page for What Makes a Baby, an amazing book project headed by Cory Silverberg. Almost all of the books that explain where babies come from assume that there are two heterosexual parents who have intercourse. But there are a lot of other ways that babies happen, so Cory decided to write a book that explains the process for all situations.
The clear need for this book was shown by the fact that the $9500 goal was met on the very first day of the Kickstarter page going live! The response has been amazing and Cory has been fielding questions and making plans ever since. Fortunately, he was able to take some time to chat with me about it.
1) Tell us a little about What Makes a Baby. What inspired you to write it?
What Makes a Baby is a picture book for children, so it’s geared to kids roughly pre-school to age 7 or 8, it will be a hard cover full color illustrated picture book (which means lots of pictures and not so many words). It’s designed as much as a kind of educational or teaching tool for parents as it is a fun (and funny) story to read. The book is my response to the fact that books about where babies come from leave many of us out. They tell a nice story (mommy + daddy + intercourse = you!) but the truth is that more and more of us are acknowledging the help we get to bring children into our lives. That help might be a doctor, fertility clinic, adoption or foster agency; it might be a turkey baster and a friend; it might be a sperm donor or a surrogate. What Makes a Baby helps parents tell children a story about where they came from that isn’t just true for them, but true for everyone.
As you probably know, Good Vibrations founder Joani Blank produced an incredible book for kids about sex, and strange as it may seem, there’s been nothing like that since. This is a bit different because it is focusing on one aspect of sexuality that kids often get curious about around this age, which is where do babies come from and how do they get made.
What finally pushed me into action (after years of dreaming) was one of my very closet friends son. My friend is trans and he and his partner have a son who at the time was 4. They were going to have another baby and one morning their son announced that the new baby was growing in his mom’s chest! So like good parents they saw the teachable moment and talked to him about how that wasn’t quite right. But they wanted a book as well. And of course every book that’s out there says that the sperm comes from your daddy and the egg comes from your mommy, etc. This just isn’t true for them, or for millions of other people – trans and cis, LGB and straight, single, couples, poly, – who are making babies in all sorts of ways. My friend asked, half jokingly if I could get off my ass and finally write the book I wanted to write. So I did. That was a year and a half ago and the process of getting to this manuscript was a slow and amazing one.
2) On your Kickstarter page, you write “Like all picture books, it’s meant to be read to a child and gives the adult reader the opportunity to fill in as much detail as they would like.” What are some of the kinds of details that adults might include?
That’s the beauty of the book. Adults can say as much or little about the particular story of their child’s birth as they like. So in a funny way, because this book doesn’t center intercourse, it’s a book about where babies come from that doesn’t require adults to talk about sex. Because even though lots of us may have sex with the person we parent with, sex may not have been part of making a baby. So parents might choose to say very little, or they might talk about a sperm donor or egg donor. Or they might refer to part of the adoption process or foster process. The book asks questions that prompt the adult reader and helps them start telling that story, but because it’s not my place to insist on how a story is told, parents have the space to do it the way that feels right for them.
The bulk of the story is what creates the language and comfort for both the parent and the child.
3) What about parents who aren’t sure what to add or share with their kids? What resources are there for them?
I’m developing a page by page reader’s guide for parents, so for each illustration and text we’ll have some of the common questions that children ask (developed after reading to scores of kids over the past year and a half) and different ways that parents might want to answer, including some language prompts. I know that for some parents having concrete examples of how to start these conversations helps. At the same time, the way we do this has so much to do with who we are, our lived experience of things like gender, race, class, embodiment, and of course sexuality. My approach to sex education is about providing support but never letting us lose track of those differences and the strength that they represent.
4) You met your Kickstarter goal on the first day, which is amazing and quite unusual. Were you surprised to see so much support so quickly? What did you think would happen?
Surprised is an understatement! We met it in the first 8 hours and now we’re almost 300% over it. I knew the need was there, I knew this was a book that would be welcomed. I think I underestimated how many people are comfortable being out about that need. I know you do a lot of work around shame and sexuality, and so you know the impact that shame can have, shame about being “different” about being labelled as less than or undeserving, or whatever. And in my work I feel people’s shame all the time and see the effect it has on their ability to ask for what they need.
So my expectation was that it was going to take a bit more work to connect with the people who need the book most. I knew there would be a community who would embrace it right away but the response has been coming from all sides. And that’s of course very exciting because really this book is for everyone. It works as well for the cisgender, heterosexual, couple who made babies by having intercourse as it does for the queer couple co-parenting with the sperm donor and his partner, as it does for the single mom who adopted.
5) Once the book is published, what are your plans for it? How can people find out more about it?
Right now, all the focus is on the Kickstarter campaign and that’s the place to find out everything there is to know about the book. It’s also where I’m posting updates on what we’re working on now, links to the media we’re getting, and more.
The first edition of the book will come out in June. And for the first little while it will be available for sale on the book’s website. I’m certainly eager to get it into stores and will likely start with small bookstores and of course sex shops like Good Vibrations. I’m already working on a few plans to increase access to the book both in alternative formats but also by having a significant number of books that can be donated right away to shelters, bookmobiles, LGBTQ parenting groups, libraries, and community organizations, all places that often don’t have the money to buy beautiful books, but have the people who deserve them (as we all do).
The best way for people to learn more is to go to the Kickstarter page and back the project. They can back it with $1 which means they’ll be connected to the project and get updates and I’ll be able to communicate directly with them. For $10 they can get an ebook, and for $25 they can pre-order a hard copy first edition. Rewards go up to $2,500 so of course the rich and generous among us can get much more if they want!