Authors Chaz Harris and Adam Reynolds wrapped up their children’s book “Promised Land” — a fairytale featuring a gay couple — during the summer of 2016.
The very next day, the Pulse nightclub massacre happened.
“We locked off our text, said, ‘that’s done’, handed it to the illustrators, and then [the shooting] happened,” Harris explained to BuzzFeed.
49 people were killed and dozens more were injured at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, on June 12, 2016 — the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.
Pulse was an LGBTQ nightclub. “Promised Land” follows a gay couple.
And that connection, of course, wasn’t lost on the authors from New Zealand.
“Promised Land” is about love, friendship, and acceptance.
Here’s how the authors described the story:
“In ‘Promised Land,’ a young prince and a farm boy meet by chance in the forest and their newfound friendship soon blossoms into love. However, things get complicated when the queen’s sinister new husband seeks control over the enchanted forest that the farm boy’s family are responsible for protecting. In a Kingdom where all are considered equal, regardless of what they look like or who they love, Promised Land is a new fairytale about friendship, responsibility, adventure and love.”
The book also includes a map of the Kingdom of Valeria, where the story takes place, which features locations named after LGBTQ civil rights leaders and iconic figures in the fight for equality.
There’s “Shepard’s Bay,” in honor of Matthew Shepard — who was murdered in 1998 for being gay — as well as “Rivera Ranges,” in honor of the late transgender activist Sylvia Rivera, among others.
That’s why Adam and Chaz decided to dedicate “Promised Land” to the 49 victims of the Pulse massacre.
“I was personally very affected by [the shooting],” Harris said. “There was a vigil here in Wellington that I went along to. I had people saying ‘Why were you so upset? Did you know anyone who died?’ But an attack on one of us is an attack on all of us.”
“Promised Land” isn’t just another kids’ book — it’s one that lets LGBTQ children around the world know they can find their own happily ever after.
“If you don’t see yourself in stories, you don’t see yourself in the world,” Harris explained in a statement. “With everything happening in the world right now, we need to change the message of fear and intolerance towards anyone who is different.”
Learn more about Promised Land.