Did you know that Goodnight Moon — like our beloved Baby-Sitter’s Club — was written by a queer woman? I know, me neither! But today The New York Post ran a review of Margaret Wise Brown’s new biography, In The Great Green Room, and the whole thing is just harrowing and delightful and best of all it talks about how Brown was bisexual and wrote the poem that inspired her most famous children’s book while pining for her longtime on-again/off-again girlfriend, Blanche Oelrichs (the acclaimed writer and playwright who went by the pen name Michael Strange).
During one breakup, as Brown recuperated from a broken heart and a surgical operation at her house in Maine that she lovingly referred to as “The Only House,” she wrote a poem about a girl who moved from the country to the city and to soothe herself imagined her old room. The poem became Goodnight Room. Years later, while back in Strange’s arms, the poem returned to her in a dream along with images of her downstairs neighbor’s apartment — its bright green walls, red furniture with yellow trim. The result was Goodnight Moon.
You should read the whole piece; its very good. Highlights include:
+ Brown was a supergenius who wrote her many, many, many beloved children’s books on, like, the back of a lift ticket on the way to the top of a mountain, or on the back of a receipt on a jaunt out to the grocery store.
+ She was such a supergenius that she spent her royalty checks on things like an entire truck of flowers because she knew her next idea/paycheck was just around the corner.
+ She didn’t love kids (though neither did Seuss or Dahl).
+ After her girlfriend died, she wrote of her: “One who has dared to be gloriously good and gloriously bad in one life. No limbo for her.”
+ Brown herself died like a queer TV character. No joke. She recovered from an emergency appendectomy and when the nurse told her she was free to go, she “kicked off her sheets with characteristic enthusiasm” and it knocked a blood clot loose in her leg which killed her that same day.
Goodnight Moon has sold millions and millions of copies, about 800,000 per year since the early ’90s. It makes everyone’s list of best children’s books. The New York Times was still extolling its virtues in an op-ed that ran just two years ago! Not bad for a 68-year-old picture book that started as a sad gay love poem.
It is wild how every woman on earth who’s been out there getting shit done all this time has also been out there being gay as a window. Or a great green room. Or two little kittens. Or a pair of rainbow mittens.
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