Biography

Lesléa (pronounced “Lez-LEE-uh”) Newman is the author of 70 books for readers of all ages, including A Letter to Harvey Milk; October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard; I Carry My Mother; The Boy Who Cried Fabulous; Ketzel, the Cat Who Composed; and Heather Has Two Mommies.

She has received many literary awards, including creative writing fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Massachusetts Artists Foundation, two American Library Association Stonewall Honors, the Massachusetts Book Award, the Association of Jewish Libraries Sydney Taylor Award, the Highlights for Children Fiction Writing Award, a Money for Women/Barbara Deming Memorial Fiction Writing grant, the James Baldwin Award for Cultural Achievement, the Cat Writer’s Association Muse Medallion, and the Dog Writers Association of America’s Maxwell Medallion. Nine of her books have been Lambda Literary Award Finalists.

Ms. Newman wrote Heather Has Two Mommies, the first children’s book to portray lesbian families in a positive way, and has followed up this pioneering work with several more children’s books on lesbian and gay families: Felicia’s Favorite Story, Too Far Away to Touch, Saturday Is Pattyday, Mommy, Mama, and Me, and Daddy, Papa, and Me.

She is also the author of many books for adults that deal with lesbian identity, Jewish identity and the intersection and collision between the two. Other topics Ms. Newman explores include AIDS, eating disorders, butch/femme relationships, and sexual abuse. Her award-winning short story, A Letter To Harvey Milk, has been made into a film and adapted for the stage.

In addition to being an author, Ms. Newman is a popular guest lecturer, and has spoken on college campuses across the country including Harvard University, Yale University, the University of Oregon, Bryn Mawr College, Smith College and the University of Judaism. From 2005-2009, Lesléa was on the faculty of the Stonecoast MFA program at the University of Southern Maine. From 2008-2010, she served as the Poet Laureate of Northampton, MA. She has taught fiction writing at Clark University and currently she is a faculty mentor at Spalding University’s brief residency MFA in Writing program.

Recently published books include the poetry collection I Carry My Mother (Golden Crown Literary Society Award and Massachusetts Center for the Book “Must Read” title); picture book Here Is The World: A Year of Jewish Holidays (Sydney Taylor Notable); Ketzel, The Cat Who Composed (Massachusetts Book Award, Sydney Taylor Award, and Cat Writers Association Best “Litter-ary” Award); and Sparkle Boy (Lee and Low, 2017). One of her forthcoming books is the picture book Gittel’s Journey: An Ellis Island Story (Abrams, 2018).

Listen to a sound file to learn the story of Lesléa’s first name and hear it pronounced correctly.