Julián is a Mermaid by Jessica Love

Activity 1: What Does Gender Mean?

There are lots of different ways to be a boy, a girl, both or neither. There is no such thing as clothes or hairstyles that are just for boys or just for girls. You get to like what you like. In this book, Julián is experimenting with gender expression. Sometimes people think that clothes and hairstyles “go” with certain genders, but someone’s gender or pronouns (how they refer to themselves) is not about how they look; it’s about how they identify or feel.

How do we know that Julián’s abuela loves and respects Julián’s gender expression?

What are some ways that we can make sure everyone can wear what they want and be who they want to be in our communities?

See a discussion guide to this book.

Activity 2: Body Play

Nicola L. (1932-2018) was a feminist artist who worked with ideas about human bodies, society, and gender norms. She created Pénétrables, a series of canvases that you could literally wear, jumping into the canvas and becoming part of the “skin” of the painting. Some are now on display in Made in L.A. 2020: a version exhibition. She also made playful sculpture that also functions as furniture, such as the “giant man” couch.

The Canapé Homme Géant / Sofa Homme (Giant Cut in Pieces) is a couch made of separate parts of a “giant man.” His chest is the core of the sofa, and the man’s arms and legs are “pillows” that can be arranged and rearranged. If you were an artist, like Nicola L., how would you play with the human form to make art? Draw a giant person and transform them into furniture. What kind of furniture or other functional art or objects would you make from him/her/them?