A better version of Jesse’s Dream Skirt

Magnus issue #2

As you know from my previous post, Jesse’s Dream Skirt is a children’s story about a little boy who wears a skirt to daycare. But did you know there are actually two published versions of the story?

Before it was picked up by the feminist publishing collective Lollipop Power, the story was first printed in 1977 in a “socialist journal of gay liberation” called Magnus. The magazine only had two issues before it folded, and the story appeared in issue #2.

For the Lollipop Power edition, the author used his “real” name, Bruce Mack. It may have been for legal reasons, i.e. to protect his copyright; or it may have been the preference of the publishers, I really don’t know. (If you were involved and have information about this, please help me fill in the blanks.)

In the Magnus printing, the author used the name Morning Star. I understand this was a name he went by in the circle of gay activists of which he was a member. He also used it, in the form of “morningstar,” to sign his dedication to his mother in the Lollipop Power edition.

While I’m the illustrator of the book edition, the Magnus version was illustrated by Larry Hermsen. I’m now in contact with Larry and he has given me permission to share his 4 pen-&-ink line drawings in the context of this project — so stay tuned for those in later posts! They’re delightful, and I want to clarify that the title of this post (“a better version…”) does not relate at all to the illustrations, only to the story itself. Larry and I have different artistic styles, but neither is better or worse than the other.

As to the story itself, when comparing the two versions from a literary perspective, I would guess that the first publication did not involve any input from an editor or feedback from a writers’ group. Some of the phrasing is a little awkward (e.g. “every color of the rainbow flowed into one another”) and some of the vocabulary (e.g. ridicule, fashioned) seems a little beyond the simple words one would use with a preschool audience.

What this highlights to me is what a great job the Lollipop Power editors did in helping to tweak the story into something that flows without a hiccup.

More importantly, improvements were also made to the storyline and the attitudes of the characters. Four main areas come to mind:

  • the mother’s style of parenting;
  • the children’s ways of reacting;
  • the teacher’s position;
  • the focus and conveyed message.

I’ll explore each of these in later posts. Meanwhile, what are your thoughts on what I’ve told you in this one?

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