Meet Ayana Rodriguez-Boucher. She is a successful business development executive who is using her experience as the daughter of a gay man to develop a series of children’s books that will highlight how we can all make the choice to accept, love and embrace people who are not like us. Amazing, right?
It was a beautiful September day in 1981 when Ayana’s father asked her to take a walk with him and she as she recalls that walk, she says that the walk “would change our lives, and relationship, forever.” It was on that walk where her father looked at his precious little nine-year-old daughter and said, “I’m gay.” What was meant to be a cathartic moment for her father, turned into a timeline of contention, hurt, despair and mistrust for Rodriguez.
She kept her father’s “secret” to herself, often refusing even to acknowledge him. She avoided him and the subject of homosexuality completely. In hindsight, Boucher realizes she missed out on building a healthy relationship with her father, but as soon as she became a mother, everything shifted.
Ayana told #TeamBeautiful in an exclusive interview that she’s learned several valuable lessons because of her father’s admission to her during a walk when she was nine-years-old. “There’s no guidebook and handbook to parenting. I realized that, watching my father who’s an educator and is a very smart man interact with his grandchildren, I said I have to figure this out, I have to make this work and accept certain things.”
And through accepting things, Boucher knew that she didn’t want her relationship with her father to limited to the relationship he shares with her children. That realization helped Ayana on her quest as an author. She told us, “I knew I wanted him to be a part of my children’s life, I knew I wanted him to be a part of my life. The only way I could do that was by being open. Through the children’s book and watching my children with their grandfather, I learned about acceptance and openness. I want my children to have an honest relationship with their grandfather.”
Ayana is using her unique life experiences to speak to the children in a series of children’s books, where she will be breaking down issues similar to her own so that kids can better understand them. “I feel there’s such a need for contemporary or identifiable stories that children can relate to certain social family dynamics that have become so much a part of our society in the last 15 years.” And that’s why she’s taking it upon herself to offer just that to the world.
“The first book really is about Rae, who’s my muse and my four-year-old daughter, and her two papas (Papa Ray and Papa Ted), her experiences and adventures with them and the underlying story is how you get the message across in an elementary way, where children understand it as unconditional love and respect,” Boucher says with obvious excitement in her voice. She’s also going to expand the subject matter into social topics like interracial parents, autism and more. “There’s so many different dynamics in the world today and I think parents need a tool to really allow children to understand that they’re not alone. So many times we feel we’re alone in this journey or trying to figure out this process. That’s when children become insecure and they don’t feel like they have a voice in society,” Ayana adds.
And she’s here to help the children of our world not only have a voice, but contribute to their education and tolerance. Ayana tells us, “We’re trying to have children use the books for a fun, academic learning process. Children of color have a voice and should be able to find contemporary, more relevant books and toys that represents them.” And these books will not only be for children of color, they will be for everyone because Ayana wants all children to read these books to create universal understanding. “I think we should find a way of bringing the commonalities to the forefront when we’re talking to our children.”
With all the violence that has erupted in our world over the years, especially now that social media has made said violence a more apparent part of our culture, people like Ayana could move the needle on tolerance, awareness and acceptance. “How do we choose to be an influence to our nieces and nephews? Yes, we can protest. I believe in that. I’ve been there at one point in my life, but, we have to be responsible.”
She adds, “Dealing with violence is a whole other issue and I believe it deserves discussion. There’s so many things that I think my books will evolve into once we get the first two published. There is no box and I believe in big picture. That’s why I feel in my heart that I needed to speak on it.”
Ayana is currently shopping around for publishing deals, but expects her beautiful contribution to children’s literature to be published by September 2015.
–with reporting by Jade Earle
About Ayana Rodriguez-Boucher:
Ayana Rodriguez-Boucher, a successful business development executive earned her MBA from the University of Miami, she has made it her mission to give back to the Miami community she calls home through her active participation in organizations that support, nurture and mentor children in need. Ayana has a unique perspective on the dynamics between children and their gay grandparents. Her father (Papa Ray) and his longtime partner (Papa Ted) have showered her two young children with love and affection since the day they were born. She has watched how these two men have served as important role models. And she recognizes how Papa Ray and Papa Ted have enriched her children’s lives. But it took a long time for Ayana, the daughter of a Puerto-Rican gay man, to accept who her father was. Ayana is currently developing a series of children’s books that will highlight how we can all make the choice to accept, love and embrace. Her writing about her experience has recently appeared on Essence.com, My Journey To Acceptance With My Gay Dad. Twitter: @ayanarod1
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