Almost two years after publicly coming out as gay, children’s book author Matthew Paul Turner is focusing on inclusivity and unconditional love in his new book, I Am God’s Dream (Convergent, April 26), featuring illustrations by Madrid-based artist Estrella Bascuñan.
Though he has written nearly a dozen books for adults, Turner is best known for his children’s titles, including the 2019 bestseller When I Pray for You. That book, and those that came before it, were written in the second person, but a lot of things changed for Turner in 2020. The father of three ended his 15-year marriage to author and blogger Jessica Turner after coming out. The Covid-19 pandemic hit. And just one year earlier, Turner’s close friend Rachel Held Evans died, and he was helping to finish her children’s book, What Is God Like?
“There was grief on many levels during this time of my life,” Turner told PW. “It was an overwhelming time to be writing a book that I wanted to be filled with joy.”
Nevertheless, coming out helped Turner discover more strength and happiness, which impacted his work. Written in the first person, I Am God’s Dream took on some of the very words he was declaring over himself at the time. “I’d been writing the books I wished I’d had, hoping that every gay kid would get the wink and feel the love and space to be themselves,” Turner said. “I Am God’s Dream gives kids an ownership and agency over who they are and what they believe. It is a celebration of every kid and the God who delights in who they are.”
Intended for readers ages 3-7, I Am God’s Dream includes a poem of affirmations related to the body, emotions, friends, family, God, and more. A sampling from the storybook is as follows:
I am God’s child. I’m silly and wild.
I’m one of the billions of reasons God smiles.
I’m courageous and true. I’m a dream God pursues.
You might be surprised what God knows I can do!
After coming out, Turner received support from his publisher, Convergent, and he expressed gratitude for the kindness of many others across the industry. “As soon as I pushed 'post' on my coming out announcement, I started receiving a plethora of text messages from industry friends telling me they love me and support me or they’re proud of me,” he said. “That said, I’ve certainly experienced some loss in certain areas of the Christian publishing industry, but overall, I’ve received a great deal of support.”
Turner noted that LGBTQ+ people before him “sacrificed a lot more than me. I stood on their shoulders.” Along with a message about what he called “God’s big inclusive story,” Turner hopes his story will continue to break down walls for those who identify as LGBTQ+ “to not only come out in Christian spaces, but to become welcomed parts of the conversations surrounding faith and God.”
Calling I Am God’s Dream his favorite work so far, Turner added: “Hopefully I have given kids and parents a good and thoughtful way of talking about spirituality and God. That I have put in words things that God believes and who God is in their life.”