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A Heart Shaped Room by Jim Cartwright - Book Cover.jpg

My new children's book is now out!

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Note about Kindle: The Kindle formatting works fine on the Kindle Classic App. If you use the Kindle for Mac app, the book is still readable, but the formatting is flawed.

In "A Heart-Shaped Room," readers are introduced to Ricky, a boy with a deep love for his family and an immense talent for drawing. The narrative unfolds as Ricky's family faces a bitter dispute-- his grandparents refuse to accept their son's marriage to another man and don't want his husband Pedro to attend Aunt Laura's wedding.


Frustrated and deeply saddened by the divisive homophobia within his family, Ricky channels his feelings into his art. His creations reflect the hurt, the injustice, and the yearning for acceptance and love that echoes in his heart. But can Ricky's art bring about the change he hopes for? Can his family come together, overcoming their prejudices, for the love they have for each other?


"A Heart-Shaped Room" is a heartwarming exploration of familial love, acceptance, and the transformative power of art. It's an uplifting testament to the bravery of youth and the hope that love will eventually conquer hate.

Reviews of A Heart Shaped Room:

"While the representation in this book is meaningful, the core message invests in the power of change. Within a world that is quick to judge and shame, ‘A Heart Shaped Room’ reminds us of Hope—hope in our compassion and understanding, hope in sharing our stories, and, ultimately, hope in our mutual love for one another. As a parent, educator, and human, I’m grateful for this book."

- Phuong Lien Palafox

"Really cute book with a great message about how children can teach us to love and accept diversity."

- Audrey L.

"This book honors the eyes of children who have a lesson for us in making our world whole by making our families inclusive."

- Madronna H.

Jim Cartwright - Author of biography of Harry Hay

Here I share with you the opening pages of my to-be-published YA/adult biography in verse entitled Thank You for My Life: The Life of Harry Hay: Pioneering Gay Activist. Harry’s greatest contribution to the LGBTQIA2S+ community was being the first person to define LGBT as a cultural identity. He founded the Mattachine Society in 1950, which was the first enduring gay rights organization in the United States.

The biography portrays Harry’s life from early childhood up until his death when he was in his 90s. His story is told within the context of the times he lived in and helped shape. My book covers the different stages of Harry’s life, including his involvement with the Communist Party and appearing before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). It also covers his founding of and involvement with the Mattachine Society, his quest to pinpoint gay identity by studying the two-spirit traditions within Native American cultures, and his role in creating the Radical Faeries.

In the music strand of this website, please find the Harry Hay playlist, which contains music that is mentioned in or inspired by the book. Note: The playlist contains many songs that were originally quoted in the text but had to be omitted due to copyright issues. 

Big Trouble

“You’re wrong,”
Says Harry
All the forks at the dinner table
Freeze in midair

“Harry, we are waiting for you
To apologize to your father,”
Says his mother

His father, Harry Sr., said something about Egypt
That contradicts what Harry had learned in school
And he refuses to say his father is right 

So Harry Sr.
Grabs him from the table
Boxes his ears
Drags him out to the garage
And whips him with a leather strop

Ear boxing is a painful, dangerous form of punishment
Done by cupping a person’s hands over another person’s ears
And clapping them with their head in the middle
So that air is forced into the ear
Harry Sr. ear boxes his son so often
That Harry has permanent hearing damage in one ear

Harry Sr. also often whips Harry
Including when he catches him writing with his left hand
As he believes he should be right-handed

This night he beats him until he realizes
That no matter what
Harry won’t apologize 
Harry won’t back down

He sends him off to bed without supper



To Thine Own Self Be True

Harry creeps up to his room
And finds his school book
To confirm that his father is wrong

When his mother Margaret
Brings his supper up to his room
She finds him poring over a phrase from Shakespeare's Hamlet
In a book that his Aunt Kate had given him
“To Thine Own Self Be True”

He realizes 
If his father can be wrong
Then maybe the teacher can be wrong
Maybe the priest can be wrong
Maybe anyone can be wrong

This is the beginning
Of trusting the voice inside his own mind
Of trusting what he came to consider to be
The voice of his soul

It was a voice
He was going to need to listen to
Throughout his life

A life with many struggles ahead




At school
Harry dislikes all competitive sports

The bullies order him 
To kneel in front of a mud puddle
And admit that he is a sissy 

When he refuses
They push his face into the mud
And tear his clothes

After he comes home bruised
His father buys him boxing gloves
And insists that Harry
Punch him in the face 

Harry freezes
Not wanting to hit his father
Exasperated, his father takes off Harry’s gloves
And throws them on the floor


The Male Brotherhood

Inside his father’s home
Harry doesn’t form deep bonds with his siblings Peggy and Jack
He doesn’t find the male acceptance and love he needs
Nor the answers to his questions
About how to be himself in the world

So he looks for answers in the wider world

At the age of 10
Harry joins his first male brotherhood
The Western Rangers
A boys group is patterned after forest rangers 
And Native American tribal councils

The Western Rangers does not have the boys
Pledge of Allegiance to the flag 
Nor prepare them to grow up to be obedient soldiers

Through this group
Harry meets Sioux and Hopi Indians
On their pilgrimages to the Pacific Ocean
During their ceremonies, the boys form a circle around them on the beach
A barrier between them and any potential gawkers

Forming circles
And the influence of Native American cultures
Would return in Harry’s life
Again and again and again


The Forbidden Book

At age 11
Harry spends hours in the public library
He discovers there are a few books
Behind a locked glass case
The key is hidden in the librarian's drawer

He does volunteer work there
Stamping books and making change for overdue fees
One day the librarian trusts him 
To be there alone 
While she goes out to get her hair done

Harry takes the key
And finds a forbidden book
Called The Intermediate Sex by Edward Carpenter
It is the first time he sees the word homosexual
The book doesn’t say anything bad about them
It even mentions that such famous people
As Michelangelo and Walt Whitman were homosexual
Harry can’t find the word in the dictionary
But somehow he knows it means him

He gets so wrapped up in the book
He doesn’t see the librarian return
With an expression of horror at the book in his hands


Jim Cartwright, Author
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