One of the most high-ranking banned books? And Tango Makes Three. Perhaps my seemingly random posting of a photo of penguins yesterday was actually a thoughtful foreshadowing of this book. Many of you probably know it, but it’s about two male penguins who clearly want to raise a baby penguin together. The zoo staff give them an egg to care for, which they do, resulting in their penguinette, Tango.
Q’s class did a dramatic rendition of this story last year. It was formative for him in many ways, not the least of which being because it was at the school’s gay pride assembly, for which he was the “junior MC!” But there was something simple about the message in Tango for Q. He liked the story, and he liked that they broke stereotypes, those penguins. And he liked the story. Did I mention he liked the story?
The other day I asked Q if he wished he read more books that had kids with two-mom families. He told me, “No. I just like all books. I like the stories.” Really, folks, it’s about the stories. Whether the characters are gay, straight, trans, genderqueer — what most kids gravitate to are the narratives. If it’s gripping and interesting and exciting, they like the book. And yes, I do firmly believe that kids learn things through literature (I’m a teacher, after all!), but do kids learn about gay sex from Tango? And are their heteronormative families the worse for it if they hear Tango? Absolutely not. And is my boy perhaps a bit BETTER for it when he hears Tango? Perhaps.
It’s outrageous how much energy folks put into the content of books and how much fear they direct towards said content. Fear of change, fear of difference, fear of the unknown. And yet isn’t that just what books are supposed to do? Transport us to realms yet unexplored? Help us imagine the unknown/what we could not even fathom were it not for such narratives?
Go on, have a look. It can’t hurt.