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Archive for the ‘books’ Category

First, I admit that I really only knew that THIS was the week thanks to Mombian and Lesbian Dad. So, credit where credit is due.

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.

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I was recently perusing a catalog for a Scholastic book order. When I was a teacher, I gave them out half-heartedly. On the one hand, they enabled some students to get books at a very low cost, they encouraged reading, and they also helped me to build my classroom library. On the other hand, I found the offerings to be quite limited, much of the “literature” to be of poor quality, and too often the books came with chintzy toys and the toys seemed to sometimes have more draw than the books themselves. All that being said, I do not think the idea itself is a bad one.

Fast forward to a few days ago. I was looking over the flyer online as I thought I might want to buy a book or two via an online buying option. After just a moment, I knew there were no books that I wanted to add to the library. But as I looked at the flyer, I was more struck by the options that were available. Most blaring was the section “For Girls.” (You can find an example if you look at a flyer here.)

I do not deny that there are books that tend to be better liked by boys and those that tend to be better liked by girls. But the operative word here is tend. There are no books, save perhaps those on particular developmental or biological topics, that are really only for girls (or boys, for that matter).

More troubling, however, is the idea that a boy might get when he looks at the flyer. Let’s pretend he’s perusing the flyer and finds a book or two he likes. One happens to have a girl as the main character. And the cover happens to be pink. His eyes travels up and he sees the header for that section of the flyer: “For girls.” What’s the boy to think? Is he not allowed to read that book? Is he not allowed to be interested in the book? If he is interested in it, what does that say about him? Worse yet, if he likes it, what does that say about him? The messages of exclusion, of narrow gender roles and gendered options are insipid. And their effects troubling. Yet most of us probably don’t even give that little header on the flyer a second thought. Troubling….

Gendered Options

Gendered Options

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