Freedom to Read: homosexuality in juvenile fiction

In honour of Freedom to Read week coming up later this month, I thought it’d be interesting to have a look at some of the books that have the “honour” of a spot on Canada’s list of challenged books.

The two I’ve picked for this week relate to homosexual relationships. First, Asha’s Mums by Rosamund Elwin and Michele Paulse.

Asha’s class is getting ready for a field trip and her teacher has looked over the permission slip and is now asking Asha which one of these women is her mother. Asha tells her teacher that they both are and the teacher tries to tell her she can’t possibly have two and if she doesn’t fill the form out properly, she can’t go to the Science Centre. Talk about a dilemma. The story itself is pretty short and it’s never said flat out that it’s a gay couple. The children in the story have a bit of a discussion about how it’s possible to have two aunts and two grandparents, so why not two moms and that’s about it. The moms have a conference with the teacher to assure her their family is like Asha said it is and then it’s okay for Asha to go to the Science Centre. Asha does ask Sara and Alice what the teacher said about the two mummies thing but whatever the answer might have been, it’s never mentioned.

According to FTR, Surrey, B.C. banned the use of this book and a couple similar titles in their public schools in 1997 even though none of those books actually referred to people as gay or homosexual. They’d also refused to allow any purchase of other titles suggested by Gay and Lesbian Educators of British Columbia but the Supreme Court of Canada later overruled that, on the basis that the B.C. School Act “requires public schools to be secular, pluralistic and respectful of diversity.”

The other one is Daddy’s Roommate by Michael Willhoite. In this, a boy’s parents have divorced and now he spends weekends with Dad, who is living with another man. They do everything together. They work, eat, sleep, shave, fight and make up. And Dad’s roommate likes the boy and does all the same fun things with him that his dad does and enjoys spending time with both of them at ball games, the zoo, the beach, etc. Mom tells the boy that his father is gay and explains that being gay is “just one more kind of love. And love is the best kind of happiness.” So, thanks to an understanding Mom and caring Dad, the boy gets a nice lesson about relationships.

In 2005, ironically during Freedom to Read Week, a patron was bothered about the book being on display at the Lethbridge Public Library and thought it should be removed. The argument put forth was that homosexuals are not good role models. Further attempts to officially challenge the book never happened, however, so the library retained its copy without having to fight for the right to keep it.

Now, here’s the thing. I think it’s unfortunate that people have a tendency to approach the topic of homosexual relationships as something morally lacking or somehow inappropriate. When it comes to those who think their morality is built out of bible verses, how do they rationalize the decision to ignore whole swaths of holy writ yet justify clutching at this part? Could they even argue their case if they weren’t allowed to refer at all to a 2000 year old scribble? Likely not — at least, not well.

And look at all the grief that results from condemning what science has pretty much sorted out to be a natural human deviation. It’s natural, so how can it be wrong? It’s like arbitrarily deciding that left-handed people are somehow bigger sinners for it and must be punished if caught writing with the sinister hand. Crazy.

Watch for another controversial book choice next Monday.

About 1minionsopinion

Canadian Atheist Basically ordinary Library employee Avid book lover Ditto for movies Wanna-be writer Procrastinator
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4 Responses to Freedom to Read: homosexuality in juvenile fiction

  1. notreallyalice says:

    American libraries have plenty of these problems and plenty of staff who prefer to define “freedom to read” as “freedom to read only the things I have decided are appropriate for the entire world.” And they don’t understand how arrogant that is.

    Anyways, for further banned reading, I vote for: Ellis, Deborah. Three Wishes: Palestinian and Israeli Children Speak. It’s on p. 3 of the PDF list.

  2. 1minionsopinion says:

    I checked my library catalogue and unfortunately our only copy of that one is marked missing. But thanks for the suggestion anyway.

    I work for a library doing the book processing/ordering and it looks like our selectors make a conscious effort to pick out a wide range of books on various issues and topics. Now if only we had more people on the processing end of this to get these books out of this department and into the branches. We’re 5 months behind on book cataloguing and seven for cds and DVDs. Anyone who calls up wondering why a certain book is still not available to borrow gets growled at. Heh. I could send more books out but we’re currently out of bins and I don’t dare ship them to branches in boxes lest the boxes get wet and damage everything inside.

    /// end job rant.

  3. notreallyalice says:

    Have you seen the “Librarians who say motherfucker” blog? It’s linked on my blog. You might like it 🙂 It makes me thankful that I don’t work in a public library.

  4. 1minionsopinion says:

    Noo.. had not seen that before. It looks very hilarious and alarmingly close to home. Yeah, you think a library is a safe haven away from the kooks but no.. so very wrong…

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