Sunday, February 18, 2007

"Men's genitalia have no place in quality literature!"

So says a librarian who is seeking to keep this year's Newbery Medal winner, The Power of Lucky by Susan Patron, off her shelves. Apparently, there is a passage in the book where the main character overhears someone talking about how a rattlesnake bit their dog "on the scrotum." Unlike the thematic concerns with the Harry Potter books or Catcher in the Rye, the firestorm over this particular book seems to center around this one word.

In reading this article, I find it striking that several of the librarians who aren't stocking the book are doing so over fear of parental backlash, not because of their personal objections. While there may be some parental backlash, I don't think it's right to deny all the kids in the school a chance to read the book. The book is aimed at children aged 9-12, so it seems age-appropriate to me. Kids are learning about sex and reproduction at that age, and they probably already know several slang expressions for "scrotum". What's wrong with teaching them the real word?

There are also creative ways to teach it without going into graphic detail. When I was in college, I was staffing the table for the Center for Womyn's Concerns. We had brochures, buttons, stickers and free condoms. For some reason, there was a 10-year-old boy on campus and he was looking at amy stuff and asked me what the condoms were. I told him that people who didn't want a baby used them to make sure they didn't get one. And you know what? He was satisfied with that. I didn't have to launch into a lengthy explanation about what sex was and how the condom was used. And if I, as a 20-year-old who hadn't been around kids that age since they were my age peers, could come up with that, shouldn't someone who spends all day with kids and holds a master's degree in teaching them be able to do just as well?

I would be interested to hear from anyone who has actually read this book, or has a differing opinion as to whether or not it belongs in schools.


Dale said...

Your headline (a quote from one of the librarians interviewed) amazes me. While the book (which I haven't read, but will next week) does evidently use the word "scrotum" it's not used about "men's genitalia" but about a dog. Good grief. What child--in the city or in the country--is not aware of the external sexual organs of dogs by age 8 or 9? I'm guessing pretty much zero. Librarians have to select books, every book can't be in every library. And just because a book has won an award doesn't mean it's appropriate in every library. But this just seems absurd to me.

Jamie said...

Goodness, I may have to go buy this book. My now grown children have always been told that if they hear a book has been banned (other than the obviously pornographic) they had to read it immediately. My son only objected when he was reading an old version of Little Red Riding Hood because she was carrying Wine in her basket for grandmother.

Just because one parent objects to a book is absolutely no reason for all children to be deprived of challenging literature. They should care for their own children and leave everyone else's alone unless they are worried about a children's black market their brainwashed little dears might access.