Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Luv Ya Bunches controversy

Some of you probably caught wind of the controversy around a book called Luv Ya Bunches by Lauren Myracle. She was asked to change parts of it so that it could be carried in the Scholastic Book Fair--and one of those changes was to alter the sex of a character in a same-sex couple.

Here's a summary of what went on from Six Boxes of Books.

Scholastic censors Luv Ya Bunches

The headlines last week read:
Luv Ya Bunches Will Be in Middle School Book Fairs
Scholastic reverses decision regarding 'Luv Ya Bunches'
Scholastic to Sell 'Luv Ya Bunches' at Middle School Book Fairs
Scholastic Reverses Decision to Exclude Gay Friendly Book from Fairs

An accurate headline, though, would read: Scholastic Sells Censored Luv Ya Bunches in Middle School Fairs; Refuses to Include Gay Parents in Elementary Schools.

Luv Ya Bunches is about fifth graders. Publishers Weekly recommended it for ages 9-13. Clearly it is intended for both elementary and middle school students.

Let's talk a little about book fairs. Scholastic dominates the U.S. school book fair market. From 2003-2007 I hosted a Scholastic book fair at my middle school (continuing the previous librarian's tradition). On the appointed date the deliverymen wheel in giant carts that open to become book displays. The middle school fairs offer certain titles, which have been advertised in advance to students via posters and book fair brochures. The books, published by Scholastic and other publishers, range from paperback classics to brand-new releases. Schools can make special requests; I always asked for more multi-ethnic books to reflect the interests and diversity of my students. The person in charge of the book fair can choose to remove items from the display if they don't want to sell them. Most librarians I know do: expensive software, toys with small parts, books you don't think students are interested in might stay packed in boxes. At my last Scholastic fair I didn't display the posters for sale, because space was tight and I wanted to focus on books.

My point is that with any book fair, including Scholastic, you can choose what to offer from the books provided. No school is forced to offer a book for sale.

If you (librarians or book fair chairs) live in a community that is so homophobic that parents will protest a book with gay characters, and you are not willing to take a stand and offer the book, you don't have to. But Scholastic Inc., whose credo says they strive "To enlarge students' concern for and understanding of today's world," should not pander to this homophobic constituency by refusing to offer Luv Ya Bunches or other books with gay characters in its elementary school book fairs.

Michael A. Jones of writes, "This was a victory for us all." I see no victory. Scholastic Book Fairs concluded their review process and decided to include an expurgated edition of Luv Ya Bunches in its middle school book fairs. This may be what they were already going to do before last week's outcry. It represents no brave stance on the part of Scholastic, despite what Lauren Myracle claims. Here's what needs to happen to achieve a real victory.

Read the rest.

No comments: