Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Gay Teen Books: Good News and Bad News

The good news is that Rainboy Boys, Alex Sanchez's 2001 gay teen book, has been returned to an optional summer reading list in Rochester, New York, after it was removed in a big controversy last year (that we documented in detail).

My Rochester friend, librarian Ove Overmeyer, had this to say in an article on the development:
"Those lists should be lists of inclusion, nothing should be excluded. That's a good thing. I think we learned something from the whole process," he said.

"Parents should be responsible for what their children read, but other parents shouldn't tell other parents what their kids should read," Overmyer said.
In less satisfying news, a former student of mine, Carrie Jones, has heard rumblings of censorship due to the word "gay" in the title of her fab new book, Tips on Having a Gay (Ex) Boyfriend.
Some booksellers are afraid of controversy. They have bottom lines. They need to make them. I knew that places like Wal-Mart wouldn't stock my book because of that word, the GAY word. I had hoped that independent bookstores would be a little more, um, independent. I had hoped that they would fight the good fight so that kids could get books that were different, that meant something, that had themes that made them think. I can understand that they are afraid that people might picket their bookstores, might cause a stir about a book that has the word 'gay' in it, and that could hurt their business, but what this comes down to really is pre-censorship.

What does this mean? It means that books with gay themes or even the word "Gay" in the title aren't as available. You have to hunt for them. Their authors might not sell as many books. That makes the authors a little less lucrative to publishing houses. Maybe their next book won't get published. Maybe it will. But it's harder.
I feel Carrie's pain. I really, really do.

Here at AS IF!, we believe in freedom of choice--even, I suppose, the freedom to not stock a book with an otherwise enthusiastic audience solely due to perceived or real prejudice.

But it's still frustrating.


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