Tuesday, October 27, 2009

I'm indignant, as a consumer!

As usual, my first thought when I heard about the Scholastic Book Fair/Lauren Myracle book controversy (to sum up: middle grade author of non-gay-themed book asked to turn gay parents into straight parents for book fair edition) was a selfish one.


I have fond memories of book fairs. We didn't have a lot of extra money when we were kids, and in my memory, book fairs were one of the only times I got to pick out my own books to keep. (My sisters may remember this differently, and I'm not even sure if book fairs were common when Kathleen was in elementary school. History of book fairs, anyone?) Why I wasted such opportunities on books like How to Draw Horses and The Ghost at Dawn's House is a mystery to me. (The fact that I remember buying these books specifically shows how significant the fairs were, I think.) I also remember buying a copy of Beverly Cleary's A Girl From Yamhill, though, and I think Daddy Long Legs.

Oh, how I remember the class visits to the book fairs to pick out what books we would buy when we came back with our parents, and how the teachers would try to shoo the kids away from the picture books once we were in upper elementary, which seems sad.

But how many of those books we bought at the book fairs had been changed from their original form? How many had words or characters or scenes altered? I learned about this practice a few years ago; I think it applies to the "book orders", too (those colorful fliers the teachers sent home every couple of months; I got a few books from there as well, like the first Pen Pals book). And I started to remember how occasionally I've noticed a difference in editions--like my ancient Scholastic copy of Anne Emery's Senior Year, in which teenagers are suddenly dancing the hustle instead of the original foxtrot.

I want to read the books as they're written. I think most people do. At the very least, I want to know I'm reading an altered edition. Are there disclaimers on Scholastic books now? I can't remember seeing one before. Don't we need a "this book has been edited for length and content" kind of message on there, so at least we KNOW the real book is out there?

If you were a parent and bought a no-gay-parents edition of Luv Ya Bunches (sorry, the sweetness of that title gives me the willies, too) for your kid, wouldn't you feel sort of dirty? I would.

Scholastic has put out a weird update on this situation of a neither-confirm-nor-deny stripe. (It makes no sense: if they "recognize Milla’s two moms as a positive and realistic aspect of the story", why would they ask to have them removed?) I'm puzzled that they mention carrying After Tupac and D Foster at book fairs. Is it an edited version or not? If not... why one and not the other? Perhaps it's because After Tupac skews slightly older; maybe it's the very middle-gradeness of Myracle's book that made someone think two moms were inappropriate. ("You can learn about different kinds of families when you're older, honey.") Maybe they know that the kind of parents who would be offended by Myracle's two moms would never, ever pick out After Tupac in the first place. Maybe they think the book is insidious because it looks "safe" but OMG liberal agenda!!!1!

Let's call it like it is, Scholastic. Let's put out Luv Ya Bunches: The Homophobic Edition.


Kathleen McDade said...

Of course we had book fairs (and book orders), dork. I'm not that old.

The stupid thing is that (as far as I know) the two moms are not even an integral part of the story. It's not a book with an agenda at all.

Wendy said...

Well, some people older than me on the child_lit listserv were saying they hadn't known what book fairs were, so I wasn't sure when they started. I know book orders have been around since time immemorial, because sometimes I find order slips in old books.

grrlpup said...

I think book fairs and the book club slips were my only chance for "gimmicky" books. The ones I remember were a boxed set of Choose Your Own Adventure books, a boxed Narnia set (less gimmicky, but I'm pretty sure the boxed aspect was what appealed to me), the Guinness Book of World Records and The Book of Lists (these were by far the most popular selections in my class), and of course in 1981 the solution book for the Rubik's Cube.

I'm still surprised my parents let me spend their money on these "junk" selections; very uncharacteristic for them. There's just something about a book fair.