Honestly, they’re just a couple of penguins….
By Maryrose Wood
You all know what book banning is, right?
Book banning is when some person or group succeeds in getting a book taken off the shelves of schools, libraries or even bookstores because they don’t like what’s in it. Usually the objection revolves around some issue of sexuality, cursing, or references to the occult.
Book challenges are the precursors to book bannings — that’s when a person or group registers a formal complaint to a book’s content, and asks that it be removed.
And, while I’m doing definitions, here’s another one: the First Amendment is the rockin’ part of the Constitution of the United States of America that says we all have the freedom not only to speak, but to read.
It’s largely thanks to the First Amendment that book challenges don’t more often turn into book bannings. Sadly, one of the most frequent reasons for book challenges in this country is if a book contains any reference to gayness. Gay people, gay teens, gay parents. Even, I am shocked to report, gay penguins.
According to the American Library Association, And Tango Makes Three, a picture book telling the true story of two male penguins in New York’s Central Park Zoo who worked together to hatch an adopted egg, was the most challenged book in the United States in 2006!
And Tango Makes Three, by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell, was published in 2005 and named one of the best picture books of the year by the ALA. But the thought of two boy penguins taking care of an egg together was too much for some folks to handle.
This is sort of funny, but it’s also a very clear example of how much anxiety and prejudice exists in some quarters about homosexuality. The tricky part is that many of the people who hold these negative views are taught in their churches that gayness is a sin, instead of part of the normal spectrum of human biology (which is what science has pretty much told us it is).
Which brings us back to the First Amendment, which also says that people have the freedom to practice religion as they see fit. Another basically awesome idea, and yet sometimes these freedoms collide. Then what?
Here’s how I see it: your freedom to practice your religion ENDS when it starts messing with other people’s books (or their right to choose who to date. Or marry, even!). You can read or not read what you want, but you can’t tell me or other people what to read.
And you sure can’t take away our books so we have no choice in what we read! That would really suck eggs, no offense to the penguins.
This is a big country with many beliefs, religions, and values being practiced by a hugely diverse group of citizens. In private we can lead our lives as we see fit, but when we come together in the public sphere (like in a school, or a library), our job is to accept diversity and be tolerant of differences. Not to freak out and try to make everyone think the way we do.
Deal? Glad that’s settled. Now, does anyone want to join me for a trip to the zoo?
Maryrose Wood’s latest YA novel, MY LIFE: THE MUSICAL, includes depictions of teens of both straight and gay sexual orientations, as well as some who are still thinking about it. But they’re all happily singing show tunes! Visit her at www.maryrosewood.com.