McEntee: Author of bounced book explains its genesis
Patricia Polacco, whose children's book In Our Mothers' House got bounced from a Davis County elementary school library shelf to "behind the counter," wants to make one thing clear: The book did not belong in the kindergarten-third grade section.
Rather, she says, it should have been on the fourth-grade-and-up shelves, where curious kids might read it and spark a good discussion with their families at the dining room table.
Or on the couch, or in the car, or anywhere else where a child might ask a question and listen to adults who explain things in such a way that she can, as kids do, think it over and come to her own conclusion.
That was very much the point of In Our Mothers' House, and the way the district handled the objections of some parents has library and anti-censorship organizations including the Utah Library Association (ULA) calling foul.
"What concerns us is that this is a district where there are, as in most districts, same-sex parents with children," says Acacia O'Connor of the Washington, D.C.-based National Coalition Against Censorship. "This and other books are adopted to teach tolerance and recognize those families."
In fact, it was a girl in Texas who wanted to read an essay about her family and same-sex parents but was told she couldn't because she wasn't from "a real family" who moved Polacco to write the book.
Polacco, author of dozens of children's books, visits hundreds of classrooms every year, and she was in one in Texas six years ago when the girl was shut down by a teacher.
"She came up to me and said, 'Would you write about my family?' " Polacco says. "I did it to more or less showcase her struggle. To be a bully against children, that's cruel. She comes from a real family."
As for the Davis parents who objected, she says, what if their child will grow up gay?
In Our Mothers' House, she adds, the story is told by the adopted kids' perspective as adults.
"They were raised happily as a rule. They had advantages," Polacco says. "Why would someone assume they were short-changed?"
That's what the writer Todd Parr seems to be up to with The Family Book, which is under fire in an Illinois school district, O'Connor says. The book talks about all sorts of child-raising by gay or straight parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles and other variations.
It's "about saying that there are families with two moms or two dads," she says. "It's a neutral statement about what children will encounter, and to react with tolerance. It's hard to see how you could criticize that impulse."
On Friday, the ULA was planning to issue a statement or write to the Davis School District, said Executive Director Anna Neatrour. Until then, she pointed to the American Library Association's stand that books should not be removed due to complaints from patrons, thus eliminating another patron's freedom of speech and choice.
In my mind, Polacco gets it right.
"All my books are about heart and home. That's what this is about, not lifestyle, gender, any of that," she says. "It's the simplicity about loving and being in a loving home."
Peg McEntee is a news columnist. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org, facebook.com/pegmcentee and Twitter, @Peg McEntee.
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