Banned Book week is coming up in few days and one of the books often “banned” is “Heather Has Two Mommies,” a book written by Leslea Newman and Illustrated by Diana Souza. It’s often said “You can’t tell a book by its cover,” but the title, in this case, contains more than a hint.
The plot is that a child goes to school and discovers that her peers have different family compositions than the one with which she’s familiar. Two lesbian parents decide to have Heather through the mechanism of a sperm donor. Even though her parents are gay, there’s no shortage of love, get it?
By now, everyone should get it because everyone knows that straight parents have gay kids and that gay kids or gay adults are not to be kicked around, harassed, or bullied because of their sexual orientation. The teaching establishment in some schools would say it wants to make sure that graduates don’t go out in the world harboring biases against gays. It often worries more about that than the drop-out rate.
Books like “Heather Has Two Moms” have caused controversies in the schools and communities around the country. Literacy and educational organizations have banded together to charge the barricades in a frenzy to accuse the “conservative” enemy of book banning. Of course, this manipulation of images intends to convey images of Hitler and the Nazis destroying the books of non-Aryan civilization.
Are “Conservatives” Behind Book Banning in the Schools?
It’s sexy to decry “book banning;” it’s not as noble-appearing to question the role of the schools in promoting life-styles, sub-cultures, and the ideological agendas of invisible academic socializers hidden away in the deep folds of the educational bureaucracy. It’s one thing to teach respect for the rights of others; it’s quite another to attempt to replace one bias with another. Vilifying “conservatives” or “fundamentalists” is essentially a means of favoring, promoting, and proselytizing for one person’s right at the expense of another.
Do Parents Have Rights, Too?
That’s what some parents feel is happening in regard to some “banned books.” Certain members of the educational staff are usurping the role of parents, and since parents are not present in the captive audience which is the classroom, parents trust neither the message nor the messenger.
Parents feel it is their right to inform students about what is “natural;” some educators, and YA novelists like Leslea Newman, are telling students it is just as “natural” to be a queer parent, aided by sperm banks, as it is to be a heterosexual parent. So much “book banning” is really a conflict between school (read “the state) and parents. After all, no books are banned from being printed and disseminated in America, but choices are always made in the selection of books in library school districts.
Help! I’m a “WOP!”
Those who are late to the “banned books” debate may think the concerns are limited to liberal v. conservative political lines. That’s not true. Books like “Huckleberry Finn” have been “banned” because they contain the “n-word.” The “n-word” sets off an entirely negative reaction in me, too, but I wouldn’t ban a great book like Bernard Malamud’s “The Assistant” because it frequently uses the word “wop” to describe Italians. It is true, of course, that there were no Italian lynchings as there were with blacks, so perhaps the analogy is strained. But long ago I read Hitler’s book, “Mein Kampf.” Did that make me a Jew hater? Quite the opposite, I learned a great deal.
American society might be better off if the schools did not shift so much from their traditional role of setting education as the priority, rather than socialization. In many cases, it is “the state” which is forcing the ideological social agenda and usurping parental roles.
American Library Association-Take Note
The “book banning” crusaders might be taking themselves too seriously. Several presumably liberal readers give “Heather Has Two Mommies” low ratings.”
“I wanted to like it if only because it upset conservatives,” says one reader, “but YAWN.”
Another reader laments:
“If only it were being banned in American because it, in fact, SUCKS!!!”
Whereas “Willow,” who identifies herself as a lesbian, jokes:
“What kind of lesbian am I that I haven’t read this book?”