aka YA Literature

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Book Banning & Gay Characters

Maureen Johnson's latest book, The Bermudez Triangle, has been removed from the Mid-High School library in Bartlesville, OK. The parent who objected described all kinds of sex scenes that didn't exist, and the board that removed the book apparently didn't even bother to read it. I really liked how the parent suggested the Bible as an alterantive title on the objection form. Guess the Bible is just an all-around better book alternative to just about anything. Why do we bother to buy anything else for the library? However, I'm sure we can all agree how silly and insidious book banning is, so I won't dwell on it too much. What I would like to discuss is the issue of homosexuality in YA lit. Since there was actually no sex in the book at all, I can only assume that the parent objected to the mere inclusion of a lesbian relationship in the book, the most "graphic" depiction of which is kissing.

According to a study by Harvard University in 1995, at least 2.5% of teens identify themselves as homsexual. I don't know if that number has changed since then, but I do know that this is too many students to marginalize and ignore. Many studies have shown that homosexual teens are among the most at risk for using drugs, depression, homelessness, and suicide. Indeed, suicide is the leading cause of death among homosexual teens. I'm not saying that having YA literature in your high school library will prevent this, but a study by George Washington University did find that "gay sensitive" schools do improve the lives of the gay students who attend. I think having appropriate and relevant materials in the library is part of this (not to mention I believe it probably has benefits to non-gay teens as well). What is more important, that gay teens have access to materials and an environment that makes them feel healthy and safe, or someone's desire not to have such materials available (although they never have to use them personally)?


Holly said...

Well said.

Children's Librarian Extraordinaire said...

Perhaps the problem was that the book didn't contant the gay sex scenes!

However, on a serious note, I can say from my own experience that my library's gay literature got me though my teen years. It makes me realize that I need to read and review some good gay YA literature for this blog!

Sheryl said...

Can you suggest something that comes in audio? I am reading The Boyfriend List next and I was going to read Pretties after that, but I could maybe use a Scott Westerfeld sabattical.