These banned books are delightful!

So cool that Barnes & Noble even has a special display featuring “banned books”

I was most disturbed to read a recent article in one of the weekly magazines I subscribe to titled, “Battling over books – Conservative groups and Republican Officials are campaigning to ban books from schools and libraries.” The article showed the cover of a children’s book titled “My Two Dads and Me,” that was banned by a school district in Walton County, Florida.

And I have even seen this play out in my own city, Raleigh and Wake County, North Carolina. A few parents even filed a lawsuit demanding that such books as “Lawn Boy” by Jonathan Evison and “Gender Queer” by Maia Kobabe be removed from school libraries for being inappropriate pornography.

So I decided to order these three aforementioned books to read them for myself.

“My Two Dads and Me” written by Michael Joosten and illustrated by Izak Zenou is targeted for pre-school children to depict two fathers enjoying all kinds of activities with their kids. The diversity depicted in the book presents children with a beautiful diverse view of family configurations. The various illustrations include two white dads with a brown baby, a brown dad and a white dad with a white kid, a black dad and white dad with a brown kid, and two white dads with a white kid. And the diversity includes nerdy looking dads, dads with facial hair, bald dads and more.

Two of the banned books I ordered and read

The reality is that some kids have two moms or two dads, or maybe just one mom or one dad, and of course a mom and a dad. Trying to deny the existence of same gender couples with kids does a grave disservice to these parents, their children and society as a whole.

Then I read “Lawn Boy” by Jonathan Evison. This beautiful novel follows an Hispanic young man raised in poverty by a struggling single mother. The well meaning young protagonist Mike struggles with a rash of bad luck, much of it coming at the hands of opportunistic and selfish wealthy business owners who exploit their labor. In addition, Mike is trying to discover himself, including grappling with the possibility that he may be gay.

The complainers about this book described it as pornography. Yes, the book did include some cuss words, and it did reference a blow job, but there were no descriptive pornographic scenes in the book. In addition, the book was written for high school reading level and adults, and certainly there is nothing in this book that these readers have not already seen and heard. It is more likely that these close-minded bigots who protested about this book have never read it, and simply do not want anything dealing with sexual orientation, racism or class struggles to be made available.

In addition, the back of the book includes a discussion guide for small group discussions around topics such as impact of growing up in poverty on world view, differences in economic class, etc.

Next on my reading list is “Gender Queer” by Maia Kobabe, an autobiography dealing with identifying as nonbinary and asexual. Reading about the experiences of people different from myself will help me grow as a more inclusive and understanding human being.

Some Princes Don’t Care Much For Princesses – So What’s the Big Deal?

The queen was quite concerned that all the other princes in their region were married, but her son Prince Bertie was not.

The queen was quite concerned that all the other princes in their region were married, but her son Prince Bertie was not.

Please see the several links to additional blogs and resources at the bottom of this short blog.

In the May 15th Raleigh News and Observer, front page, was a story (link) about third grade teacher, Mr. Omar Currie, who got into hot water for reading the book “King and King” by Dutch authors Linda De Haan and Stern Nijland to his third grade class in rural Efland, North Carolina. Mr. Currie read this delightful book to his class after a boy was being bullied in his classroom and the word “gay” was used in a negative sense. (NOTE: follow up newspaper article on the subsequent public hearing.)

This book is a classic fairy tale about Prince Bertie, who is single despite his mother’s wish that he find a princess to marry. After the queen issues an invitation to the world’s princesses to come meet her eligible bachelor prince son and Bertie meets a very diverse set of princesses from all corners of the globe, he finally (and bravely) declares to his mother, “I’ve never cared much for princesses.” Luckily, Prince Bertie meets Price Lee, and they fall in love and get married.

Good news!  Prince Bertie finally meet Prince Lee, they fall in love, get married and live happily ever after.

Good news! Prince Bertie finally meet Prince Lee, they fall in love, get married and live happily ever after.

Now a local resident who does not even have a child enrolled in the school with a few other local parents are raising a fuss about the “inappropriateness” of the book. So I ask, what is so inappropriate about reading one single children’s book that features a same-gender couple? Here are 3 important short points:

1. Same gender (or gay) marriage is now a reality in 21st century USA and in many countries around the world including Europe and Latin America. A majority of US states now have same-gender marriage and more than likely it will be a nationwide reality after the US Supreme Court issues a final ruling on this matter in late June. And even Mr. Currie states that several students in his school have two moms or two dads. Shouldn’t those families be included in stories as well as all others?

2. Schools must address bullying and foster diversity. When a girl is bullied for being a “tomboy”, or a boy is bullied for being a little feminine, or a child is bullied for being multi-racial, or has a disability, or two mommies or two daddies, the school must address it. Children need to be taught early and often that bullying is always wrong and that all people should be respected and valued.

Third grade teacher Omar Currie acknowledges applause in response to his impassioned speech at a community hearing. Photo: Harry Lynch,

Third grade teacher Omar Currie acknowledges applause in response to his impassioned speech at a community hearing. Photo: Harry Lynch, [email protected]

3. Teaching about different ways of life does not diminish or detract from anyone! Mr. Currie estimates he reads 500 books in a typical school year to his class. So one book out of 500 features a same-gender couple. That in no way takes away from opposite gender couples or single parents families that may be portrayed in the other 499 books! People need to get over feeling threatened by people who are not exactly like them.

In closing, I would like to salute the enlightened teacher Mr. Omar Currie for doing the right thing in his class. Let’s all emulate Mr. Currie and support diversity of all kinds of families in our schools, business settings, churches and communities!

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Additional blogs and resources:

Blog about LGBT bullying and hate speech.

Blog about a leading anti-bullying non-profit, the Tyler Clementi Foundation.

Connection to GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network), resources for promoting equality and protection of all LGBT students in schools at all grade levels.

Blog with two scenarios of schoolyard bullying eventually impacting workplace harassment.

Blog about LGBT diversity and bullying in the sports world.

Website with resources on hate crimes.

Blog with link to an organization about being an ally to the LGBT community.