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Monday, October 26, 2009

Tolerance Instead of Censorship: Showing Love for Luv Ya Bunches by Lauren Myracle

Lauren Myracle's newest book, Luv Ya Bunches, revolves around four fifth-grade girls who become unlikely friends. The girls come from different backgrounds and have different home situations. One of them, Milla, has two moms. Scholastic declined to include Luv Ya Bunches in their immensely popular school book fairs unless the author omitted certain words and gave one of Milla's two moms a sex change. She agreed to remove the words they found objectionable - like "geez" and "oh my God" - but said no when they asked her to change Milla's parents.

I salute Lauren not only for populating her book with such diverse characters, but for standing by those characters and her story. I wish that television, film, and books depicted the world as it is: multicultural, with characters both gay and straight of varying heights, weights, and abilities, with various pets, in different family, school, and work situations, at different points in their lives, with different amounts of money, and -

Obviously, I could go on for days here, but my point is this: If we're writing and broadcasting stories about people in hopes they are stories and characters to which readers and viewers can relate, then shouldn't we show all kinds of people? All kinds of families? All kinds of lifestyles? All kinds of relationships?

When there's a story with a happy, well-adjusted family in which the parents happen to be of the same gender, why try change that? If the family had a male parent and a female parent, but the female was, say, taller than the male, or the mother figure worked full-time while the father figure was a stay-at-home dad, would anyone demand that that be changed?

When I spoke to Lauren today, I asked if her editors or publisher had expressed any concern when the book was being edited and proofed. We also talked about the diversity of characters, and the beauty we can find in our differences.

"When I wrote Luv Ya Bunches, one of my goals -- in addition to just plain telling a great story -- was to accurately represent the makeup of today's elementary schools, but not in a hit-you-over-the-head 'lesson on diversity' sort of way," Lauren said.

"Milla has two moms. Katie-Rose is half-Asian. Yasaman is Muslim. Violet is on her own with her dad. There is no such thing as 'normal' in this scenario; or rather, difference is normal. Do classrooms look like this in real life? They sure do at my son's school. But the point wasn't to make a big deal out of these differences. The point was exactly opposite: to tell a story about these specific, non-generic fifth-graders who, despite surface differences, come together and unite in friendship the way loving humans do."

For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. On October 23rd, a gentleman named Michael Jones began a petition on change.org urging Scholastic to support gay-friendly books, rather than censor them. He set the goal for 5,000 signatures. Three days later, when I was finalizing this piece on the evening of October 26th, the petition had 3,077 signatures. By the time I'd finished it, the petition had 3,126 signatures.

If you'd like to sign the petition, click here or utilize the widget below, at the bottom of this piece.

Thank you to Rocco Staino, whose article at School Library Journal first brought this to my attention last week.

For what it's worth, I had already planned to read Luv Ya Bunches, as I've read the majority of Myracle's previous novels. This includes Eleven, Twelve, and Thirteen, three books about a young girl named Winnie. Throughout the course of these books, Winnie deals life, family, friends, and schools. She develops her first crush on a boy and, subsequently, gets her first boyfriend. Like Luv Ya Bunches, these books were written for the pre-teen/tween audience and are shelved in the juvenile fiction section of the bookstore.

I've also read many of Myracle's young adult novels, and I think one of her strongest is Kissing Kate, a book that does a great job capturing the ups and downs of friendship and romance. In this case, the main romance is between two girls. I recommend it to girls and boys, gay or straight, adults or teens. It's a good book, and to me, that's what it's all about: reading, writing, and sharing good books.

Update on October 28th:

From Scholastic:
NEWS: Regarding Lauren Myracle's Luv Ya Bunches

The following is an update on Luv Ya Bunches and Scholastic Book Fairs:

Scholastic does not censor books. We review thousands of titles each year for our book clubs and book fairs, and we are committed to a review process that considers all books equally regardless of their inclusion of LGBT characters and same sex parents. In an interview with School Library Journal, Scholastic stated that we are currently carrying Luv Ya Bunches by Lauren Myracle in our school book clubs. We also said we were still reviewing the book for possible inclusion in our book fairs. Having completed our review of Luv Ya Bunches, Scholastic Book Fairs will carry the title in our spring fairs for middle school.

Scholastic is proud of our long history of providing books that will appeal to the wide range of interests and reading abilities of children in the many diverse cultures and communities we serve. Luv Ya Bunches is just one example.

- and and here is an additional piece by Mike Jones at change.org who began the petition.

In summary: Scholastic has announced that they will carry Luv Ya Bunches by Lauren Myracle in their middle school bookfairs. Thank you to everyone who signed the petition, and to everyone who supports truth in fiction and knows the value of a good book. :)

The fight isn't over yet, though. The book should be carried in the elementary school bookfairs too, don't you think? It was written for that age group, and the main characters are in 5th grade.

Keep spreading the word!

This article was cross-posted at Little Willow's Bildungsroman.


brizmus said...

action taken

Little Willow said...


Jodie said...

I signed, man that's pretty much a ridiculous situation there. You go along in daily life thinking progress is being made and stuff like this pops up (ok I'm in cynical mode right now - change is occuring).

Little Willow said...

Thanks for signing, Jodie!

Libba Bray said...

Lauren is my hero.

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