Dana Rudolph

Scholastic Reverses Decision: Will Include LGBT-Inclusive Book in Book Fairs

Filed By Dana Rudolph | October 29, 2009 9:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment
Tags: banned books, lauren myracle, luv ya bunches, scholastic

Many of you have been following the story of Scholastic and their request that author Lauren Myracle change the lesbian moms of one character into a mom and a dad. According to the original article on this by School Library Journal, Scholastic would not consider the book for its book fairs unless the change was made.

Over 4000 people--many of you--signed a petition at Change.org asking Scholastic to reconsider. The hard-working folks at Change.org, especially Michael Jones, editor of their Gay Rights blog, also worked behind the scenes with Scholastic, and now bring us some good news: Scholastic will now include the book in their spring book fairs.

All is not yet resolved, however.

On the positive side, the company, which only received a 50 out of 100 on HRC's Corporate Equality Index, is now on record as stating: "We are committed to a review process that considers all books equally regardless of their inclusion of LGBT characters and same sex parents." I hope that stance will benefit many authors--and, more importantly, many children--in the future.

It's a far cry from Scholastic's response to SLJ's first inquiries, when they said: "Authors are often given the opportunity to make changes in the books to meet the norms of the various communities that host the fairs."

Did they change their minds, or was there an initial misunderstanding? You decide. Consider, though, that Myracle was kind enough to respond to an e-mail I sent her, before this latest news broke. She states:

I appreciate the support of Scholastic's Book Club, which makes books available to kids through their catalog, and which is indeed offering Luv Ya Bunches to its readers. I have recently been informed that Scholastic Book Fair is considering Luv Ya Bunches for its spring school book fairs. That's great. It's so very important, I think, to reflect the wonderful diversity of our country and culture. I do, however, stand by what I told School Library Journal.

Here's the remaining problem, though. Scholastic has only stated they will carry the book in their middle school book fairs. The book, however, is listed as appropriate for ages nine to twelve. Nine years old usually means fourth grade. Not only that, but the four protagonists of the book are in fifth grade. That's elementary school, folks, in every school system I've ever known.

The fine folks at Change.org are continuing to speak with Scholastic and see what more we might do to help make the book available to all kids for whom it is appropriate. My own sense is that Scholastic has made a move in the right direction, and we should acknowledge that--while at the same time letting them know that it is not enough.

On a related note, the story even caught the attention of Conan O'Brien. At about the 4:20 mark in yesterday'sTonight Show, he talks about a book that was banned from book fairs because it had lesbian moms. He mentions neither Scholastic nor the title, but I think it's clear he means Luv Ya Bunches. (His joke is kind of lame, however.)

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Not to defend anything or anyone, but rather to make a note:

Here in the Phoenix Metro area, a middle school is 4th through 6th grade, so the book would be appropriate to those grades.

A junior high is 7 to 9, and a high school is 10 - 12, with an elementary school being K-3.

This is not uniform across the valley, however, as many schools are still K-8 and 9-12 for high school.

Oh, interesting. I've seen elementary schools vary between K-5 and K-6, with middle schools 6-8 or junior high 7-9, but I've never seen middle school start at 4th grade. Live and learn.

Having said that, I'm guessing that K-3 elementary schools are a minority across the country, though. Certainly, it seems easy enough for Scholastic to eliminate the higher-age books for the schools that do it that way, but to make them available for the elementary schools that go up to 5 or 6..

I note Scholastic's comment that they give authors a chance to "make changes" (i.e. do their own censorship) in order to get into these book fairs.

Sometimes the problem passages are nothing more than rough language. It's astonishing how many Americans still object violently to even mild expressions like "jeez" and "damn," let alone 4-letter words.

It would be interesting to know how many authors di knuckle under and "expurgate" their own books so they can get the K-12 sales.

Oops, typo. It should be "do knuckle under."

Good question. In my first post about Scholastic, I do note that they did ask Myracle to remove some of the very type of language you mention--according to the School Library Journal article, “geez,” “crap,” “sucks,” and “oh my God.”

Meanwhile, parents are taking their kids to see movies whose rough language would put this to shame. Heck, even Star Wars, relatively mild on the scale of things, uses "hell" and "damn" a few times. (That's on my mind since we've been watching it at home lately.)

Without a few "sucks" and "crap" in a book for the older elementary/middle school age group, the book stops feeling authentic, IMHO, and that's why many kids don't have an interest in reading.

Please still note that Scholastic, Inc. still has one for the lowest HRC Equality Index ratings of any corporation outside the south. Even though it's headquartered in Manhattan, their rating is a miserable 50 (only 10 points higher than WalMart).

This remains a very conservative corporation which has worked its way into a virtual monopoly of a huge market. Even if your school's individual bookfair doesn't want to work exclusively with Scholastic, almost all districts will insist you only use them because of the way they bribe districts and dump mediocre books at low prices to thwart competition. I trust very little that Scholastic says and I don't believe them when they say they're going to change the way books are evaluated... it's just to get criticism off their backs.

Good to know. Thanks Gina.

Glad you were able to help lead us to a victory, Dana. Thanks for all your hard work on this.