The Book That Scares Some Parents
Parents of children at Windridge Elementary School near Salt Lake City, Utah, are afraid. The focus of their worries is a sweet picture book by Patricia Polacco, “In My Mothers’ House.” The family that makes them fear for the future of their children has two loving mothers and three happy, adopted children.
A child took the book home. The mother complained. The school’s response is one I am familiar with from my years as a school librarian. A school committee told the librarian to restrict the book to children in grades 3 through 6 who brought a note from home.
That kind of appeasement never works, which is why I would not agree to it in the years I worked at every level of public-school education in Washington and New York states. It did not work in Utah either. When parents complained again, the committee voted 6-1 to keep the book in the collection but behind the counter.
For the immediate future, that is where the issue ends, with a book languishing in library purgatory in order to appease fearful parents. No one is truly satisfied. The parents would undoubtedly like the book removed from the catalog so no one can ask for it. Librarians and more liberal parents would like to have it on the shelves. Children with same-sex parents no longer have easy access to a book that shows a family like theirs.
Why I Retracted My Claws and Opted for Compassion
Before I read Patricia Polacco’s censored tale, “In My Mothers’ House,” I was ready to whip out my mother-bear claws and swipe away at the Utah parents for daring to ban a book about a family with same-sex parents. My Australian granddaughter has two mothers. I want her to find her own experience of family reflected in books and movies. I never want her to feel confusion or shame because her loving parents are lesbians.
That was yesterday. Today I read the book. When I came to the sweet ending, my ferocity softened. It softened because I recognized that my fears for my granddaughter have the same foundation as the Utah parents’ fears: love.
The Utah parents’ attitude toward my granddaughter and her family, as evidenced by their insistence the book be censored, is abhorrent to me. At the same time, I acknowledge their fervent wish that they could shelter their children in a stormy world.
Photo credits: Thinkstock
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