Friday, August 28, 2009

Geography Club

Brent Hartinger's Geography Club is a novel about gay teenagers in a typical American high school. The story is about the awkwardness and uncertainties of the teenage years, cliques and peer pressure, honesty and forgiveness.

Geography Club is for young adults, and most parents wouldn't want their younger children to read it. Since it is about teenage feelings and relationships, it does have some sexual content. There is also some strong language, capturing the way teenagers speak to one another when no adults are present. There are no descriptions of sexual activity at all. But it is clear from the story that some of the characters are having sex. There are descriptions of kissing, and passing mention of a health education class in which the teacher used a cucumber to demonstrate the proper use of a condom. The most sexually explicit passage in the book is one in which the main character explains his discomfort in the locker room after P.E. (p. 4):
But one sure way to become the least popular guy was to have people think you might be gay. And not being gay wasn't just about not throwing a bone in the showers. It was a whole way of acting around other guys, a level of casualness, of comfort, that says, "I'm one of you. I fit in." I wasn't one of them, I didn't fit in, but they didn't need to know that.
I have no doubt that some parents will find this book objectionable. This would be especially true for parents who believe their teenage children don't know anything about sex, don't have sexual feelings, and wouldn’t act on those feelings if they did have them. For parents more in contact with the real universe, Geography Club is likely to cause no more than minor discomfort.

As to anything of an "explicit pornographic nature," to use Maziarka's phrase, there is nothing. Nothing at all.

Having read the whole book, I will make one assertion: Ginny Maziarka hasn't read it. She hasn't even skimmed over it. She's condemning books she doesn't know anything about.

Consider her comments during a March 16th interview on WBKV radio ( click HERE to go to the station's website and play the audio; Geography Club is mentioned just around minute 09:00). She talks about the need for parents to be able to identify books that might be inappropriate for their children, and says of the book:
It's not about geography, and it's not about anything to do with school. But if I was a parent looking at Geography Club, I wouldn't be in the least bit suspicious that there would be anything pornographic inside of it, which there is.
If that isn't clear enough, consider what she wrote to the library about it (this is included in a handout prepared by the library. Click HERE to see the whole handout; this note is on the 11th page):
Dear Mr. Tyree, Ms. Cantrell, West Bend Library Board Members, And Attorney Schanning,

Attached please find a list of 11 books we would like to addend to our original complaint of sexually explicit books.

In accordance with state statutes concerning pornographic materials for minors, we are asking for the removal of these books in addition to our original request of:
1. The Perks of Being a Wallflower and
2. The Geography Club.

We believe that the explicit pornographic nature of these books is inappropriate for minors/juveniles and should not be made readily available in the young adult or juvenile fiction areas of our library.

<. . . lines omitted . . .>

Jim and Ginny Maziarka
Do you think she had the slightest idea of the contents of Geography Club? I don't.


  1. This is ridiculous. I've read Geography Club (and loved it) and I can't see how anyone would find it pornographic. If you do, then don't read it. There is actual porn out there being made, bought and sold and it's not hurting anyone. Sheesh.

    The "It's not about geography..." made me laugh a little. It makes her sound like she didn't even read the description on the back.

  2. Going to meet a man the kid met in the Internet (which happens in this book), might not be considered pornography, but it doesn’t make it good to be read by minor children. Nothing against having these books in the library, so long as they are in the Adult area, where an adult can make the decision if the child should read it or not.

  3. What? seriously?, they let teens read fifty shades, but won't let them read this?! its BS