Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Am I Blue?

Am I Blue? edited by Marion Dane Bauer. NY: Harper Collins (1994).

My eighth book review on this blog, and another enjoyable book I never knew existed, and never would have known, except for the advertising provided by Ginny Maziarka's attempted suppression of it. This is a collection of 16 short stories, each quite different from the others, united by the theme of "coming out," of the choices a young man or young woman might have to make, or is unable to make, about revealing his or her own, or someone else's, sexual orientation to others.

When I picked up the book, I assumed the title referred to being sad. But it turns out the title of the book is the title of the opening short story, which is an amusing tale in which every human being who has any degree of homosexual nature turns some shade of blue (which winds up being about a third of the population).

The authors are all notable in Young Adult fiction, some in other areas as well. Each reader, of course, will have her or his own favorites out of the 16 stories. I would like to give honorable mention to Lois Lowry's Holding, about a young man choosing what to reveal about his father's sexual orientation. It is gently uplifting, and likely to bring a tear or two. Jane Yolen's Blood Sisters is a fascinating fantasy about Amazon women in some other world and other time. William Sleator's In the Tunnels is an intense and entrancing look at Vietnamese soldiers living in underground tunnels during the war.

These stories are all age-appropriate for anyone with the cognitive ability to read at the required level, probably starting around the age of 14 for most teens, a little earlier for some. In terms of strong language, there isn't so much as a "damn" in the entire book, but there are a few epithets ("queer", "fairy," etc.) used as examples of the prejudice some must endure. There is a little violence, as In the Tunnels is a war story, and in another story there is a brief description of a schoolyard fight. There are references to sex, sexuality, and sexual orientation, but very little description of any sexual activity. There is one passing reference (not a description) to masturbation and one short scene about "getting to second base."

A quick check of online catalogs shows that libraries around Wisconsin have at least three different bindings of the book, and I didn't try to sort out all the possible duplicate entries. Something over 100 school and public libraries in the state have the book, with many of the public libraries classifying it as Young Adult. Barnes and Noble lists the book's age range as Young Adult, and Young Adult Book Central gives it as 14+.

Putting a warning sticker on this book, re-shelving it in the adult section, calling it obscene, or a danger to minors, is all perfectly ridiculous.

Again, Ginny, or anybody in the WBC4SL: any takers on explaining what the problem is with this book? Please post a comment if you can explain this.

Actually, I may be phrasing that question incorrectly. As I read today's post on the CafeMaria blog, I followed a link to a February post on the WISSUP blog that I thought was quite interesting. Not illuminating, just interesting. Referring to a meeting with library staff, Maziarka wrote:
We explained that our complaint was a general complaint, not an individual book complaint. She did not want to discuss the general concept of homosexual books for youth, but we forged on regardless.
I have to admit I have no idea what this is supposed to mean. I can't imagine how you can remove, re-shelve, or label objectionable books by any means other than evaluating each one on a case-by-case basis.

So maybe I'm asking the wrong question in my challenges to Maziarka on this or other books? I doubt it, but I'll try. Maybe instead of asking what's wrong with Am I Blue, I should just ask what "a general complaint, not an individual book complaint," means.

OK ---- Any takers on that one? PLEASE post.