Friday, August 22, 2008

Speaking With Jason Rich, Author of Growing Up Gay in America

I had a fascinating talk with Jason R. Rich, author of Growing Up Gay in America (free version). Jason's book is one of those involved in a controversy in St. Louis where the public library is making s-xually inappropriate material available to children. A newspaper story said, "None of those examples, which dealt explicitly with s[-]xual subjects, could be reprinted in this newspaper." Jason called the newspaper and learned the paper had not actual read his book. Therefore it could not possibly have made that determination!! To his credit, he responded online and said so, in so many words. He concluded, "There is nothing p[-]rnographic within the content of 'Growing Up Gay In America.' I should know...I wrote the book!" I like his style (and I only today requested a copy of his book at the free link).

Then I told him that I too wrote an article on the controversy, and my article also named his book, but just as a passing fact upon which the controversy is partly based, e.g., "According to Mrs. Kostial, many of the books contained 'explicit instructions on how to engage in heteros[-]xual, homos[-]xual, and monos[-]xual activities.' .... Another title, Growing Up Gay in America, provides children with step-by-step instructions for engaging in homos[-]xual s[-]x acts and how to surf the web for homos[-]xual p[-]rnography among other things."

We came to an interesting observation one rarely hears -- both sides may be overstating the case. Lumping all those books together and saying they are all inappropriate is itself inappropriate if they have not first been read. (I know from the author the newspaper did not read them all, but I think "Citizens Against P-rnography" did, as a group.) On the other hand, lumping all those people together who oppose libraries for s-xualizing children is equally inappropriate if their reasoning is not first understood. Knee jerk either way is not good, in other words.

For example, SafeLibraries sometimes gets lumped in with groups who oppose homos-xuality. I don't. What I oppose is inappropriately s-xualized material making it to children because the American Library Association [ALA] misleads people into doing so. If parents want their 12 year olds to read oral s-x-containing books knowing they contain that, go ahead. But if the ALA gives that book the top award of the year for 12 year olds and up and provides no warning to the parents regarding the content, that is entirely inappropriate. Parents should know that is happening. I was opposed to the ALA saying parents were racist for wanting to keep a book by a minority author away from children when the issue about which the parents complained was the bestiality, among other things. Does that make me racist? Well, as those parents found out, being called racist will suffice if the ALA can use it to misdirect people from the real issue.

Speaking of misdirection, that's why I wrote the article I did--to point out a public admission by the ALA of how it uses media manipulation to prevent local control of public libraries. My issue is not with the books. My issue is that the director of the St. Louis County Library sought help from the ALA on how to put down "Citizens Against P-rnography," and someone in the ALA responded to just mislead and misdirect the media. (Someone else hinted he should respond privately next time, likely to prevent such statements from becoming public. Too late!) That's how he overcame SafeLibraries's efforts to keep kids from getting Playboy magazine in Oak Lawn, IL, among other things. To this day, the magazine is still available to children via photocopy despite the town survey and even the direction from the government itself. The ALA's triumph over the Village of Oak Lawn, an issue started by SafeLibraries, was the example he used to encourage the St. Louis library director to similarly mislead and misdirect the St. Louis media. "The storm will die down when the media becomes bored and moves on to other issues." You see, local communities often have no control over their public libraries. Oak Lawn is an example, and that example is being recommended for St. Louis County. Media manipulation is one way it's done.

Anyway, one can tell from the author's comment how opposed he was to "Citizens Against P-rnography" initially. But when I explained that they were on the right track with some of the books and that the library itself had already moved some of them to the adult section, he began to see the reason and perhaps even agree (except regarding his own book, of course). When I told him the goals of SafeLibraries have to do with the ALA and local communities and not with the contents of books, he understood that too. Frankly, he was a perfect gentleman.

So I had an enjoyable talk with Jason Rich. We agreed people should not jump to conclusions, and they should first read the material they are about to criticize. Not everything is black and white. This is an excellent example to show how authors like him and their works can be unfairly cast in a negative light. It is also an excellent example to show that those who oppose certain library policies are also unfairly cast in a similar negative light. Perhaps the ALA can learn from this.

By the way, while I am writing, the ALA says moving a book from the teen section to the adult section is censorship, and it also says it is not censorship. Which way is it? We all know it is not censorship, but with Charles Pace of the St. Louis County Library claiming it is, even while we himself had some books moved to the adult section, we can see that is clearly false. The ALA taking both sides of the matter is only icing on the cake. St. Louis, feel free to move any books you wish to the adult section -- it is not censorship. Rather, it is local control, not ALA control through admitted media manipulation.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments of a personal nature, trolling, and linkspam may be removed.