Monday, October 26, 2009

Scholastic School Book Fairs CENSOR Lauren Myracle's "Luv Ya Bunches" for one of the character's having GAY parents!

This is so upsetting. Lauren Myracle wrote "Luv Ya Bunches"

"Luv Ya Bunches" is about four elementary school girls who are all named after flowers. That's all they have in common. And they're not friends. At least, not yet. It's the first in a four book series.

But because one of the girls, Milla, has two moms, Scholastic won't carry it at their school book fairs. Here's more from the School Library Journal article:

The company sent a letter to Myracle's editor asking the author to omit certain words such as "geez," "crap," "sucks," and "God" (as in, "oh my God") and to alter its plotline to include a heterosexual couple. Myracle agreed to get rid of the offensive language "with the goal—as always—of making the book as available to as many readers as possible," but the deal breaker was changing Milla's two moms.

"A child having same-sex parents is not offensive, in my mind, and shouldn't be 'cleaned up.'" says Myracle, adding that the book fair subsequently decided not to take on Luv Ya Bunches because they wanted to avoid letters of complaint from parents. "I find that appalling. I understand why they would want to avoid complaint letters—no one likes getting hated on—but shouldn't they be willing to evaluate the quality of the complaint? What, exactly, are children being protected against here?"

Scholastic's response?

“Authors are often given the opportunity to make changes in the books to meet the norms of the various communities that host the fairs,”
Scholastic made a further statement, saying that they didn't really CENSOR the book because it's available via their book clubs. Um... You said you'd include it in the fairs IF the author changed the two mom family to a mom and dad family. She refused. You decided not to carry it in the fairs. That sounds like censorship to me.

And all this was becauase Scholastic was afraid of complaints? Well here's mine to Richard Robinson, Chairman of the Board, President and CEO of Scholastic.

Dear Richard,
I am so disappointed that Scholastic refused to carry Lauren Myracle's "Luv Ya Bunches" in your school book fairs solely due to one of the main characters having two moms.
As the child of a two dad family herself, my daughter won't have a chance to buy that book when the book fair comes to her school. She won't have that moment of affirmation, in front of her friends and peers - wow, there's a girl in this book who has two Moms, which is sort of like my two Dad family!
I am so profoundly disappointed in your company's decision. The school library journal article cited your concern that if you carried the book in the fair, then you might get parents writing you to complain.
Well please consider this unhappy parent's complaint. In effect, you are censoring out families like mine from representation in your fair, and that is very upsetting.
I hope you reconsider your position, and not only include "Love Ya Bunches" in your school book fairs, but affirm your support of ALL families - including those with two moms and two dads, like mine.
You said in an interview on the Scholastic website that Scholastic aims to "Align your talents and desires to what society needs" - well, society needs to move forward, and books can help in that. Books can help normalize the reality of kids' lives today - and the reality is that there are hundreds of thousands of children being raised by two dad and two mom families. Scholastic has a chance to be a leader on this. I hope you take it.
Lee Wind

And here's my letter to the author:

Dear Lauren,
I am so deeply deeply proud of you for not backing down to the pressure to change Milla's parents to a straight couple in order to get "Love Ya Bunches" accepted into the Scholastic School Book Fairs.
My daughter has two Dads, and the thought of her excitement at being able to buy your book at the book fair - a book where there's a character who has two moms, which is pretty close to her having two dads, in that it's different from what most of her peer's families look like - is heady. What a shame that Scholastic is so concerned with offending people, and are afraid of the truth of the "norm" shifting. Because they have surely offended me and hundreds of thousands of parents like me.
Again, congratulations on leading with your heart and your conscience. With your standing your ground for families like mine, you have made many new fans - including me!


Wanna write scholastic a letter, and share with them what YOU think?

You can send it from their customer service website.

Want to support the author?

Buy her book, "Luv Ya Bunches"

and write her here.

And if you do write letters of complaint and support, I'd love for you to copy your letters here in comments!



fairyhedgehog said...

I wrote a polite complaint to scholastic but unfortunately didn't save it. Sorry.

fairyhedgehog said...

PS Scholastic sent me a copy of what I'd sent them.

I am deeply disappointed that you are failing to carry the book Luv Ya Bunches at your school book fairs on the grounds that one of the characters has two Mums.

There will always be people who are offended by books but I do not think that you are serving your customers well by failing to offer this book. Two Mums, and two Dads for that matter, are increasingly normal family situations and the children who have such families need affirmation not censorship.

I have no personal axe to grind: I'm married and my sons are grown. It's a question of making our society into the sort of place we want to live in and for me that means an inclusive community, not an exlusive one.

I hope you will reconsider your decision.

ivanova said...

This is the letter I sent to Scholastic on the customer service website.

"I am very disappointed that you won't be carrying Lauren Myracle's _Luv Ya Bunches_ at your book fairs. I read on the internet that you chose not to include it because one of the four main characters has two moms, and you felt that would offend some parents. Well guess what, you really can't please everyone, because I am offended that you chose not to carry it. Schools serve children from all kinds of families, and have to show respect for all of them. I'd say a conservative estimate is that every single school in the United States has at least one child with a family member in a same-sex relationship. Rather than deny those kids' realities, I would like to see Scholastic affirm that. Children love to see their lives reflected on the pages of a book. For children who have a mom and a dad, a book like Lauren Myracle's will teach them more about diversity. When they grow up, they won't be handicapped by ignorance of the world around them.

"But that's about educating and nourishing children. I recognize that you are not a non-profit whose goal is to educate and nourish, you are a business. And in business, everything comes down to numbers in the end. Here's what I think. I think you will find there are more parents and teachers out there who support having books like Myracle's and actively want books with gay characters than there are parents and teachers who are offended by gay characters and don't want to see such books. It's important for a business to keep up with the times and not be working on a model from 20 years ago."

After I read Lauren Myracle's book, I'll send her a letter too. I feel like fan mail would have more meaning if I've actually read the book.

Steph Su said...

I will probably send Scholastic an email soon, as well as write a post about it on my blog, but I wanted to thank you first for sharing this with us. I found out about it from Twitter via Thalia Chaltas and have RTed it. Indeed, the presence of so much diversity was one of the biggest things I noticed about Luv Ya Bunches, besides for it being a great book about friendship for young girls. I have brought up the issue here in my review, and I am saddened that censorship for issues like this one still continue. Perhaps we can continue to speak up against it, and in the future we will see a day when there will be no such censorship. :)

Hayden Thorne said...

I don't get it. What's the point of publishing her book if they're not going to showcase it the way it is? I'm assuming that Scholastic is her publisher, anyway.

Brent Hartinger said...

As I understand it, this is fairly common for them. I tried to write an article about it several years ago, but I couldn't get anyone to talk on the record. (For the record, I still don't think they've EVER made a "gay teen" book of any kind available through their fairs or clubs. Their response: our clubs are for younger kids, and all the gay books have at least one swear word. But they didn't carry ABSOLUTELY POSITIVELY NOT either...)

They're a huge stink to be made here.

Sherrie Petersen said...

We know plenty of families with two moms or two dads, why does Scholastic think they aren't part of the "community norm"?

I'm one of the people helping organize the book fair at our school in December, but I've never worked on it before. Can I specially request that a book be on the shelves?

Lee Wind, M.Ed. said...

These letters are great, everyone. Thanks!
Hayden, the book is published by ABRAMS, not Scholastic.
Keep the letters comin'!

Lee Wind, M.Ed. said...

Brent, you're right. We should be making a HUGE stink about this.

Sherrie, I'm sure their hearing from a parent ORGANIZING one of their book fairs would carry a lot of weight. I hope you contact them and let them know what they're doing is wrong!


Hayden Thorne said...

Ouf. Got it, thanks. :D Good for Lauren, though, for not caving in.

When I think about stuff like this, I come to realize that what we're seeing is most likely the slow dying out of homophobia. It's going to take some time, but if writers, students, families, friends, etc., don't make a big deal out of same-sex parenting and treat it no differently from heterosexual parenting, each succeeding generation won't even think twice about it.

I sure hope to see that happen in my lifetime. :) said...

Here's what I sent to Scholastic through their customer service site, Lee, and received this message:

The reference number for your question is '091026-001932'.

You should receive a response by email from our Customer Service team soon.

I urge Scholastic to reconsider its decision not to carry Lauren Myracle's "Luv Ya Bunches" in the school book fairs. Per the SLJ article, I understand this decision to be solely due to one of the main characters having two moms.

My children attend our neighborhood school, Beverly Cleary k-8. There are plenty of children at our school who have gay parents. This is neither surprising nor disturbing to any member of our community I have ever encountered. From my perspective, the decision to keep this book out of the book fairs based on one character having two moms is the illogical equivalent of a Louisiana justice of the peace refusing to marry an interracial couple. Fear-based hatred is never a justifiable reason to keep a book from being distributed (or a couple from marrying).

I believe there is still time to change your decision and am earnestly awaiting your reply.

Amy Baskin

Laurina said...

Thank you for writing about this. I'm angry at all forms of censorship but this hits too close to home. Taking action -- writing Scholastic and supporting the author -- will help.

Stephanie Denise Brown said...

Thank you, Lee, for bringing this to our attention and for supplying the links to make the process of responding quick and easy. Here's what I wrote to Scholastic as a teacher:

I'm so disappointed to hear that the book Luv Ya Bunches will not be offered to students through your school book fairs. As a teacher, I'm always reminding my students to value other experiences. Reading is a way to teach such tolerance in an educational and beneficial way.

If we censor what students read, then we censor voices that strengthen who we are, enlighten who we are, educate who we are, affirm who we are, celebrate who we are: a diverse people.

I can understand your company not wanting to upset and receive letters of complaint but did it ever occur to you that by appeasing one, you might then shun the other? Indirectly, you've created an awful value system, which sends me the wrong message about your company.

This is very disappointing and I can only hope that Scholastic will reevaluate its policies now and in the future.

ReadWriteGo said...

I wrote to let them know I would be purchasing a copy of Lauren's book elsewhere and that I no longer planned to complete the order I was going to make tonight for my daughter. They've lost our business on this note - I don't care how inexpensive their books are.

Kyle Good said...

Scholastic is giving tremendous support to Luv Ya Bunches. In fact, our editors believe in this book so much that it is featured prominently on both the student and teacher covers of our December 2009 Arrow catalogs which are already printed and are in schools right now. On October 16 we also recorded a Book Talk Editors’ Choice Video which features Luv Ya Bunches.

The prominent promotion of Luv Ya Bunches in Scholastic’s Arrow December catalog, which has been distributed to 3.7 million students, affirms that the company is in complete support of this book.

Scholastic editors recognize Milla’s two moms as a positive and realistic aspect of the story. We offer other books with same sex couples and gay and lesbian characters in Book Clubs and Book Fairs including The Name of This Book is Secret, the upcoming After Tupac and D Foster, The Misfits, and others. Scholastic seeks to provide books that will appeal to a wide range of interests and reading abilities of children living in the many diverse cultures and communities we serve. Luv Ya Bunches helps us fulfill our mission to do that.

Scholastic is proud of its support for Luv Ya Bunches through its classroom Book Clubs. As we’ve said previously, Scholastic Book Fairs is working on firming up their Spring list and is considering Luv Ya Bunches.

Thank you for taking the time to express your opinion. Scholastic is very proud of its long history of helping children learn to love to read. We look forward to continuing to bring the best in children’s literature to communities across the country and around the world as Scholastic has done for nearly 90 years.

Lee Wind, M.Ed. said...

Kyle, I'm happy to hear that
"Scholastic Editors recognize Milla's two moms as a positive and realistic aspect of the story."

And it's interesting to learn that you are evidently still considering Luv Ya Bunches for the Spring Book Fair list.

But it doesn't change the facts as reported by SLJ and Lauren Myracle herself that an attempt was made to de-GAY characters in her book, and when the author refused to do so, she was told the book would not be accepted into Scholastic's School Book Fair.

I think it's great that Scholastic is reconsidering its position on including "Luv Ya Bunches" with the lesbian mom characters still lesbians, but an examination of what happened is important. This episode is censorship in action.

Your saying

"As we’ve said previously, Scholastic Book Fairs is working on firming up their Spring list and is considering Luv Ya Bunches."

is denying the seriousness of what occurred. A system where books are requested to be de-Gayed to be included has a problem, and I hope that Scholastic faces the larger issue here and comes forth with how things will improve in the future.

One great first step is to include Luv Ya Bunches in the School Book Fair, lesbian moms intact.

But it's just a first step. You can't solve a problem without first acknowledging it exists.

I'm delighted we're having this discussion, and I hope it (and the letters you receive) helps move Scholastic forward.


Jules at 7-Imp said...

Thanks for the heads-up, Lee. That is lousy is what it is.

Doret said...

I loved Luv YA Bunches.

By doing this scholastic is deny young readers a chance to see a true reflection. And not just readers with same sex parents.

And Brent's comment got me to thinking. I wonder if scholastic book fair carries Ellen Porter's new MG book Slob

The main character's younger sister has joined a club called Girls Who Are Boys. All the members dress like boys and want to be called by their boys names in school. GWAB fight for gender non conformity.

Jacqui said...

Lee, your letters are fantastic. Strong and civil and eloquent.

Unknown said...

I was very disappointed to read in The School Library Journal that you have chosen to censor Lauren Myracles' book, Luv Ya Bunches, from school book fairs.
It is not acceptable to ask an author to change their book in order to may it universally palatable. Most importantly, however, you do a grave disservice to the children of same sex parents. Book fairs mean a great deal to children. It is one of the primary venues for them to be exposed to books. How wonderful for a child from a non mainstream family to find a story that reflects their reality!
We have two children, each of whom became close friends with children of same sex families during their elementary school years. I know how important it was for those kids to have their family embraced.
As a publisher, I am shocked that you would choose to close doors instead of opening them. I hope you will reconsider and become part of the solution to discrimination rather than part of the problem. Our world needs acceptance!!!
Thank you.

Kathleen Murphy
Parent and writer

John Ireland said...

Here's my note to Scholastic:

As PTA President at my son's school, I am very familiar with the good work Scholastic does for our teachers, students and families. My family has built a home library from the variety of books available through your program.

As a gay dad, I have had to seek out alternate sources for the books that more directly represent our family and those of our friends with gay and lesbian parents.

I am glad to learn that you may include "Luv Ya Bunches" by Lauren Myracle in your book fairs. There is a growing market of gay and lesbian families and I think it will sell well--and not just among our demographic. I know that our children need to see their lives reflected in the books they read and I hope Scholastic will be a leader for us.

Each month, my family attends a playdate organized by a gay fathers group in Los Angeles. With over 300 members, our group just celebrated our tenth anniversary and the birth of our 500 child! Across the country in small cities and towns, gay and lesbian parents are raising children without the benefit of friendship with other families like theirs. Imagine the significance books like "Luv Ya Bunches" will have for these children!

Thank you for considering my perspective as you decide whether to include Myracle's book in Scholastic's book fairs.

-John Ireland

Karol Ruth Silverstein said...

Kept my complaint to Scholastic short and not sweet. Here's what I said:

Very disappointing that Scholastic has chosen to be preemptively timid rather than supporting this book and the realistic diversity it displays. You had an opportunity to treat this simple detail as the "non-issue" it desperately needs to become (so that children from all types of families can begin to feel "a part of" rather than "different" and excluded), but instead you shy away because "some parents might" complain. Shame on you, Scholastic!

Saints and Spinners said...

Here's my email:

Dear Scholastic,

I recently read in School Library Journal of your plan not to include Luv Ya Bunches by Lauren Myracle in school book fairs because one of the characters has two moms for parents and you were concerned that you might receive letters of complaint from parents. I am proud of Myracle for refusing your request to change the family structure, even though it meant potential loss of revenue for her. While I know that Abrams and not Scholastic published Luv Ya Bunches, I am incredulous that a company that published the controversial series of J.K. Rowling and R.L. Stine would allow the anticipation of parents’ complaints to prompt your reticence to carry Myracle's book at book fairs. I understand how hard it is to be brave, especially when the rewards aren’t immediately apparent. Still, there comes a point when a person or a company of integrity chooses justice over fear and prejudice. If nothing else, think of how history will remember Scholastic.

Unknown said...

I wrote to Scholastic expressing my disappointment in their choice to exclude Luv Ya Bunches. I didn't save it either--but said children with gay parents deserve literature that reflects and affirms the world we live in. All our children deserve this. Thanks Lee for letting us know about Scholastic's big error.

Adrienne said...

Here's what I wrote:

"I am deeply disappointed in Scholastic's choice to exclude a book by Lauren Myracle entitled "Luv Ya Bunches" from your book fairs on the basis of one of the characters in the book having two mothers.
I also read somewhere that this is because the Scholastic company wants to "avoid complaint letters".

Well, guess what this is?

You did not want to offend parents of kids who may read this book.
What about same-sex parents?
don't you think you will have offended them? There are millions of books with kids who have your average heterosexual, one mother one father family.
What about the kids out there who have two fathers or two mothers?
There are very few books out there with scenarios they can relate to.

I believe Ms. Myracle made a very good choice by refusing to change the 2 mom family into a 1 mom, 1 dad family, even though this would mean potentially lower revenue for her. It shows that she knows that society needs to move forward.
If companies like yours would show the same compassion, then this world would be a better place.

Adrienne Richey"

Unknown said...

My blog is one of those Scholastic lists on their blog roll, so I took a bit of a different tac:

Dear Scholastic,

It was recently pointed out to me that this blog, Academhack, is contained in a list on your website under the heading, “Minds We Admire.” Since you admire my mind I thought I would take the opportunity to share with you what this mind thinks, particularly in response to your recent “UPDATE on Luv Ya Bunches“.

I think writing a 300 word blog post attempting to explain your position, while never once addressing the fact that you asked the author to “clean up the book” removing the reference to same-sex parents amounts to tacit admission that the company asked Lauren (the author) to alter her work. In other words tacit support of homophobia.

I think that defending yourself by pointing to other books you publish with gay and lesbian characters is a bit like saying “some of my best friends are gay.”

(Read the whole post here.)

Anonymous said...

I sent this:

Subject: "We're afraid of complaints"

Here's one. How dare you remove a book from your book fair simply because a character has two mothers in it? You do realize that, by that simple and close-minded action, you are impeding the progressive nature of our society, validating prejudiced thinking, and censoring reality from children who should be able to grow up in a world that is tolerant and accepting. As a teenager and a lifelong reader of Scholastic books, I am actually horrified, disappointed, and enraged that people such as yourself, who have such profound influence over children, would choose to do something so intolerant. Books are incredibly powerful and influential over children, and you have the opportunity to decide whether these children will grow up to be open-minded, well-rounded people who can respect the actions of others or whether they will be intolerant, close-minded and disrespectful people who shun the heterogeneity that will ALWAYS be present in our society, whether you like it or not. I sincerely hope you right this wrong; it does more damage than you may think.