Friday, August 17, 2018

My Seventh Grade Life In Tights - A Boy Wants To Dance (and the real-world fuss is about the openly Gay secondary character on his dance crew.)

My Seventh-Grade Life in Tights by Brooks Benjamin

All Dillon wants is to be a real dancer. And if he wins a summer scholarship at Dance-Splosion, he’s on his way. The problem? His dad wants him to play football. And Dillon’s freestyle crew, the Dizzee Freekz, says that dance studios are for sellouts. His friends want Dillon to kill it at the audition—so he can turn around and tell the studio just how wrong their rules and creativity-strangling ways are.

At first, Dillon’s willing to go along with his crew’s plan, even convincing one of the snobbiest girls at school to work with him on his technique. But as Dillon’s dancing improves, he wonders: what if studios aren’t the enemy? And what if he actually has a shot at winning the scholarship?

Dillon’s life is about to get crazy . . . on and off the dance floor
This is the book that I wrote about on Wednesday, that has "LGBT content," and for that content had a lot of drama at the author's school (Brooks is also a teacher), with "My Seventh Grade Life In Tights" being pulled from the school library and then, subsequently, only provided to students on the down-low.

I reached out to Brooks to find out more about the queer content of this middle grade book. Here's part of our correspondence:

Brooks: Hi, Lee!

This is something--especially with all the junk going on in today's world--that we need to be talking about. Thank you for being willing to share it. I know (as a teacher and as an author) that there are more books out there that have been challenged simply because of the characters (Alan Cole is Not a Coward, George, Star Crossed). In my book, Carson (who dances on the main character's dance crew) is openly gay. Sometimes I wonder if that's what has so many people all in a fix. The fact that he's not "confused or concerned" about his sexuality, but out and proud with friends and parents who love him.

Lee: wow - a happy, out and proud secondary character? Is his being Gay an issue in the book?

Brooks: He gets teased by some kids and made fun of a couple of times (it is set in east TN after all) and he acknowledges how it never doesn’t hurt to hear it, but his story isn’t about him crushing on another boy. His story is about his desire to compete because he wants to dance professionally one day.

So there you have it. A secondary gay character in a middle grade book is too scary for some adults to handle. What can we do? Help get the word out about this title!

Oh, I'm going to share one more tweet from Brooks' twitter account, from Aug 11, 2018, because it sums it up perfectly:

There are times we need to be silent. Times when we need to stop talking and listen. But silence when we’re seeing the silencing of others? That is always wrong. That’s when we need to find our voices. That’s when we must be our loudest. —Brooks Benjamin

Add your review of "My Seventh-Grade Life in Tights" in comments!

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