Thursday, May 3, 2012
A Horse is a Horse, Of Course, Of Course...
(Spoiler alert: This post may tread on some toes. In the event that it does, please let that not be the end of our conversation together. I love a good debate!!)
My abrupt nocturnal awakenings appear to be directly related to the general state of my mind. In other words, you can trace my recent week of sleeplessness to a recent thrashing I have taken for a book I confidently placed in the hands of my 7th graders--a whole class of 29--bright kids for the most part--readers but for a small handful. Give yourself 5 "I DONE Good!" points if you can guess from the post title the name of the book. Scroll back and look if you must. I'll wait. And then the fun will begin!
In the attempt to expose adolescent readers to more non-fiction (a task no less daunting than trying to change adolescents' eating habits), I purchased 25 copies of Seabiscuit, using up the last crumbs of my budget, throwing in some money of my own, adding my personal battered copy to the mix, and gleaning the library. Not unpassionately did I enter this project. I love the book and passed it out with much gusto and the promise that the kids would also love it. My intro was met with groans which I ignored. Then I watched the transformation. About 7 chapters into the book the majority "hit a vein" and devoured the book. Enter (the day before the book was to be completed) two mothers who (to put it mildly) did not carry my same devotion to this book about a quirky, "undersized, knobby-kneed, and given to sleeping and eating for long periods" horse who caught the heart and spirit of a depression era country--one of the greatest animal stories ever told. They found the language offensive (I admit there was nary an English nanny in the entire book) and couldn't believe I would assign a book of such quality. And therein began my sleeplessness.
My response has been to apologize profusely to the mothers and my entire class for esposing them to the language in the book. Oh, and that undescribed reference to prostituion in the chapter about horseracing in Mexico. But what to do with 25 copies of the book? Wite-Out? A bonfire? Amazon.com resale? A closet? Razor blades? Do we throw the whole baby out because she peed in the bathwater? Help me out here. What do you think?
Conclusions (which you DO reach eventually if you cogitate long enough about anything): I will defend forever your right to read something. I will defend the inestimable value of this book. OH, YES!!! OH, YES!!!! Let there be NO mistake. I DO NOT believe in whitewashing the world. I DO believe it is our God-given duty to help each other navigate responsibly through this world. I DO believe we are what we read. Mealy mouthed books make for mealy-mouthed people. I DO believe that many words of the vernacular of the day are unacceptable. I do NOT use them. I DO believe bad, shallow writing without offensive words is way way way way more damaging to my spirit than good good writing about the best of human values sprinkled with a few offensive words. Etc. Etc. Etc. Getting down off my soapbox.