Soooo, quick question to all the parents who are screeching at their local school board meetings because their lil darlins have been exposed to Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye.” Yeah. That Toni Morrison. The one with the Pulitzer Prize, the Nobel for literature, the Presidential Medal of Freedom. What a hack, amiright?
I get it. Your kid is super fragile, and you don’t want him or her to read about real life stuff like sex, gender, race, poverty and class issues. True, it’s your kid; you have every right to whine and stomp at the school board meeting trying to cancel culture certain authors all over the place but back to my question…
Do y’all police your kids’ violent video game consumption with the same passion or is it just all that scary reading and writing that gets you all riled up?
Why do I just know you smile, shrug and say, “Kids. What’re you gonna do?” as you peek in Brandon’s darkened bedroom adorned with the new “Six Days in Fallujah” poster and tell him it’s time for supper.
“Just a sec, Mom,” he growls. “Gotta blow up a few more cities and, whoa, is that a hooker who needs me to teach her a lesson? Why, yes. Yes, it is. Just put my plate in the microwave…”
Of course, this is just speculation on my part. Maybe you don’t allow your kids to play violent video games. Maybe every night at your house is just a home-cooked dinner followed by a couple of hours of Monopoly or a PG movie you’ve personally vetted. Because one thing’s for sure. Your kid would never watch a movie containing sex, racial tensions or (shudder) gratuitous violence. I mean not in your home or even a friend’s home. Or on computer or laptop. It would NEVER happen. Also how much do you listen to your kids’ music? Right. It’s just those awful hedonistic BOOKS!
Yes, Toni Morrison porn is what’s corrupting the youth. Any fool could see that. And then say it out loud at a school board meeting.
Books. Sigh. It’s always the books, isn’t it?
A few years ago, I showed up at a reading and signing for a book I’d written that contains a mild curse word in the title. Why did I have to put a curse word in the title? That’s easy. Curse words catch the eye of the book holder. Hey, I own my stuff and that’s the truth.
Anyway, I mosey up to the large display of my book in the store window. And what to my wondering eyes should appear? Yes. Probably 50 copies of my book, all with Post-it Notes hiding the minor-league cuss word.
“We had a mom strolling her baby by earlier and she was offended and asked us to do something,” said the store manager.
On the other hand, her kid was clearly an advanced reader so yay that.
Because my book stuff is often racier than material that runs in a family newspaper, I warn anyone with kids at a reading to leave before I even start. Experience has taught me there is nothing more sanctimonious and irritating than a huffy mom who has dragged her 5-year-old to a book signing. It’s like a 99 on the “Well, I Nevah!” meter.
Hey, here’s a thought screechy school board parent: Why not encourage your kid to read? It doesn’t have to be Toni Morrison (although it should be). Reading isn’t an inherently subversive activity. It’s more of a broadening your world view, making you smarter and encouraging you to think kind of activity.
Besides those obvious benefits, look at it like this: Reading will definitely give the video game hookers a much-needed break from all that decapitation and objectifying. So there’s that.
Celia Rivenbark is a NYT-bestselling author and columnist. Write her at [email protected].