Dear “concerned parents” who challenge this book

I too, am a parent. I too have had my children bring over books that I am not comfortable with them reading at their current ages. The difference between you and I is that I tell my children to put the book back because it’s not right for our family, while you choose to tell ALL children that they may not read the book. Your preferences don’t trump mine.

You argue that it is oppositional to your faith. I would counter that all religious texts are oppositional to mine. Yet I am not asking the library to remove children’s bibles or children’s ramayans because they have no place in my faith. (Nor do I want to, for the record. We even own some.) Your faith does not trump mine.

You say that this book promotes a “homosexual agenda.”

Firstly I am curious what you think a homosexual agenda is. I’ll let you in on a non-secret–I’m bisexual (we put the B in LGBT) and nope, marrying a man didn’t magically make me straight. Today my homosexual agenda was to take everyone to school and work, try to get some household cleaning done, pick up my kids, sit through How to Train Your Dragon 2, put them to bed and then watch some Netflix. SHOCKING, right? It’s almost as if I have the same boring agenda as most other stay at home moms.

Secondly, I know enough about your politics to know you hate abortion. In the case of And Tango Make Three, the zookeeper gives an egg containing a chick that would have died from neglect before hatching to a pair of male penguins to hatch and raise. Pick one–dead baby penguin or live baby penguin raised by two male penguins.

Thirdly–exactly how does this promote anything? It is a non-fiction book, and like it or not, much as you want to call homosexuality “unnatural” it occurs regularly in nature, including in the Central Park Zoo. Two male penguins hatched an egg that would have died otherwise–the end. No promotion–fact.
Your hysteria doesn’t trump reality.

At heart if Tango promotes anything, it’s adoption. That you don’t need to have given birth to a child to love or raise it. To say otherwise is to negate all adoptive families, all step families, and all the friends and relatives who are raising children when parents can’t for whatever reason.

And Tango Makes Three has often topped the ALA’s list of most frequently challenged books in the US, usually because it “promotes a homosexual agenda.” Sometimes those involved even succeed in getting And Tango Makes Three, Harry Potter, Diary of a Part-Time Indian, or other frequently challenged books removed from public schools or even public libraries. But there’s one institution that the literacy police don’t get books culled from, and that’s the Library of Congress in Washington DC. As the national library of the United States, and one of the largest book collections in the world–numbering over 32 million items, it does not bow to partisan pressure. It remains a neutral repository of knowledge.

Zechariah Chafee wrote an article called “The Freedom of Speech in Wartime” which was published by the Harvard Law Review in 1919. In it he says “Your right to swing your arms ends just where the other man’s nose begins.” (often mis-attributed to Oliver Wendell Holmes). I would paraphrase this wise man and address all the other parents who have ever or shall ever exist– Your right to pick books that are appropriate for children finish where your children end and other people’s children begin.

We have owned this book for years. We own a huge personal library full of books that celebrate the diversity of life in all its confusing and messy beauty from families with two same sex parents to princesses who don’t want to get married at all to religious stories of many traditions (including some Christian tales like The Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe). But we are lucky to have the financial wherewithal to buy whatever books we can’t find in a local bookstore or a local library through other means.

So why do I care? As a child I couldn’t have every book I wanted because we couldn’t afford every book I wanted. I relied on my school and my library to provide me with a window into a much wider world. Without the library I never would have met Pippi Longstocking, visited Dickensian London, or solved mysteries with a Siamese cat named Koko. I care because kids don’t deserve to have their choice of books narrowed, even by a single title (or five) because their parents can’t afford to buy those titles for them.

I don’t always make the same parenting choices that my mom made, but there is one choice she made where I pride myself in following in her footsteps, and that is the freedom to read whatever I wanted without fear that it might make me a bad person. Reading Gone With the Wind didn’t make me want to own slaves. Reading Flowers in the Attic did not teach me to hide my kids in the attic and poison them with arsenic. Reading Sweet Revenge did not make me a jewel thief.

One last word of caution for you parents who enjoy banning books and who believe that you should restrict choices for kids other than your own—banning something only makes it more enticing. You may win in some dimension–you may ensure that the poor kid who relies on the library can’t read The Bermudez Triangle. But in truth all your actions do is raise the profile of a book that you don’t like. Plenty of books go on to get much larger readership because they were challenged–now everyone wants to know “what this terrible book is and why do you hate it?” Your own kids will now be curious what the hullaballoo is about and go sneak a read of Are you there god, it’s me Margaret because they’re now curious about a book that they might never have been interested in otherwise. So be forewarned that your efforts can backfire.

A concerned parent

***The National Library of Singapore has pulled And Tango Makes Three and several other books from its shelves and is destroying them. As an expat, I am not allowed to be political, which is why I have chosen to discuss the matter within the context of criticism of this book in the US. Kirsten, on the other hand, has no such limitations. She has written specifically about the actions of the National Library of Singapore and how their choices affect her as a Singaporean.

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