"Two Mommies,"an egg and a sperm,am I a prude or just queasy
At long last, I'm back!
I know, I know. I'm slacking. To keep the explanation of my lack of posts short, here's what's been happening in my life to date: busy work days, helping my father with set construction for a high school play, cleaning my apartment, packing for a trip to Seattle, going to Seattle for six days, falling ill with some kind of flu --maybe H1N1, helping my parents cope with an itsy bitsy family crisis involving Trans-Atlantic health care.
In short, I have not had time to post.
But, now that's over as I hope to have entered that blessed assembly-line state of mind. And I've nearly plowed through I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings so you can expect that post not long after this one.
This over, let's get on with the review! For I've hit the first moment in my project when parts of me damn near agreed with those who go into hysterics over Heather Has Two Mommies.
Shocked, my dear readers?
You can bet I was.
Or, really, I just need to have human children right now. It's difficult at times to channel the inner parent when you don't have any excepting the furry, animal kind. And Rufus is more concerned with making sure I don't go on anymore trips and that he can lick the sofa. (Dog love, right?)
Previously, I reviewed Daddy's Roommate by Michael Wilhoite. For the complete review, click here.
I was going to review it and Heather Has Two Mommies by Leslea Newman in the same posting. My initial reason for this had to do with the fact that both are pretty short picture books. Then came the subject matter, which seemed to dovetail just peachily.
I honestly had no idea of what I was getting myself into.
Let me dispense with the nuts and bolts and then, hopefully, my fellow readers, it will become clear what my difficulties are with this review.
Review Three: Heather Has Two Mommies by Leslea (accent over the last 'e') Newman; Illustrated by Diana Souza
Basic Information: Published in 1989 by Alyson Publications Inc. of Los Angeles.
Most common banning reasons: Homosexuality, inappropriate for young children
Length: 34 pages (I may have miscounted. Math and I don't get along.)
Raised eyebrow rating: (with my orange morality glasses that once again don't fit) 9 to 10; without the glasses 7.
Yes, this is the first time my eyebrows went into my hairline. It may be because I'm a prude. It may be because I need to get with the program.
All I know is that my gut reaction to reading Newman's book was to time travel back to my great grandmother's front yard at Alaska and Bates streets where there was always gooey butter cake and where pretty European storks politely brought babies in baskets complete with the stringy plastic grass.
Never mind that the babies would choke on said grass. It's the effect that counts.
As in my Daddy's Roommate post, I can honestly say the lesbian relationship in the book doesn't bother me at all. I also applaud Newman for getting into Heather's head, discussing the conflicting feelings she'd have about having two mothers and using the end of the book to illustrate different family constructs.
Well done there. Same goes with the book's pace and wording.
But the plot had me squirming. Help Dan! I'm a prudish straight girl with a mommy and a daddy! I am sooooooo out of my depth.
Getting down to it, my issue with the book comes from the rather graphic description (for what I think the age of the book's audience is) of how Heather came into the world. This book is written for little kids. Call me unenlightened but I don't know if I would want a small two-legged child of mine reading about "Jane's womb," "a special doctor," " Jane's vagina," and this rather blunt passage:
"The sperm swam up into Jane's womb. If there was an egg waiting there, the sperm and the egg would meet, and the baby would start to grow."
I picture a little sperm in a Speedo and swim cap meeting a bathing suit clad chicken egg all floating in somebody's stomach. They meet, have tea, and lightening strikes and 'poof!' there's baby.
The illustration is also a little much for me on that page, but overall the pictures didn't bother me.
It's just the description. Is it too much for a young child?
When I was a little girl, my mother gave me a book called Where Do Babies Come From? I must have been about six or seven. I remember reading it but even up to my early twenties, "sex" didn't have a real concrete place in my mind.
I won't lie, something about that concrete ignorance was comforting. Especially now, as I am making that very last transition from girl to woman, I long for the days when I didn't see everyone's boobs hanging out in magazines. I miss the fact that people didn't talk about their sex lives or bodily functions in every interview I read or see.
What's more, I give the book a 7 rating because - contrary to what seems to a growing trend - I don't think sex education needs to start in a small child's picture book. Once you get them past kindergarten and maybe first grade, go for it with my blessing.
I don't think I would read this to a toddler I had. Maybe to an older child. But, I bet my face would go redder than a lava flow if my toddler talked about sperm, eggs of the non-scrambled sort, or "Jane's vagina."
I'm a prude and my future offspring can use "my private place," just like I did until my teenage years. If they need therapy for that, so be it.
Heather Has Two Mommies has certainly drummed up its share of controversies.
- It was one of the book's at the heart of the Sarah Palin Wasilla library controversy.
- The book was nearly banned in Wichita Falls, Tx. and saved by a narrow vote. For that story, hat tip to dallasvoice.com and its profile of Rev. Robert Jeffress, the voice behind the 1998 move. For the story, click here. Jeffress actually destroyed the book.
As a final thought, I admit, Heather Has Two Mommies isn't to my taste. Not because of the homosexual elements but rather my own feelings about how to guide children into sexual awareness and how to discuss complicated reproductive issues with them.
I don't want the book banned (I don't agree that much with critics) but it's a book that I think parents would have to think long and hard about letting a very small child read.
Not that they shouldn't. It's a matter of what your approach to sexual education is. Mine's on the prudish side. I'm not saying it should be yours. I can't tell what my future children-spawn will think.
And, as always, read dangerously!