Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Kyle Lukoff's Speeches Responding to the Controversy over His Easy Reader Series "Max and Friends"

Author Kyle Lukoff, photo by Erin Jones-Le

As Kyle explains:
The thumbnail version of what happened, for those who don’t know, is that first a young trans child in Utah brought a copy of my early reader “Call Me Max” to school and asked his teacher to read it. She did, and it sparked a tremendous controversy in the district about the appropriateness of a book written for first or second graders being read to third graders. Not surprisingly, their fears then targeted something called “Equity Book Bundles” and the idea that their children might learn about race and racism.

About a month later a similar situation developed in Austin, Texas. A fourth-grade teacher read “Call Me Max” aloud, and in the resulting hullabaloo an administrator sent a letter to every parent in the district, apologizing for the incident, assuring them that no other children had been “exposed” to the material, and promising that counselors had been dispatched to help children process the experience of reading an extremely basic and anodyne trans 101 early reader.


And from that keynote speech for ALA's Office of Intellectual Freedom Awards 2021 are these words as well:

Children should be allowed to learn about their bodies, and what will happen to their bodies as they get older. Some people are trans, and that is a perfectly fine subject for children to learn about. It is wrong to remove children’s books about LGBTQ people from a children’s library, and it is right to fight back against any attempts to do so.

I also believe that I am correct in my conviction that blithely giving children books where other human beings are depicted as exotic, or extinct subjects of the distant past, or an animalistic dress-up opportunity, is a bad practice! I know that other people might think it’s okay for children to have some unexamined exposure to racism, whether backgrounded or foregrounded, and that there is plenty of time in their development to undo early prejudices or trauma. I think that approach is misguided, and I want to have no part in it. I do not have longitudinal studies to back up my belief, but I don’t know of studies that contradict it. But I wish that I had been given less as a child to unlearn as an adult.

And an earlier speech, given by Kyle and also posted to his blog, My speech at the FAM Rally in Salt Lake City includes this:

...sometimes being trans in America today feels like seeing these blocks rise up all around me, knowing that they are not natural outcroppings or inevitable outgrowths. They are made by people, and organized by people, and put in place by people. Most of them are not easy to avoid.

Because we know that there are more imposing blocks than the ones that would keep my books from finding readers. Higher ones. Removing books about trans kids from a school is followed by telling trans kids that they can go to school but they can’t use the right bathroom, or play on teams with their peers. Denying trans kids a reflection of themselves in books is a lower block, and denying us access to healthcare that allows us to see ourselves reflected in a mirror puts us square in the middle of the highest columns, hemmed in from all sides with no way out.
Read both speeches here.

Illustrate, Translate, and Write On,

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