Sunday, February 18, 2007


This Image is Rated R-17

There's nothing like a children's book to whip up our protective sense for little ones. Most recently, the Newbery Medal-winning book, The Higher Power of Lucky, has the banners of books lining up to express their outrage. Its crimes against the young? The use of the word scrotum on the novel's first page.

It's actually the scrotum of a dog, (clearly not the Lucky of the title) and it's being bitten by a rattlesnake, in case you are in the act of reaching for your favorite sex toy as you finish reading this. And Lucky, age 10, the novel's protagonist, is going through the intriguing business of learning the real names of body parts, something I wish her luck in doing.

As those who have decided to exclude this book from their libraries have made clear, to them scrotum doesn't belong in a book for kids. Said one school librarian, "I don't want to start an issue about censorship, but you won't find men's genitalia in quality literature, at least not for children."

Another accused author and librarian Susan Patron of interjecting a "Howard Stern-type shock treatment just to see how far they [sic] could push the envelope, but they [sic] didn't have the children in mind."

Didn't they. Many of today's parents actually teach their children the real names of body parts and encourage their use. So long ho-ho and wee-wee; hello penis. Au revoir nuts, greetings, O fragile scrotum.

Lucky Trimble, the book's heroine, hears the word through a hole in the wall when another character says he saw a rattlesnake bite his dog, Roy, on the scrotum.

"Scrotum sounded to Lucky like something green that comes up when you have the flu and cough too much. It sounded medical and secret, but also important."

I don't envy school librarians in this day and age. Like teachers, they're often suspected of not having the best interests of children in mind, even as they devote their days to trying promote children's empowerment and education. I experienced the attempts at censorship first hand in my own classroom. However, buckling at a word isn't the way to encourage thoughtful, reflective reading. It's the way to strip away context and miss an author's larger point in order to obsess over the use of a word.

Someone thinks that The Higher Power of Lucky is good for kids. It's been awarded children's literature's highest award for writing, the Newbery Medal. That award is reserved not only for good writing, but for stories and themes that uplift children's spirits and encourage growth and the development of good character traits. The use of the term higher power probably hints at a larger, nobler destiny for the novel's heroine.

There has to be room for a scrotum in a book, especially a doggie-one that's been bitten by a rattlesnake.


One more cautionary tale about neutering one's pet.
"Meaning no disrespect" does not mean that your 02/17 blog is not disrepectful. It is. Deeply.

There is a difference between "intent" and "impact". A positive intent doesn't necessarily lessen the negative effect of the impact.

As for credentials, I have been ordained for 20 years - against the protest of a diocese that had voted against the ordination of women and certaintly didn't want to ordain a lesbian.

I have had the privilege of serving on the national board of Integrity, having been a member since 1976. I have served two past General Conventions as Integrity Legislative Floor Whip.

I was at Lambeth 1998 as the only open lesbian from TEC and presided at the LGCM opening Eucharist at the historic chapel of King's College in London - the first woman and lesbian to do so - which engendered protests and death threats.

I was a founding member of the Steering Committee of Claiming the Blessing, the leading justice lobby group for LGBT people.

I am presently honored to serve as national President of the Episcopal Women's Caucus.

I think you might safely say that I've "been around Mulligan's Barn" on issues of justice and prejudice for a while.

It's also safe to assume that I am decidedly NOT homophobic. And while am I clearly not opposed to Our Katharine's primacy and abhor how Mr. Akinola and others treat her, neither am I overprotective of her.

I have known her since before she was ordained priest. She's a remarkable woman. As a PhD in oceanogrophy, her speciality was octopus and squid. I think she can hold her own with "spineless creatures."

BTW: the piece by Irene Monroe is fine. She can write like that. She's a lesbian of color. As near as I can figure, you aren't.

Here's my nickle's worth of unsolicited advice: Take down that essay. Well intended or not, it's not funny. Indeed, it's hurtful.

It is not supportive of Our Katharine.

It's not edifying of you or the cause of justice.

Do what you want - it's a free country and there is no greater freedom than that in the blogosphere.

Freedom also comes with enormous responsibility. I am hoping you exercise that responsibility and remove it.

Oh, and for what it's worth: Neither what I nor anyone else who commented on this piece should be characterized as "priest spit."

Part of the deal about having the freedom of expressive, creative writing is developing the maturity to accept criticism - especially when you're wrong.

Thanks for hearing me out.
Hmmm... you don't read too carefully, do you? But then, I find myself skimming you, too.

Irene McKinney isn't Irene Monroe. The priest in 'priest spit' was used adjectivally.

Since I'm not affiliated with the church in any way anymore, I'll leave the fate of Our Katharine to you. Best of luck.

I do maintain that even a chimp has more sense than the homophobic priests who spurned her.

It's what I said all along.
Yu wrote: "Since I'm not affiliated with the church in any way anymore . . ."

Oh for goodness sake, if this is so, why do you even bother?

Well, perhaps you may reconsider your non-affiliative status. Clearly, you still care deeply.

Here's my best shot at a nickel's worth of unsolicited advice: Get over your clericalism, deal with your own vocation, figure out what Jesus wants you to do and get on with it.
Aren't we presumptuous.
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