About Me

My photo
This blog is the work of an educated civilian, not of an expert in the fields discussed.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Heather Has Two Mommies

I recently read the book Jailbait, a teen fiction book about a girl who has a relationship with an older man in 1971 (about the time the author would have been that age), and it turned out to be the author of the above book. Never having read it -- it came out long after I was a child and let's just say my mom* wouldn't be the sort who would have bought it even if I was (as I was not) a big reader of children's books at a young age (still unlike many at my grade school, I already had a library card when we went to the trip there) -- it was placed on the reserve list.

If you go to the Amazon page and read reviews, which I do from time to time, one complaint (even in one case by someone saying she's lesbian) was the discussion about artificial insemination. The reader of the version nicely performed in that video would be confused. There were also complaints about the B&W pictures, which was curious in the 1990s, but perhaps was partially a price deal. The 20th anniversary copy was in nice color and the story of a little girl with two mommies and learning how there are all types of families was well done. But, hey ... what?
I cannot applaud her choice or her reasons, because the eight rejected pages matter. Warmly and tenderly, they recount, in words and in pictures, the friendship of two women, Kate and Jane—their growing love for one another, the joining of their lives, their desire for a child, the pregnancy of Jane, and the birth of little Heather. All of this is in the excised material. Clearly it is germane, even indispensable, to the ensuing narrative. By leaving it out, the anniversary edition eviscerates and impoverishes the work, and its glowing re-touched illustrations do not make up for the loss. Something that matters far more than color has been jettisoned here. To reject these pages is to forgo the haven, the nest, the matrix that the expectant partners first wish for, and then prepare for their child. One enduringly memorable image that was omitted shows Kate stroking her partner’s distended abdomen and feeling the thump of the unborn baby’s kick.
The article notes that the b&w added something too, but though I can see how it might (see also, the power it gives to some old movies),  this part of the book is more notable.  The color scheme works as it might not if an old film noir. I don't know if the resulting message if rightly deemed "trite," but learning about her origins story does add weight to the whole thing.  And, even more troubling, unlike the 10th anniversary edition, the excision isn't even referenced in the author's comments!

In the 10th anniversary edition, as helpfully explained in that article (the Wikipedia page does not include such information), does recognize the change. The author explains she got a lot of negative feedback on the subject and that felt the book would get wider exposure without it. Same sex couples having children, including by this route, is a lot less controversial these days.  The section should be added back, or at least that version offered, since it provides a more complete picture.  I can imagine, for example, some couples who already have a child -- perhaps by a former marriage -- decide to have one this fashion. So, the child knows what is going on.  Is it really too mature for all readers? As the article noted:
two women, one a doctor, the other a carpenter, fall in love and decide to bring a child into the world and raise her together
is the complete story here. I can see how something like artificial insemination might be somewhat tricky to explain to a four year old though would have liked to see how it was done here.  But, there should be a way to handle it -- books portray mommies and daddies having babies without going in much detail about the science of it all, yes?  The child listening is likely in various cases to wonder about Heather -- where did she come from? Now, this version can offer an easy alternative -- though she looks like one of the moms, the reader can assume they adopted Heather.  Still, some might know a two mommy couple where one of the mommies -- like in the original -- where one is pregnant.  Why not in a book?

I understand why the author changed the book though less clear why the original seems covered up -- like an embarrassment -- in the 20th anniversary author afterword.  This part troubles me.  Anyway, some of the original critics partially won -- though some (including more than one that moved past narrow definitions of "marriage" to saying there was no "family" here -- apparently, for some, even a widow raising children with a grandmother to help isn't a true "family") continued to find lesbians as sinful and not for children.  There is a certain depressing irony there.

As with the article, I do wish the next edition -- perhaps in honor of same sex marriage and parenthood being respected by the Supreme Court -- goes back to the book's roots.  The color is fine though. Hope I can find the original.


* I am not a big fan, even here,  about being overly personal, but have noted in the past that some people in my family have different views than I on certain topics. Simply put, though her views on civil unions have changed, my mom does not have the same views as me on homosexuality. She actually stop going to a nearby church because it accepted same sex marriage, eventually going back to it because she did not feel comfortable other places.

I found all of this a bit absurd, but understand it. Religion and other beliefs is not always about stuff that is that rational.  This sort of thing also helps me empathize somewhat with others with different views, including those who are simply wrong and at times want to hurt others. It turns me off, though you know empathy and all, I understand it, when some respond in a very visceral way to this. That is, you can see the spittle, and basically these people are disgusting troglodytes.  Life is a tad more complicated.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for your .02!