The First Time: Volumes I & II.
Edited by Charles Montpetit.
Grade 10 and up / Ages 15 and up.
I hardly need to describe the embarrassment of buying condoms, which, in the 1950s, were locked away out of sight, so they could be kept from the people who needed them most. Some kind of law also stated that when someone wanted to buy them, there would only be a female clerk on duty, usually an older woman who pretended not to hear and made you repeat your request while looking at you as if you intended to rape and dismember her.... I guess the manufacturers assumed that the condom, like the lever or the inclined plane, was self-explanatory. I'm sure the package contained no instructions. As I recall, the only printing on the back of the carton read FOR THE PREVENTION OF DISEASE. But even if there had been instructions, we probably wouldn't have used them, as I pride myself to this day on never having read the directions accompanying anything.
Although purchasing condoms is much easier today, young readers can no doubt identify with the adolescent embarrassment of the protagonist in W.P. Kinsella's story, "The Clothesline Door," taken here from The First Time, a collection of short stories edited by Charles Montpetit, winner of the 1989 Governor General's Award for Children's Literature in French. Following up the success of La Premiere fois (Quebec/Amerique, 1991), an anthology for adolescents well received in Quebec, Montpetit here presents original stories in English by sixteen Canadian authors. The initial chapter, "Precautions," begins with the timely warning "Wear protection. There. Now that we've got this out of the way, let's move on to what this book really is about." And what this book really is about is SEX and love and growing up, each story being drawn from real life experience, although not necessarily that of the authors.
Kathleen L. Kellett-Betsos is a French Professor at Ryerson Polytechnic University in Toronto.
Read Charles Montpetit's introduction and get information on how to order The First Time books from Orca Publishers.
Copyright © 1995 the Manitoba Library Association.
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