CM . . .
. Volume XX Number 1. . . .September 6, 2013
Homophobia: Deal with It and Turn Prejudice into Pride. (Deal With It).
Steven Solomon. Illustrated by Nick Johnson.
Toronto, ON: James Lorimer, 2013.
32 pp., pbk. & hc., $12.95 (pbk.), $24.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-4594-0442-7 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-4594-0441-0 (hc.).
Grades 7-9 / Ages 12-14.
Review by Rob Bittner.
You just started at a new school. In your old school, the other students liked you a lot. Many kids had been friends with you since kindergarten. This school feels different. You just joined the glee club and drama club, and a couple of boys in class start to tease and bug you, calling you “sissy,” “wuss” and “gay.” The other day, one of them asked you if you were really a girl, “’cause you sure act like one.” Another boy heard him and shouted out, “Maybe he’s into guys or something.” You feel confused and angry. You’ve never been treated this way before.
Why are they treating you this way? It must be more than just that you’re the new kid...
This book, part of a larger series dealing with social issues of importance to young people, looks at the topic of homophobia from approximately early middle school through to high school. Solomon, with the help of Johnson’s illustrations, explores homophobic behaviour and proceeds to look at what homosexuality is, and is not, noting ways of dealing with homophobia and bullying. Other topics examined through a lens of homosexuality and homophobia are religion, coming out, gay/straight alliances, and other places and people to turn to for help. The book also covers slurs and anti-gay comments and provides ways of confronting bullies.
While I admire the sentiment and the motivation behind the text, it fails, at least in part, in its overall execution. The book’s eclectic layout is meant as a reference text as opposed to something which one would read through in a single sitting. The information that is provided is helpful, though the format of the book is poorly designed. There are moments where the text provides quizzes, such as “Are You a Homophobe,” but would readers who do not identify as LGB or T pick up this book in the first place? The cover art is certainly not subtle, which may also prohibit the text from appealing to a closeted readership.
The sections of the book that focus on what homophobia is are actually very important aspects of the text, especially in our current social context where homophobia gets tossed around to a great degree, often at times when it is not actually applicable in the given situation. As Solomon notes at one point, “sometimes things that look homophobic are not necessarily examples of homophobia…”. The religious component of the text is also an integral component for those who live in smaller, more religiously conservative, communities.
The section on myths is also very important and would be more helpful if the book was more appealing for non-LGBT audiences. I know that it is quite a worry among some young people, that talking about gay or lesbian issues will make people see you as gay or lesbian, or that you will somehow become gay or lesbian. This is false, obviously, but is a great fear among many young people in school situations.
Overall, I believe that the content is valuable, and the sidebars are quite informative, but the finished product will not appeal entirely to the intended audience. Aside from my reservations about the layout of the text and the possible lack of appeal outside of an already openly queer audience, I would recommend that it be available in classrooms or on library shelves, with the caveat that it does contain uncensored examples of homophobic language that may offend younger readers or bring up traumatic experiences.
Rob Bittner recently graduated from the MA in Children’s Literature program at The University of British Columbia and is now a PhD student in Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, BC.
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