What do you say when your son wants to check out a very sexist graphic novel from the library? *
“No way, not on my card, kiddo.” That is in fact what I said: a first reaction that just came flying out of my mouth. This, of course, put him on the defense. When you are dealing with a teen, that is no way to have an influence. Actually, that is no way to convince anyone to consider another point of view, regardless of their age.
So here goes parenting, take two. When he objected, I made a deal. I said. “If I check this out for you, I will also check out feminist books that you will be required to read and check back with me on.” If you were at the library, perusing nearby, you would have seen an agreeable teen complying with his mother’s bargain. Then you would have seen that mother walk over to the nearest computer terminal, and you would have seen a wide-eyed teen with a crooked smile and a glint in his eye ask, “Your serious, aren’t you?”
Well, of course I was serious. Under the search for feminist YA literature a meager four books showed up, so I reserved them all, via interlibrary loan, as none of them were located there.
An amazing thing happened when we got home. I didn’t say another word about the offensive book. But it was enough to get my son to question it and notice it. As an indigenous person (Mayan), he more closely identified with the racism and started pointed that out to me. On the feminist front, he would show me passages and ask if that is what I found sexist. It opened up the opportunity to ask him, “how would you feel if the stereotypes were about Native peoples,” and he acknowledged that he would be angry.
He got it.
When he did, he no longer liked the series. This is a kid with a dramatic flair, so he demonstrated his disgust by pretending that he was going to burn the book.
When the four books arrived, he was actually interested, and has read two of them so far. These are the books, with a little about each. I did promise that this would be a book review, after all.
Moxie by Jennifer Matthieu
My son really got into this one, and we had some great discussions because of it. An engaging page-turner while dealing with heavy issues, especially sexual harassment in a school setting. I think he liked it because the main characters were courageous and rebellious in a way that created real change. Through the story, the reader understands what sexism looks like and why it hurts.
Silhouette of a Sparrow by Molly Beth Griffin
This is a good one for Minnesotans, as you may recognize the locations in Minnetonka. It is a coming of age story in which the main character also discovers her lesbian sexuality. The setting is the 1920s, so the feminism in it isn’t quite as cutting edge. The anachronisms were distracting for me, but may not be for a YA who, for example, may not know that PTSD wasn’t known about at that time.
Watch Us Rise by Renee Watson and Ellen Hagan
I loved how this one was written. The chapters alternate between the voices of two young women and their persistence in being heard and making change in the face of racism, sexism and body shaming. It also compassionately deals with navigating when these mistakes are made by our own dear friends. This one is such a timely read.
Our Stories, Our Voices edited by Amy Reed
This anthology is a non-fiction collection by women reflecting on their own coming of age. I’m guessing the call for essays must have been early 2017, because there is so much in here about the direct impact of the 2016 election and the ensuing emboldened racism that touched their lives. If you are wondering if and how people were impacted by having a leader elected who is so openly misogynistic and racist, this book is for you. I learned things reading this one: and I would say that makes this one my favorite. Read it and then go vote.
Keep in mind, that the heavy topics and sexuality are handled
in a manner that is appropriate for teens, as these are YA books. If you are
reading it yourself, YA books are easier and quicker to read, which makes for a
great way to dip your toes into a topic that may be a little new to you. Enjoy
*In case you are wondering what the book was that I objected to: one of the Asterix and Obelix series. Look up what people say about it and the history of the author and illustrator and you’ll see what I mean.