Like all members of ALA, I receive a monthly publication that goes by the name of American Libraries. In the March issue of that self-same title, there was an article called Librarian: Media Fictionalized Tango Penguin Flap. In it, ALA took the side of the librarian that moved the title And Tango Makes Three to the non-fiction section of her local library. Authors Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson were, understandably, not thrilled with this move. At the recent ALA Conference I discussed with them the letter they sent to the American Libraries editor, explaining their objection. Justin pointed out to me, though, that while the articles of American Libraries are accessible online, the letters section is not. Therefore, if an article contains an error and that error is taken to task by a letter, the correction will never see cyberspace. Just the erroneous article. With that in mind, I have taken it upon myself to reprint Peter and Justin's letter to the editor here, where it may remain in glorious cyberspace for all of time.
To the editor:
Your article, “Librarian: Media Fictionalized Penguin Tango Flap,” badly misrepresents a Missouri librarian’s attempt to suppress our picture book And Tango Makes Three by reshelving it when parents complained about its gay theme.
In a piece that quotes librarian Barbara Read, but none of her critics, you dismiss the controversy over her decision as much ado about nothing. “The book hasn’t been restricted at all,” you write, “…just moved from children’s fiction to children’s nonfiction because it tells a true story.”
In your haste to defend Read, you neglect to report that she had explained to her local paper that she moved Tango out of the popular picture book section because, “Given that patrons rarely browse the nonfiction section, there was less of a chance that the book would ‘blindside’ someone.” Nor do you observe that Read had similarly contradicted her own rationalization that the book belongs in nonfiction because it is true. “According to the zoologists,” she had asserted in the St. Josephs News-Press, “there is no such thing as proven homosexuality in the animal world.”
Equally troubling, you end your story with a quote from Read presumably chosen to demonstrate that her decision was free of bias: “The bottom line, Read said, is that Tango will remain accessible so the book can say to kids in nonnuclear families that they–the kids–are okay regardless of how we feel about their parents' life choices.’”
Ms. Read is, of course, entitled to her opinions that families with two mothers or two fathers are not nuclear families; that it is the children of those families–but not the families themselves–that are okay; that the way “we feel” about gay adults is negative; and that homosexual orientation is a “choice.” But we are distressed that none of these assumptions was challenged by American Libraries, if indeed any were noticed.
Justin Richardson M.D,
And Tango Makes Three
I believe it was Nina Lindsay who pointed out to Peter and Justin that it's interesting how none of the articles about this incident said which section the librarian put Tango into. In with the other penguins or in with the homosexuality section? This all bears some serious contemplation.