Taste the Apple, Make The Trade
I have disturbed a reader
I received a letter today from a young nineteen year old woman that concerned a book I wrote some years ago, A Time For Courage, part of the Dear America series . The book, historical fiction, is about the suffrage movement. There was one sentence in the ‘Historical Note’ at the end of the book that the woman found horrifying. Here it is: “In the 1960s and 1970s, the women’s movement found vigorous new leaders who fought for issues such as equal pay, better birth control methods, and equal opportunities in the workplace.”
Now with all hundred thousand plus copies of that book that have sold I have never received a letter objecting to this sentence. The woman says everyone has a right to their opinions but she is clearly upset with mine. She states,“I would not let my children read this book.” I could not help but think of the wonderful response that Dav Pilkey the author of Captain Underpants gave recently to a critic who protested the introduction of a gay character in that series.
"I understand that people are entitled to their own opinions about books, but it should be just that: a difference of opinion. All that's required is a simple change," he wrote. "Instead of saying ‘I don't think children should read this book,' just add a single word: ‘I don't think my children should read this book…. When it comes to books, we may not all agree on what makes for a good read—but I hope we can agree that letting children choose their own books is crucial to helping them learn to love reading."
To her credit she did say "my children", however the woman went on to question if birth control was a woman’s right! There was so much I wanted to say to her but I refrained. I wanted to tell her that my own mother, who if she were alive would be over one hundred years old, was a founding member of the Planned Parenthood Chapter in Indiana as well as the League of Women Voters. Upon her death, my sister and father and I decided to give the entirety of her charitable trust to Planned Parenthood. My father has now died but my sister and I continue to support Planned Parenthood as vigorously as possible as we feel the organization is essential to women’s health care. Only 3% of their funding goes to abortions, the rest goes to birth control methods and mammograms and other programs supporting women’s health care. I wanted to tell her how proud I am of my mother and how I have tried to teach my daughter the same values. But I said none of that. Half of writing is exercising restraint. So I just wrote the following:
I appreciate very much that you wrote me. It is often not easy to read and digest troubling material that one encounters in books. If my book has helped you realize how complicated the world often is, I feel that we have both gained something. As a friend of mine, Sophie, says “As you get older you will read more widely, and time and time again, you’ll encounter material that disturbs. It’s a sign that you are becoming an adult. The world is less simple and the luxury of living in that simple world begins to vanish. It’s time to taste the apple, to make the ancient trade of innocence for knowledge.”
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