Hey! Super fun day here! We made an exciting trip to Barnes & Noble today to pick up daughter’s summer AP reading assignment!
(Warning: if you don’t sense the sarcasm, I don’t think you’re reading the right blog. These are not the droids you’re looking for. Back away.)
Don’t misunderstand — my daughter likes to read. We all do in this family. Indeed, I teach reading. Books make me quivery. But there’s still something oppressive about summer reading assignments when annotating and post-it notes and plot development analysis are required. Summer reading assignments are reminders that school will start again soon. And who wants to face that in the fresh freedom of June?
But we went to the bookstore anyway.
In my daughter’s school district, incoming freshmen in AP classes could choose from one of two books: The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd, or A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Solider by Ishmael Beah (Great choices, really. I’ve only read the first book, but I can see some great parallels of strong protagonists fighting against unjust societies. I’m a little jealous of the conversations those classrooms have ahead.).
At Barnes and Noble — I found the table of required reading books, and didn’t see The Secret Life of Bees. No problem, really — I grabbed the other, and asked the clerk if it was, indeed, the other choice.
She confirmed it was, and I asked if they were out of the other. Another clerk said a shipment had just come in and was in the back.
“Oh,” I said. “This one’s OK if they’re not available yet.”
The clerk asked, “are you buying it for a boy or a girl?”
And, when I said it was for my daughter, said “Oh, then let me go to the back. That’s the boy book.”
Look, obviously, the books were chosen because one would more typically appeal to girls, who might more easily identify with Lily Owens. And the young author in A Long Way Gone who writes about his experiences being forced to join the army in Sierra Leone at age 12, has a story that might pull in teenage boys.
But last time I checked, the bookstore wasn’t divided into “girl books” and “boy books.” The Secret Life of Bees dust jacket does not say “you must have ovaries to read this book.” And just because a book is about dictators doesn’t mean you can’t read it unless you have a…
“I didn’t realize books had gender,” I said to her. Then I smiled that southern “bless your heart” smile that means something else entirely. You know the one. “They both look worth reading.”