Boy stories, girl stories

tammy212 on the frustrations of being asked why don’t you write more male heroes?

Having just done a round of book signings, I understand just how frustrating this is. The number of parents of boys who felt the need to ask, “Is your book about a boy?” because they assume otherwise their sons will have no interest was … not only frustrating, but uncomfortable. I said all the proper polite things. “No, but it is an adventure story.” “No, but the sidekick is a boy.”

What I wanted to say was, “Can’t you give your sons some credit? Can’t you do what you’d do with a book for your daughters, or for adults, and read a page or two, then decide whether or not you think this is a story your son might like?”

Maybe it’s not the right story for your kid. That’s fine. I don’t expect my stories to be right for everyone. Each child–each human being–needs to find the stories that are right for them.

But surely there’s a better criteria for finding those stories than, “Is the story about a boy?”

I’m reminded of something my sister just told me. She and my brother-in-law were shopping for a rubber duck for my nephew. There was one rubber duck dressed up as a fireman, another as a ballerina. (Yes, even rubber ducks are gender segregated. Don’t get me started.) My nephew reached for the ballerina duck. My brother-in-law looked at it uncomfortably and said, “Can’t we get him the boy one?”

My sister, who sometimes can be quite sensible (but don’t tell her I said so), said, “Why don’t we let him decide?” And my brother-in-law, who’s also pretty sensible, rethought his initial instincts and agreed. They offered Asher both rubber ducks, and Asher chose the ballerina. Because he’d actually known what he wanted all along.

I know the conventional wisdom is that boys will only read about boys. It may even be true, by the time they’re reading age.

But if it is, maybe, just maybe, it’s because since birth, their parents have been screening everything they offer their sons with the question, “But is this right for boys?”

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