LILLEY

Fifty shades of GG? No thanks

By Brian Lilley

When Everything Feels Like the Movies

When Everything Feels Like the Movies

It is a book that has the imprimatur of the Governor General of Canada and the applause of the Canadian artistic and media elite, and yet I can’t read the first line or much of the first few pages on television.

Did I mention this is supposedly a children’s book?

Don’t take this column as some sort of call to ban the novel When Everything Feels Like the Movies, but rather a really big question: When did nonstop stories of sex become the kind of “children’s literature” that wins the biggest award in the country and $25,000 worth of taxpayers' money?

Let’s be blunt. The reason Raziel Reid’s novel won is because it is about a gay teen in a small-minded, bigoted town – that’s how the Canada Council for the Arts described it as they awarded the book the prestigious prize. I’ve read the first chapter and some excerpts, enough to get a taste. National Post columnist Barbara Kay, who also questions the book getting this award, read the entire thing.

Neither of us question Reid’s ability to write; snappy and crisp is how Kay described Reid's writing to me on television the other day.

The question for me is, when did this become the kind of book that our government, and the governor general, suggested kids should read? And then showered with taxpayers' money.

Don’t think that this is just some award with the governor general’s name on it but that it doesn’t mean anything. Bookstores, libraries and parents look to such awards when seeking out quality books for their children to read.

In a promotion video for the award, Reid himself spoke of the honour as if it were coming from the governor general himself.

“It feels like the governor general is putting a crown on my imagination and it’s my new best friend,” Reid said.

I’ve read parts of Reid’s book to some parents far more liberal than I am and all of them have the same look when told the passages I’ve read are from an award-winning children’s novel.

I have no interest in handing my teenage son or daughter a novel that opens with the main character musing about offering sexual favours in exchange for a pair of high-priced Louboutin heels. I have no interest in handing my young teens a novel that discusses having multiple partners at once and glorifies casual sex.

Maybe in this Fifty Shades of Grey-era this makes me a prude -- so be it.

I know I’m not alone.

Ottawa writer Kathy Clark, herself an author of children’s literature, has pushed a petition to revoke the GG’s award from the book. So far just shy of 1,800 people have signed on.

That has other writers claiming she wants to censor the book. What rubbish.

Steven Galloway, the head of the creative writing program at the University of British Columbia, has lashed out at Clark and her attempt to say this isn’t the type of book the GG should be honouring for children’s literature.

“If you don’t value free speech . . . then you don’t deserve to call yourself a writer,” Galloway wrote in an open letter to Clark.

Except Clark isn’t calling for the book to be banned or censored or burned. She’s just saying this isn’t what we should be honouring.

Look, Playboy and Hustler still publish print editions of their magazines, yet my public library doesn’t carry them in the magazine section. Is this censorship? No.

As a father I’m not naive about what kids can get up to or what they talk about, but I also know that this book isn’t the type we should be encouraging young teens to read.

 


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