Growing Up Chicana/o, copyright 1993, is a collection of stories edited by Tiffany Ana Lopez. We challenged this book because of language, actions and situations in it.

 

We requested in our challenge that members of the ALA and NEA not sit on this Growing Up Chicano review committee. This was refused in the letter sent to us calling this meeting. We protest this decision. Official positions and policies of organizations are important to consider in order to achieve non-discriminatory procedures and due process. A member of the KKK, NRA or NRL would not be allowed to sit on the jury of many cases solely due to their organization’s stated and known positions about certain subjects, notwithstanding any statements about how the individuals would follow the laws or regulations. We ask that the documentation for this Growing Up Chicano review committee include a notation as to who are members of the ALA or NEA.

 

The language in the book includes: Goddamn, shit, bastard, bitch, bullshit, dyke, fag, queer, bull-dyke, faggot and lesbo.

 

Lets look at Sister Katherine, the longest short story in the book.

 

“.. she’ll make you say 10 Hail Mary’s. T. laughed... You’re really scared of that old bitch... Shit, she don’t scare me... I’m not s-scared of her. Bullshit!.. Who cares what Sister Katherine thinks, she can go to hell.”

“And why are you late [T.]? ..Because I don’t give a damn about this class. In a blur Sister K.’s hand rose.. came down with brutal force against T.’s mouth. It rose again and came down with even more force; it came down again and again-the whacking sound of slaps filled the classroom, and every child witnessing the beating felt fear wash over his heart. ..Sister K.’s hand drew blood from inside T.’s mouth.. was in shock... tears began to roll down his cheeks. Sister K. slapped him until his knees buckled and he fell.. to the floor.”

 

After this brutal beating the nun tells the boy that God has taught him a lesson. After witnessing this beating the main character experiences recurring nightmares of the nun beating him.

“..dream.. troubled him. ..taking a test.. when Sister K. walked in wearing an ebony-black habit... hate gleaming in her eyes, and with an emerald-studded crucifix she began beating him over the head. He took the beating for hours.. he would awaken screaming..”

After being out of school for a while due to stomach cramps, Sister K torments him about his illness by saying to him in front of the class, “I thought only women had cramps.”

 

The boy now begins to hate all women. He snipes at a girl from his window.


“He saw several girls, dressed up... twice he pumped his pellet gun and shot one of them.. There was yelling and hysterical tears; he sneaked into his room... and as he sat on the bed, he laughed and experienced a happiness he had never thought possible.”

“Some nights he would lay wake devising ways of getting even with Sister K. ...T. had once called her a dyke. He did not know what that word meant; but if he could prove she was a dyke, maybe he could cause Sister K. some pain - yes, pain - and he wanted that ugly, disturbed woman to feel pain.”

“A. hung up the phone... could not believe he had been talking to Sister K. What was that damn dyke up to? Was she so cruel that she had to call him up to ruin his holiday, punish him even more?... she called you too?... Yeah... I wonder why... wanted to wish everybody a Holy Christmas. What bunch of shit. That’s what I thought... probably drunk on cheap wine. Every nun and priest drinks on Sunday afternoons. They have orgies in the rectory, you can hear them yelling and screaming.”

"You know that every nun is mean. They ain’t ever had a man so they go a little crazy. Do you know what my dad says?.. A nun is a woman that ain’t had none.”

“Did you write your poem?.... It’s about a bird, a stupid bird that wakes me up every morning with his goddamn singing... Shit, I don’t care what people think about my poetry..”

“The change [for the better in Sister K.] was so drastic.... Sister K. had gone crazy. He had read that some woman, after living without a man for so many years, finally lose their grip on reality.. go on for months like they were the happiest creatures in the world [then] plunge into a deep and irreparable depression... he waited for Sister K. to ‘plunge’. He hoped he would be there when the dark side of happiness swept her off her feet and into an asylum.”

“..the nuns stood outside.. talking.. a joyous smile hung on Sister K.’s face as she looked at Sister E. They spoke for long impassioned moments... they kissed. A. lost his breath, what was that all about? Why had they kissed? He had never seen 2 woman do that.. wasn’t a deep kiss.. yet there was something different about the kiss..... wouldn’t believe me. I saw Sister K. and Sister E. kiss... Nuns kiss all the time... but this kiss was different... What’s a dyke?... It means that a woman is a queer, a fag. What’s a fag?... A fag is a queer, somebody who likes their own sex. For instance, if a girl likes going to bed with other girls, that makes her a fag, a dyke, a lesbo. Sister E. is a fag. Don’t talk crazy. She’s too pretty. If she kissed Sister K. that should make her fag... If anybody is a fag, it’s that bull-dyke, Sister K.... Haven’t you noticed how Sister K. has changed ever since Sister E. arrived. I bet they’re in love... I can prove it. You’re just asking for trouble. Yeah, nobody wants faggot nuns teaching in this school... Would they kick a nun out for being a dyke? Sure they would.... here was his chance for revenge.. She’ll pay for making me miserable, she will.. A. felt 10 feet tall; a giddy excitement stirred..”

A. talks his way into rectory and sneaks around, spies on the nuns: “Sister K. looked about... took hold of Sister E.’s hand. She fondled it and touched the fingertips; she ran her nails over the soft palm... We shouldn’t behave like this Sister E. said. Why not?.. No one comes here in the morning. What if someone did? It wouldn’t bother me.. We would probably be excommunicated. God would still love us. You’ve got to understand how you’ve changed me so. Before, I maltreated the children. I was bitter, angry... I’m.. frightened. Don’t be. Both... were radiant.. transformed them from nuns to human lovers. They kissed deeply. A. shuddered... get away.. backed up... My son, wait. The priest... Did you need something?... 2 nuns were in the garden kissing... 2 lesbians are in the rectory making love. Love. Do you understand? ‘N-No, I haven’t any q-questions’.. Running out the door, into the sunlight... sat there for hours.. sobbed... sighed.. held his breath.... He knew a secret. He would never forget. Love changes everyone... even Sister K.”

We don’t feel that the material in Growing Up Chicano is necessary or appropriate for MS. About two months ago we met with the principal of Irving MS where we submitted this challenge to discuss the “original rationale for inclusion of the material” and “purpose and use” per FCPS Regulation 3009.5. We were told that this book “hadn’t been checked out for years” and it was “approved through Central Approval” and “central recommendations from the Lacy Center.” We were told they were “not sure of the rationale because [it’s] so old.” We were told they “had not done inventory in years” and “maybe [it will] be weeded.” We were told “Our decision to remove is to wait until we hear from Central.”

 

We still do not know the rationale for inclusion of this material, nor the purpose and use of this material although we were supposed to have been told this over two months ago in our meeting at Irving MS.

 

There was a choice - a choice to purchase this book and place it in a few MS libraries. Most middle schools chose not to have this book. Why did just a few schools choose differently? What makes them different? Our challenge to Growing Up Chicano requested that the names of the people who made the choice to be identified.

 

Parents don’t have a choice that their child picks a book off their school library shelf and reads it at school or at home. We, and the public have a right to know who is making these choices with our tax dollars for us. As stated in our challenge Virginia Law says the entire scheme of instruction in the public schools shall emphasize moral education through lessons given by teachers and imparted by appropriate reading selections.

 

If this book has not been checked out in years and is only in a few schools it is a waste of time and resources to defend this material.

 

In FCPS middle schools questions about homosexuality may only be answered in the context of HIV disease prevention education. For FLE class parents are sent an opt-out form. To have materials related to the topic of homosexuality outside of FLE, such as Growing Up Chicano, in the school library, where children are sent when they opt-out of FLE, is contradictory.

 

It is important to us to know what homosexual themes and situations, if any, are allowed in MS books by FCPS. Recently we have heard the school system has been communicating with outside groups who want to donate homosexual themed books. This and the recent proposed language change to “sexual orientation” made us realize that while Growing Up Chicano is now in some schools, it could very easily be in every MS if it is determined to be acceptable at those age levels. This committee will obviously do what it wants to do. In numerous past challenges that almost always has been a 100% vote against the challenger. We ask that you consider that it is possible that FCPS has made a mistake on this book.

 

In July of this year the FCPS provided the school board a list of book titles dealing with homosexuality, lesbians, gays, bisexuals, gay rights, gender identity, sexual orientation, coming out and related topics. Growing Up Chicano was not on this list even though it has homosexual subject material and is even in middle school. The FCPS catalog system did not use any of these keywords as subject terms for Growing Up Chicano.

 

If middle school children are going to read Goddamn, shit, bastard, bitch, bullshit, dyke, fag, queer, bull-dyke, faggot and lesbo, the public has a right to know that FCPS and their elected officials support this.

 

If middle school children are going to read about a nun who brutally beats a child, in order for God to teach him a lesson, the public has a right to know that FCPS and their elected officials support this.

 

If middle school children are going to read about a nun beating someone with a religious symbol, the public has a right to know that FCPS and their elected officials support this.

 

If middle school children are going to read about a how a boy experiences great happiness after shooting a girl in a sniper situation, the public has a right to know that FCPS and their elected officials support this.

 

If middle school children are going to read how members of a religious order get drunk and read about joking about them having orgies, the public has a right to know that FCPS and their elected officials support this.

 

If middle school children are going to read a joke about how nun’s are called nun’s because they “ain’t had none”, and how because they “ain’t ever had a man” they go crazy, the public has a right to know that FCPS and their elected officials support this.

 

If middle school children are going to read about nun’s in a homosexual relationship, the public has a right to know that FCPS and their elected officials support this.

 

If middle school children are going to read about lesbian nun’s in a rectory making love, the public has a right to know that FCPS and their elected officials support this.

 

If middle school children are going to read about how a homosexual relationship transformed a nun from being a cruel, brutal, sadistic teacher into being a kind and understanding teacher, the public has a right to know that FCPS and their elected officials support this.

 

So what does a middle school child learn about Chicano’s from this book? That many or all Chicano’s had cruel, sadistic nun’s as teacher’s when they were children? That the nun’s were that way because they didn’t have a man or needed a homosexual lover? That sniping makes one experience great happiness?

 

This story is biased against, and intolerant of, a particular religion - Catholicism. Not that a similar story such as Growing Up Israeli - Rabbi Randy, or Growing Up Turkish - Mullah Mohammed, or the like, would be any more acceptable. This sort of anti-religious bias and intolerance has no place in our taxpayer funded government schools. Public schools keep out or prohibit religious speech and expression in the name of separation of religion/beliefs and the state, but with Growing Up Chicano FCPS seems to have no problem with anti-religious material.

 

We don’t know what parents, if any, were involved in choosing this book for MS. We don’t know who chose it and why. Parents don’t have a choice if this book is in their child’s school library. The book is available to their child, like every other book in the library, when their children are there.

 

There are many books that have not been chosen for some or any FCPS libraries. FCPS has made a choice to place this book in some MS libraries. We don’t think this was a wise choice.

 

If Growing Up Chicano is not available to students at school, it will still be available to them and their parents in public bookstores and the public library - the same as the millions of other books not “chosen” for our schools.

 

We know that FCPS thinks that Growing Up Chicano is so good, that it’s not only in libraries, but it’s on the FCPS Suggested Summer Reading List for rising 9th and 10th graders. We also disagree with that choice but that is not part of this challenge.

 

7 January 2003