Saturday, December 31, 2011

Guys Don't Ask for Directions. And Boys Read.

You know what I am going to say.
But I have to say it again,anyway.
I'm going to say it until people stop saying boys don't read.
I think people who say this need to understand that this is what they are really saying:
"It's a shame boys think the earth is flat."
This is stupid and insulting and destructive.
I was in a Big Chain Bookstore the other day because I had a gift card and a coupon. I need books for my classroom. I was in the "YA" section, which is not near the children's books, but is in the middle of the "Adult Fiction" section.
A mom and her son came over to the section, the son slightly trailing, the mother determined.
"I know this must be in alphabetical order," she said to the boy.
The boy didn't say anything. I didn't blame him. He was sweating slightly next to a shelf of Paranormal Romances.
I immediately become fierce. This boy wants a book. He has an author and a title. He must have this book.
"What book are you trying to find?"
The mom looks at me.
I was not dressed to impress. I was not accessorized. I didn't have a name tag. I was wild of eye and hair.
However, I was wearing a huge SCBWI t-shirt. So I smack down those credentials.
She relaxed a little.
I ask the boy what the book is. He tells me. His mom is still trying the alphabetical strategy, which will not yield fruit. I go to one of those customer service screens and I look up the book.
The book is not in the "YA" section. It is in the "Juvenile Readers" section, which is right next to the picture books.
I do not want to tell this boy that his book is in the "Juvenile Readers."
I mean, my I.Q. went down just typing the phrase "Juvenile Readers."
"The book is back there," I say.
He nods, says thanks, and the look in his eyes is just made me want to weep.
He just wanted a book.
He did not want to ask for help.
He's a guy.
And tell me, please, anyone, why the hell a kid should be made to feel like an alien in a hostile environment when he is in a bookstore?
A vein pops out on my forehead. I know this looks scary, so I get a bunch of good books.
Michael Grant, Andrew Smith, A.S. King, James Dashner,Patrick Ness. You know.
His mom stands near a stool.
"The book is in the other section," I tell her. I set the pile of books on the stool.
"These are books my boys like," I tell him.
His eyes are on the books.
And I leave, because the very last thing this boy needs is some stranger telling him what he should read, or watching to see what he chooses.
It turns out that one of the books I want is in "Juvenile Readers."
Except it isn't.
But the computer says it's in the store.
I find a human being to help me. She looks harried and I feel sorry for her.
"The computer says the book is in this section," and I can't say "Juvenile Reader" so I just point.
I tell her the book.
"Oh," she says. "That book is on a display."
The display is over by the bathrooms, which are next to workbooks full of worksheets that cause frontal lobotomies in kids.
I look at the salesperson. My forehead vein is throbbing. I am now wilder of hair and eye than I was before.
I thank her.
I am at the cash register and the clerk asks me if I found everything I wanted.
No, I didn't.
But this wasn't the clerk's fault.
I go home and brood.
Here's what I want.
1. I want a section in every bookstore that just says something like "Books Guys Read", and I want this to be in an area of the bookstore that is not next to workbooks full of worksheets that give kids frontal lobotomies. In fact, I don't want those workbooks in a bookstore.
2. This section should be full of books that guys read. I do not think this is difficult.
And then guys could actually find books. They wouldn't have to trail behind their moms or be accosted by the well-meaning but scary forehead-veined lady.
Boys could browse.
And then we might stop hearing stupid things about boys not reading.
And boys would have the opportunity to see that there is this whole world that recognizes them, and they don't have to stop at "Juvenile Readers" or skip past everything else to the science fiction section.
It is no surprise that guys hang out with the books about other worlds and aliens.
I just want them to be able to hang out in this world, too.
That's what I want.


  1. God, if there was a section labelled "Books Guys Read" I'd be all over that shelf! Great post!

  2. Poor kid. I hate it that it has become so difficult (from what I hear) to get a YA book published with a male MC. I hope this isn't true but I suspect it might be.