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>When the Joke’s On You

>I’m having some trouble with PW editor Sara Nelson’s hand-wringing over the use of King & King by advocates of California’s Proposition 8, which this past Tuesday overturned the right of gay couples to get married in that state. Nelson was upset by a TV ad produced by the Yes on 8 campaign that featured a Massachusetts couple, Robb and Robin Wirthlin, who objected to King & King being read in their kid’s school. (The Wirthlins were in the news here when they filed a lawsuit attempting to stop their school district from using the book.)

Like Nelson, I’m no-on-8 and ok-with-King & King. But while I can buy her assessment of the situation (“a book made of socially liberal intentions is being used to defeat those intentions–against the wishes of its publisher and, perhaps, its creators, who are Dutch and, so far, silent on the matter”) I can’t share in her dismay. If a book can be used to speak to public policy (which King & King surely does), why can’t it be used to protest it? It’s not as if the book is being misrepresented, and it’s certainly not as if anyone needs to secure the blessings of the creators or publisher in order to use a book to make a point.
I think this is what happens when you forget you’ve chosen sides. Republicans were horrified when Tina Fey and Saturday Night Live used Sarah Palin’s own words to make her look foolish, while those of us who were against Palin found it all an example of karma writ hilariously. Freedom of speech and freedom to publish will always include the risk that someone will turn your own words against you.
Roger Sutton About Roger Sutton

Roger Sutton has been the editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc, since 1996. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his M.A. in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a B.A. from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.



  1. >Hi Roger,

    Once you put a book out there, it can be used for absolutely anything.
    You can’t let that keep you from writing.

    Thanks for the post.

    Clare Bell

  2. Roger Sutton says:

    >Hi Clare–

    Much as I detested their ends, I thought Yes on 8’s use of King & King was pretty smart. It is used to teach respect for “all kinds of families,” a popular topic in elementary schools, and one that is anathema to the God-didn’t-make-Adam-and-Steve crowd. (Of course, if God made anybody, he made everybody, which I trust St. Peter will let these folks know when their time comes.)

  3. Jen Robinson says:

    >Thanks for this post, Roger. My gut reaction was to be horrified when I saw King and King used in that commercial (I live in CA, and voted no on 8, and I even grew up in the town that started the big fuss about King and King a couple of years ago). But in reading your comments (and Clare’s), and thinking about it objectively, I believe that you’re right (especially “I think this is what happens when you forget you’ve chosen sides.”). The book is an illustration of what the yes on 8 people are afraid of, and it did make sense for them to use it (even if I personally was saddened by it). Thanks for the perspective!

  4. >maybe we should all wait until yet another author produces a gay penguin book. how many do we have now?

  5. >how many gay penguin books are there now? maybe we should all wait a while until there is a quota and then get indignant (or supportive)

  6. >Didn’t one of those penguins end up jumping the fence? Maybe we should wait ’til there’s a right wing book about that, and then get indignant (or supportive).

  7. Roger Sutton says:

    >Yes, there was quite a scandal in the penguin community. 😉

  8. Mitali Perkins says:

    >wow, anonymous is really into penguins

  9. >I suspect that Anon. (if there is only one Anon.) has the same problem I do with messaging: does one type message first and then do the code, or vice versa? This might led to repetition, in the belief that the first version was lost.

  10. Roger Sutton says:

    >Type the message, then the code. You eed to remember that comments don’t go up until I approve them. I had to institute this step because I was getting a lot of spam from Chinese gold farmers and pretty Russian ladies.

  11. Roger Sutton says:

    >P.S. And of course the penguin lobby is fabulously out of control.

  12. >Many thanks for the clear (and prompt) instructions! I (Anon. 9:05) suspect the penguin lobby involves many new correspondents – and OF COURSE there must be a modicum of censorship.

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