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Unsuited to Age Group: The Scandals of Children’s Literature

From: College Literature
Volume 41, Number 2, Spring 2014
pp. 120-140 | 10.1353/lit.2014.0025



Drawing on the examples of Melvin Burgess’ Doing It (2004), Lesléa Newman’s Heather Has Two Mommies (1989), Justin Richardson’s and Peter Parnell’s And Tango Makes Three (2005), Paul Ruditis’s Rainbow Party (2005), and Michael Willhoite’s Daddy’s Roommate (1991), this paper explores a series of scandals in the genre of children’s literature, examining the taboos surrounding children and their exposure to particular literary forms and content. Figured as the most vulnerable members of society, children are at the center of the most vitriolic and numerous of public debates, as gatekeepers such as parents, schools, libraries, community agencies and the church contest what kinds of material—and what kinds of ideas—are appropriate for the developing minds of the nation. Focusing on scandalous children’s texts concerning sexuality, the paper explores how literature functions as a vehicle through which to prosecute both dominant and marginal agendas with the aim of protecting—or transforming—emergent identities.

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