AGENDA LITERATURE: READ ALL ABOUT IT
The Fairbanks North Star Borough is seeking public input on a new curriculum offering for high school students: LGBTQ Literature.
The district offers other literature courses — American, World, Women’s, African-American, Native American, and even Holocaust literature. But educators want to add another genre, just for Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgender-Questioning authors.
“LGBTQ+ Literature: This integrated course combines a survey of LGBTQ+ authors with composition. LGBTQ+ prose, poetry, and drama are used as vehicles for examining culture and improving writing skills. Formal literary analysis is required, as well as a variety of other writing experiences,” the summary provided by the school district reads.
The book list includes authors who have been studied for years in schools, without being singled out and categorized simply by their sexual preference: Authors James Baldwin, Alice Walker, Herman Melville, Virginia Woolf, and E.M. Forster, to name a few.
Many of the books to be used in the class are newer titles and may have questionable claims to literature. Parrotfish, written by Ellen Wittlinger and published in 2007, is about a teenage girl who cuts her hair, changes her name and proceeds to live as a boy. In other words, it’s about a transgender teen’s experience in an American high school.
Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, by Jeanette Winterson, is a coming-of-age story about a lesbian girl growing up in a conservative Pentecostal community in England. The book’s themes include same-sex relationships and the role of religious oppression, as the girl’s parents perform an exorcism on her.
The reading list that is on the draft curriculum includes:
- The Color Purple (Alice Walker)
- Giovanni’s Room (James Baldwin)
- Orlando (Virginia Woolf)
- Maurice (E.M. Forster)
- The Hours (Michael Cunningham)
- Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit (JeanetteWinterson)
- Under the Udala Trees (Chinelo Okparanta)
- The Great Believers (Rebecca Makkai)
- Billy Budd (Herman Melville)
- De Profundis or Picture of Dorian Grey (Oscar Wilde)
- Boy Erased (Garrard Conley)
- I’ll Give You the Sun (Jandy Nelson)
- Trap Door (Ed. Reina Gossett, Eric Stanley, Johanna Burton)
- The Bold World (Jodie Patterson)
- Parrotfish (Ellen Wittlinger)
- Immoral Code (Lillian Clark)
- The 57 Bus (Dashka Slater)
- Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda (BeckyAlbertalli)
Some parents in Fairbanks are having none of it.
“Curriculum introduced by the Superintendent and Fairbanks North Star Borough School District employees seek to normalize homosexual behavior and go as far as to equate homosexuality with people of color and women. It’s under a false premise that homosexuals are to be considered disenfranchised and marginalized and given a minority status,” wrote one parent to Must Read Alaska, adding that the class fuels an emerging leftist doctrine that anyone who disagrees with the LGBTQ agenda in schools is a bigot, intolerant, or homophobic.
Parents seem to not be objecting to the incorporation of gay/lesbian writers into the curriculum, but have concerns that the topics in the books are mainly about sexual identity. The list does not include the lesbian classic, Rubyfruit Jungle, which would have been a controversial inclusion because of its extensive description of lesbian sexuality. Other school districts around the country have gone so far as to include it. Several books on the Fairbanks list are considered gay/lesbian standards.
The curriculum is not yet set in stone. The district is taking comment through Jan. 21 on the idea of a separate class for LGBTQ literature for high school upper-class students.
There are students who may embrace the course. According to a Gallup poll conducted in 2017, 4.5% of adult Americans identified as LGBT with 5.1% of women identifying as LGBT, and 3.9% of men. A Williams Institute survey of 2016, estimated that 0.6% of U.S. adults identify as transgender.
The next meeting of the North Star School Board is Jan. 21, 6 pm, 520 5th St Fairbanks. The board can be reached by email at this link.