28 September 2011

Banned Book Week: It's Perfectly Normal

It's Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex and Sexual Health by Robie H. Harris.*

Note: I cannot be completely sure that this is the book I read on puberty, but I did look looking at the Google preview (note, contains drawn nudity) of a more recent edition. It was first published at about 1994, when I read my first puberty book, and I will be talking about my feelings/thoughts regarding what I know of this book and how I felt about the book I actually read... which may or may not be the same.

The title is welcoming and non-judgmental and tells you exactly what's going to be covered in the book, and it appears to be a book for everyone because there are a multitude of different children on the cover from different backgrounds and of different stages in development. So while this may not be THE puberty book I read, it is probably close enough for this discussion and I would certainly not hesitate to give any educational book to my child regarding sex or puberty. Yes, I've read the reviews that there are naked cartoon people everywhere in this book; I'm actually not concerned with that. I think children understanding that there is a variety to naked bodies is both important and healthy and really, what's so terrible about breasts, vulvae, penises, and testicles anyway? (I'll wait for the less mature to stop giggling.)


So I learned about puberty through a book. My mother probably sat me down at some point and told me in general terms what puberty was. I certainly had a general idea of what puberty was when I asked her to buy a puberty book for me from the Hastings in Altus, Oklahoma, but even at the young and tender age of somewhere between 8-10, I knew I wanted details and that reading would give me: A) better and more thorough information, B) include information my mother might not want to tell me herself, and C) allow me to read, reread, and digest the information at a good-for-me pace, rather than listening to someone ramble on and missing things. Not only did it let my mom off the hook for explaining some of the more awkward things that were happening to me (yes, I was an early bloomer at about 5'0" by 2nd grade), but it made it easier for me to ask her questions and to know what questions to ask.

It astonishes me that people are so afraid of these books. Even if you want to teach your children that homosexuality is wrong, having them know that it exists and other people experience homosexual feelings is not going to hurt your child. You can still teach your child that homosexuality is wrong, as backwards and mean as I think that is, but it will not prevent your child from having those feelings if he or she is so inclined. It is better for your child not to be surprised about puberty, not to be surprised by sudden sexual feelings, not to be surprised that puberty has come early or hasn't come at all yet, not to be surprised that they look different naked than their friends, etc.

And while I do recognize that there is a lot of nudity in this book, seemingly more than is "necessary," I am also okay with it. I actually found it useful as a child. I was not looking at these naked drawings for any sexual reason, but because I was naturally curious about what my body might look like. Having a variety of drawings helped, because I knew I wouldn't look exactly like any of them. So while it may seem gratuitous, it actually serves a very noble purpose, especially when we are bombarded daily with very specific kinds of bodies via marketing companies, etc. We have long lives ahead of us to deal with body issues; starting life with them isn't going to help, and not including the drawings will only put the especially curious child in the position of seeking out other ways of looking at naked developing bodies.

LibsNote: *No ISBN as I am not sure which version I originally read, if it was indeed this particular book. Looking at the preview, it is an excellent resource and I would definitely recommend it.
**Banned Graphic provided in part by Barefoot Liam Stock, with permission.

Because people want to teach their children that menstruation is a sign of the devil rather than a normal thing. 
Also, there is Teh Gay in this book.

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