My storytime this week only had two attendees, which was fewer than my regular three, but we had fun anyway. I decided to try reading three books, since my selections were pretty short, and I think it went over well – I have one regular who is almost three (and getting a little advanced for my baby-oriented program, honestly) and he didn’t seem bored by the books.
Mouse’s First Fall, by Lauren Thompson
Pumpkin Eye, by Denise Fleming
Except If, Jim Averbeck
Pumpkin Eye was the favorite, I think, because of the sound effects we all got to make and the proximity to Halloween.
On Wednesday I got to represent the library at a community even called Trunk Or Treat – families could register their cars and park in the community center parking lot with their trunks open, while little kids “trick or treated” at each car. We didn’t have a car, but we did have a cart (and mini bags of pretzels), and I had the chance to pass out fliers for our autumn reading program. It was fun and a surprising amount of kids and families showed up, considering it rained the whole time! They ended up closing the event early as the rain got worse, and I was pretty wet by the time I got back to the library, but I enjoyed the chance to see what doing a bit of outreach was like. Hopefully, at least some of those families will join us for autumn reading.
But let’s take a break for just a moment, because the Ender’s Game movie opens today and I want to talk a little about the book, Orson Scott Card, and my feelings about the whole situation as a fan of the book and as a youth services librarian.
I have read Ender’s Game several times, as a ten year old, as a teenager, for a class on young adult literature, and recently for my book club. It was an important book to me, especially as a child, because it told me that as a kid I had value – I could do things adults couldn’t do. I was a smart, nerdy, quiet child, and Ender was one of my literary touchstones; I didn’t want to be him, exactly, but he was bullied and pushed around and ended up greater than his circumstances and greater than his struggles. As a kid I don’t think I could have put that into words, but it resonated with me to see a small, weird kid with no friends become the only one, the only one, who could save the world and humanity. It was an important book for me, and I know I’m not alone; Ender is a literary touchstone for countless kids.
I wish, I wish, I wish that Orson Scott Card wasn’t such a gross, homophobic monster of a human being.
Card’s vileness is well documented, and I won’t get too in-depth about it here (it’s been extensively written about in more well-known venues than my blog). The point is that the argument over whether an artist’s personal politics and opinions should effect your relationship to their work is brought into stark relief when the artist is still alive and continues to (loudly) express himself. (I find that often the argument comes up in relation to deceased artists – Lovecraft, Disney, Picasso – that can’t continue to propagate their opinion). Supporting Card’s work means supporting Card, who is still alive to collect royalties and acumens, and who has served on the board for the National Organization for Marriage, who has compared homosexuality to bestiality and pedophilia. While he will not be collecting royalties from the movie’s profit, if Ender’s Game is successful it will always attribute some of that success to Card, which can be used by him to continue his platform.
My instinct is to avoid the works of people whose views I fundamentally disagree with. But. But I’m a librarian, and I work with young people. All the reasons that Ender’s Game was important to me will make it important to other lost, weird, outsider kids. And I want them to have a relationship with Ender for the same reasons I needed it so badly. And no matter how whacked out Card’s views on love, marriage and equality are, Ender’s Game is a book that is, fundamentally, about love, friendship, and the importance of relationships, between all different kinds of people; Ender is a character with a boundless capacity for love, and his friendships are beautiful.
Artists and authors have power, but their stories have power too, independently of the artist. There’s a pretty great quote that spins around the internet now and then, by Samuel Johnson: “A writer only begins a book. A reader finishes it.” As long as we as readers can keep finishing Ender’s Game by taking away that message of love, I think it’s possible to continue sharing and enjoying it independently of Card’s vitriol and prejudices.
Share it with love. Ender would want us to.