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Reading stories linked on Ted Louis's website, we came across a short story, "When He was Five." The story was delightful. But that led us to seek out his website. His stories tend to be about adolescent males, many of whom are gay. The stories are about kids growing up, the problems they face, how they cope with their emerging sexuality and the problems most all young males face as they progress through their teen years. While the stories are never primarily about sex, as sex and sexuality are a part of an adolescent’s life, these issues are also part of these stories.
We have found Parker's writings to show amazing insight into the thinking and actions of American adolescents, especially in the areas that Adult America finds difficult to face. He speaks to the drama, the bullying, the heroes (both adult and teen-aged heroes), the conflicts, and the successes that define the adolescent experience. We can imagine people suggesting that Parker overstates the situation; by contrast we think that, if anything, the picture is worse than Parker depicts. To clarify, we believe Parker is accurate about the kinds of difficulties adolescents face. We are not optimistic that every kid encountering these challenges will get the level of support that the characters Parker writes about do.
We acknowledge that Parker's writings contribute to the imbalance toward GLBTQ issues in the "Against All Odds" writings. That isn't Parker's fault. The balance will come with other writers stepping up with other stories in other contexts. Cole Parker writes what he is good at writing. We appreciate that.
We have heard expressions of discomfort over Parker's writings because of the explicit nature of some of the depictions of sexual activity. To be clear, we have heard some describe it as pornographic. We understand the discomfort but do not share it.
First, Cole Parker is so insightful about the thinking that adolescents engage in and the situations they must face, that we would be willing to overlook some flaws in order to get the truth out in the open, if we were to find flaws.
We also point out that graphic exposure to the kinds of events presented is part of the everyday experience of our middle school and high school students. We do not mean that all of our kids engage in some or all of the behaviors chronicled. But they do know that most of the things in these stories—things that many people of the parent and grandparent generation might find repugnant—are normative for middle and high school age young people today, or nearly so. They are constantly confronted with these kinds of behaviors in very explicit terms.
Our only real discomfort is that we can't point to works by other authors who are so explicit and so accurate about events that are unrelated to struggles over sexual identity. The mating ritual among heterosexual teens is even more disturbing.
If you, the reader, are uncomfortable with the graphic nature of what is in these stories, perhaps you might turn your attention to changing the conditions under which our adolescents grow up faced with equally graphic situations on a day to day basis, rather than attack the messenger. Remember that when our young people face these situations, they are facing real events in their lives, not a work of fiction. Equally graphic or more disturbing events are routine for today's teens.
One of Parker's stories stands out as a candidate for required reading for any person with a parental or professional responsibility for high school or middle school age children. That is Dominos. We challenge any school principal to show the courage and integrity of Mr. Tussaint, as described in Chapters 5 and 6 of Dominos.
Disclaimer: No program review, no matter how positive, is a blanket endorsement. No criticism is a blanket condemnation. When we express our level of confidence in a school or program, that is our subjective opinion with which others might reasonably disagree. When we assert something as fact, we have done our best to be accurate, but we cannot guarantee that all of our information is accurate and up to date. When we address compliance with our guidelines, you need to remember that these are only OUR guidelines -- not guidelines from an official source. We have also set the bar very high, and do not expect any school or program to be in total compliance. It is not appropriate to draw a conclusion of impropriety (or even failure to live up to conventional wisdom) from our lack of confidence in a school or program or from less than perfect conformity to our guidelines. Some will say we expect too much. Readers are responsible for verifying accuracy of information supplied here prior to acting upon it. We are not responsible for inaccuracies.
Last updated April 6, 2010
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