Rainbow Boys and other novels
about love and friendship - for teens and adults

by
Alex Sanchez

Home

What's New?

Who is Alex?
Youth Resources
Coming Out
Email Alex
Spirituality


Gay Teen Books


Writing Advice


Where to Buy?

 

Logo: Rochester DemocratandChronicle.com

Author decries removal of gay-themed book

(August 29, 2006) — WEBSTER — The author of a gay-themed book removed from a high school summer reading list because of complaints from parents called the decision "un-American" and "wrong."

Rainbow Boys, by Alex Sanchez, was removed from the list of about 200 books earlier this month by Webster Central School District officials. The book was not removed from the school library.

Released in 2001, the book about gay teen life won the International Reading Association's 2003 Young Adults' Choice award and the American Library Association selected it as a Best Book for Young Adults.

This is the second year Webster students in middle and high school have been required to read two books during the summer and submit reports when they return to school. The separate book lists for middle school and high school students were created by school librarians and English teachers.

Webster Superintendent Adele Bovard said officials regret that Mr. Sanchez has rushed to judgment about the Webster School District.

"No book has been banned from our library and there is a process in place for a student to read a book that is not on the list," Bovard said.

The book was not removed from the reading list because of the gay theme, but because of explicit sexual content, she said.

Sanchez, in response to questions posed via e-mail, said it pains him when he hears about individuals attempting to block others from reading a book.

"That's un-American. And it's wrong.

"Fortunately, we live in a country where freedom of speech and thought are cherished values. Every attempt to censor a book is an attack on our constitutional freedoms."

Asked what his message would be for school administrators, Sanchez wrote:

"I hope that they'll respect the judgment of the professional educators who assembled the summer reading list. If a parent does not want his or her own child to read a particular book, I fail to see how such individuals should have the right to determine what the children of other parents' should read."

BLOUDON@DemocratandChronicle.com

Q&A with author of disputed gay-themed book

(August 29, 2006) — Here is a statement from Alex Sanchez, author of Rainbow Boys, followed by the text of questions and answers provided via e-mail:

"Books can have an astounding effect on people. It's a power some individuals fear. And in the case of books like Rainbow Boys that find appeal among young readers, the fears of some individuals can become even more charged.

"These fears — often disguised as moral outrage — are often at the root of censorship, something with which gay and lesbian people are well familiar. From the time we are children we are taught to censor our feelings, keep secret our thoughts, and deny our true selves.

"Fortunately, we live in a country where freedom of speech and thought are cherished values. Every attempt to censor a book is an attack on our constitutional freedoms."

What would you say to the school administrators?

"I hope that they'll respect the judgment of the professional educators who assembled the summer reading list. If a parent does not want his or her own child to read a particular book, I fail to see how such individuals should have the right to determine what the children of other parents should read."

What would you say to parents and students in this district?

"To parents: Be thrilled if your child is taking the time to read any book. Hundreds of other activities compete for your child's attention.

"Ask your child questions about what they are reading and what they think about it. Rather than attempt to impose any particular views on your child, encourage them to develop their own ability to process ideas. You will stand them in good stead for their entire lives.

"To students: Read as much as you can, about as many different subjects as you can. Open your mind!"

Why do you think the book should be kept on the list?

"When Rainbow Boys was first reviewed, the School Library Journal stated:

'There will no doubt be challenges to Rainbow Boys, much like the challenges of Judy Blume's Forever ... when it was published in the 1970s. But please, have the courage to make it available to those who need it — it can open eyes and change lives.'

"At the time, I didn't believe that my book would actually change lives. But since then, I've received thousands of e-mails from young people around the world, telling me the impact my books have had on them — things like: 'It's nice to know I'm not alone.' 'Your book became the peace-saver at my school.' 'Thanks for helping me accept myself.' 'After reading what gay and lesbian teens go through, I've decided to start a Gay-Straight Alliance at my school.' 'I told my mom to read your book so she could understand me.'

"It pains me every time I hear about a handful of individuals attempting to block others from reading a book that has inspired so many. That's un-American. And it's wrong."

Webster Superintendent Adele Bovard responds:

"There is much that the Webster School District and Mr. Sanchez agree on; the intent behind the Summer Reading Program is to encourage students to read and to cultivate a love of reading; we want our students to read with an open mind and develop the ability to think for themselves. We also encourage parents to ask questions about what their children are reading to and engage them in dialogue. We know how important it is for parents to remain actively involved in their children's education.

"We regret that Mr. Sanchez has rushed to judgment about the Webster School District. No book has been banned from our library and there is a process in place for a student to read a book that is not on the list. The district is committed to providing students with a diverse selection of books and genre as well as a wide range of authors. What we are doing as a district is to take a step back and look at how our reading list was and should be created for a student population that spans grades six through 12. Our review process will be one of balance and common sense."

Reading list without 'Rainbow Boys' curtails education

Op-Ed by Carly Maldonado

(September 7, 2006) — As a junior entering Advanced Placement English class at Webster Thomas High School, I was given a specific summer reading assignment.

However, because I was interested in what the Webster school district suggested students read over the summer, I obtained a copy of the high school book list. I was extremely pleased that it was composed of a plethora of books that promoted diversity and acceptance of all people.

On the list were books including Sharon Draper's Romiette and Julio and James McBride's The Color of Water that feature biracial and multicultural characters. However, the summer reading list does not only include books that promote acceptance of people of different races and cultures. Books such as Alex Sanchez's Rainbow Boys feature beloved characters who are homosexual. I believe that such books are necessary for all high school students to read.

I've heard students use the word "gay" as a synonym for "bad" or "stupid." Few teens stop to think about what the word really means and how using it that way is both incorrect and offensive to many homosexual and heterosexual people.

It was my understanding that by including books that feature characters who are homosexual, the Webster school district was trying to teach its students that all people, heterosexual or homosexual, are equal and deserve to be treated respectfully. I was proud to be a part of a school district that recognized the necessity of this lesson.

So I was shocked and disappointed to learn that Rainbow Boys was removed from the summer reading list after the district received complaints from parents. I have read Rainbow Boys and believe that it articulately conveys the fundamental message that homosexual high school students face choices and difficulties similar to those faced by heterosexual students.

I believe that by highlighting these similarities, Alex Sanchez creates a common ground for homosexual and heterosexual teens to stand on.

Rainbow Boys also contains messages that assure homosexual teens that they, in the words of Sanchez, "are special and worth being cared about, loved, and accepted just as (they) are." By removing Rainbow Boys from the summer reading list, the Webster school district is depriving students of two powerful messages that are necessary for shaping them into sensitive, successful adults.

I believe that the poor decision to remove Rainbow Boys from the summer reading list has tarnished the district's attempts to promote diversity among its students.

Today's teens are tomorrow's leaders, and parents who teach their children that only certain people deserve certain rights are endangering our future.

Rather than removing Rainbow Boys from the reading list, the Webster school district should have initiated an open dialogue about the importance of promoting diversity. I view the removal of Rainbow Boys from the summer reading list as a shocking act of discrimination. While the book's removal may seem minor, it is as detrimental to society as denying people who are homosexual the right to marry, adopt children or be ordained as religious leaders.

Maldonado, of Webster, is a junior at Webster Thomas High School.

Book list a draw for critics

All but one of people who commented on Webster action to remove book from recommendations disagreed with it

Bennett J. Loudon, Staff writer

(October 27, 2006) — WEBSTER — Webster Central School District officials received at least 19 comments about the decision to pull an award-winning book off a summer reading list in August.

Only one comment supported the district's decision, but many of the critics were confused about exactly what the district did and why.

The comments were sent to the district after the Democrat and Chronicle published a story on Aug. 24 about the district's decision to remove the book Rainbow Boys, by Alex Sanchez, from a summer reading list.

Ann Carmody, district director of communications, said the comments would be taken into account during the ongoing review of the reading list.

The comments contained in e-mails, messages submitted through the district's Web site, notes of telephone calls and a letter, were provided by the district in response to a request made under the state's Freedom of Information Law.

The award-winning book about gay teens was removed from the list because of explicit sexual content, not the theme.

Many of the messages sent to the district mistakenly believed the book was removed from the list because of the gay theme. It was also unclear to many that the book was removed from the list, but not banned from any library.

In an Aug. 24 message submitted through the district's Web site, a supporter wrote: "Hat's off to Webster school district for recognizing books that may be inappropriate for students and pulling the books until a review can be completed."

But a more typical attitude was expressed in this message submitted through the district's Web site: "As a Webster High School alum ('85) I was really sad to see that Webster has taken the right-wing approach to reading materials."

"The Webster school district should be ashamed," another person wrote.

Middle school and high school students were required to read at least two books over the summer and submit reports about the books in September. The students were not restricted to reading only books on the list prepared by English teachers and librarians.

According to an e-mail sent from then-assistant superintendent Ellen Agostinelli to Superintendent Adele Bovard, the book was pulled from the list after a complaint from the father of a 12-year-old girl who checked the book out of the Webster Public Library and was disturbed by the sexually explicit nature of some passages.

The girl's father "acknowledged that she mistakenly selected a high school level book (labeled at a high maturity level, at that), but we both agreed that it still is inappropriate," Agostinelli wrote in an e-mail.

"It was removed from the booklist and the Web site before I returned his call, which he liked," Agostinelli wrote in an e-mail to Bovard.

Gay-themed book back on list at Webster schools

Summer reading program had removed gay-themed novel in '06

Bennett J. Loudon, Staff writer

May 20, 2007) --- WEBSTER --- A controversial book removed from a summer reading list for high school students in the Webster Central School District last year is back on the list.

Rainbow Boys, by Alex Sanchez, an award-winning, gay-themed novel, was taken off the list in August 2006 after a parent complained about explicit sexual content, district officials said.

Students are required to read at least two books over the summer and write reports due at the start of the next school year. Students can read books not on the list if they get permission.

Critics of the removal contend the gay story line was a factor in the decision, but district officials said the book was temporarily removed while they reviewed the process used to select books for the list.

Ove Overmyer, a library assistant at the Rochester Public Library, said he expected that the book would be returned to the list.

"Those lists should be lists of inclusion, nothing should be excluded. That's a good thing. I think we learned something from the whole process," he said.

"Parents should be responsible for what their children read, but other parents shouldn't tell other parents what their kids should read," Overmyer said.

Released in 2001, the book about gay teen life won the International Reading Association's 2003 Young Adults' Choice award, and the American Library Association selected it as a Best Book for Young Adults.

Sanchez was pleased to hear that his book is back on the list.

"I've been delighted to receive so many enthusiastic e-mails in support of my books from students and community members in the Rochester area --- individuals who have actually read my books and recognize their value and worth," he said via e-mail.

Webster Superintendent Adele Bovard sent an e-mail message saying the district "reviews feedback from parents, teachers and students about the Summer Reading program to make adjustments to the program for the next summer."

In her message, Bovard said a committee of teachers, librarians, a student and administrator met throughout the year "to refine the summer reading program."

"One of the most significant changes in the implementation process is the assurance that every book on the middle and high school reading lists have been read by one of the committee members, using criteria from the National Library Association to determine books for the lists," Bovard wrote in the message.

"The committee reviewed (Rainbow Boys) utilizing the criteria listed and made the recommendation for including the book as suggested reading for (high school) students," she said in a separate message.

Webster school board president Laura Harder said the board "approved the process by which they make their book selections and trusts that they'll give it due diligence."