I live in the suburbs, and I sometimes feel as though I’m surrounded by the yellow, pro-life bumper stickers and yard signs urging teen mothers to consider giving up their unborn, unplanned babies for adoption. I’m somewhat ambivalent about this issue. My feelings have changed about abortion since I became a parent almost ten years ago. But I strongly believe a woman has the right to choose what to do with her body. I sense a bit of condescension and contradiction in those signs. They urge those who’ve made mistakes to call, but they also communicate a sense of perfection, as though the inhabitants of cars and homes tattooed with those yellow stickers and signs would never makes such a mistake. Or so that’s the way I’ve always interpreted them.
Sometimes the same goes for reading. Attempting to determine what books are just right for a young adults is a tricky business. We want to shield them, but we also want to expose them to situations they might later encounter. Planet Pregnancy is one of those books. Reviewers and the publisher find it suitable for young adults. But the protagonist, Sahara, is only sixteen when confronted with an unplanned pregnancy. The novel, told in poetic verse, accurately and honestly conveys the many thoughts, stigmas, and reactions attached to these sorts of pregnancies. I think this would be a wonderful book for a mother and a daughter to read together and discuss. Sahara considers terminating the pregnancy, vacillates on whether to tell the biological father, falters when telling her mother, and ultimately makes a decision she can live with. That being said, I can’t place the book in my classroom library. Students in my eighth grade language arts classroom are only two years younger than Sahara, the perfect age to read about and vicariously rehearse what they would do under similar circumstances. If I had a 14-year-old daughter (I have sons), I would read the book with her and use it as a segue into the “THE TALK.” But my students are not my children. And I can’t make those decisions for them.
The many adults who mothered and fathered me in the neighborhood of my childhood were able to view me as a neighbor and a son. The times allowed for it. Today is a different day.