James Howe is the author of many acclaimed and beloved books for teenagers and children, such as "The Misfits", "The Watcher", and the bestselling "Bunnicula" and its many sequels. His novel "The Misfits" was the inspiration for No-Name-Calling-Week, a project sponsered annully by GLSEN and Simon and Schuster Children's Publishing, in collaboration with more than forty national organizations.
1. Being who you are isn't a choice.
2. Religion is only as good as the people using it.
3. Standing up for other people can help them learn to stand up for themselves.
4. You can't judge a person by their name.
5. In real life (when you're grown up and out of school) popularity doesn't matter.
6. No one can make you feel inferior without your consent. - Eleanor Roosevelt
Book Reviews (Pros + Cons of Totally Joe):
•Encompasses issues of gender, sexism, masculinity, femininity, double standards, and even oppression. This book is diverse, challenges social norms, and makes people realize that life is short and you should just be yourself. I rated this book a 10 because it teaches people many lessons. One lesson is that it teaches people it is ok to be gay or different. Also, it teaches people that making fun of people is not acceptable, and even if you do it, it doesn't hurt people the way you want it to. Also, because of how the author makes you feel like you are Joe and you are experiencing the things he is. –Online reviews
•Advocates/promotes for important student social justice activism such as “No name calling Day”
•Allows children to read about other perspectives that have to do with sexual orientation, social pressures
•“James Howe, author of many other adolescently gay themed novels geared toward young adults, yet again brings to light the fears that many confused homosexual teenagers agonize over every day the decide to walk out of their house and navigate through the world of high school, in this case junior high school.” –A personal online review by Kareem Simpson
•Another personal review “it is spoken about a school administrator who changes his mind about a proposed GSA club, and I think it’s something that all we teachers ought to bear in mind: “It’s nice to know that educators can be educated.” I’m going to try to talk more about that at the end of this whole reading experiment, but in short: I’m learning so much from these books, and it seems to me that other educators could do the same. –Unknown author
•His novel is ideal for preteens and young adults to help understand that growing up happens to everyone. Totally Joe is excellent for anyone who seeks to understand diversity and acceptance through a completely non-threatening perspective, wonderful for parents and children. Share Joe’s experiences in friendship, junior high, community, sexual awareness, and simply life, as Joe writes them in an easy to understand way. It becomes easy to feel thirteen again by looking through Joe’s eyes, and getting caught up in the situations that make us feel young. With life’s lessons discovered by someone so young, it makes it a wonder how anyone could miss such important things in life. –Amber Skinner
•Premise tacky, no conflict, chapters feel forced, and certain events seem unrealistic for a the age that Joe is –By: “The Boy with Books” (boywithbooks.com)
-This book was on my son's reading list for 7th grade, so I read through the beginning to see what it was about. While I expected a book about a young man faced with the challenges of his sexuality and his subsequent experiences. I was disappointed to find pages filled with over the top stereotypes and frankly bigoted representations. Instead of handling the subject matter in a respectful way, it paints stereotypes and then assigns values to those stereotypes. One would assume from the book that all male Christians with American flags are homophobic and racist bigots. Of course we have to assume that all gay boys unsure of their sexuality paint their fingernails and hair while parading around in flamboyant costumes. I find the presentation of the subject matter rather troubling for most 12 and 13 year olds. Surely we can do better. –Daniel Nelson (online review)
Questions to Ponder:
What is it about these books that makes us so uncomfortable? Are we afraid of these books because our communities of faith preach against them? Or is it because we don't feel fully equipped to mediate the conflicts we think they'll cause in our classrooms? Do we hate these books because they reveal our own hidden homophobia?