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Helen Smith


October 7, 2013 - 7:00 am


I was kind of shocked (okay,it’s Berkeley, nothing should shock me) when I read that a store had pulled books from a book store at Half Price Books, in Berkeley, Calif. because an 8 year old girl called them sexist:

Constance Cooper’s daughter, KC, is no shrinking violet. In fact, Cooper describes her 8-year-old as articulate, passionate and a great reader, qualities parents hope their children exhibit as they grow.

So it was not a huge surprise to Cooper when, this past summer, KC became upset after an ordinary trip to their local bookstore, Half Price Books, in Berkeley, Calif.

“We were browsing around in the bookstore, and suddenly I heard my daughter calling out, ‘Mama! You have to look at this!’” recalls Cooper. “So, of course, I thought she’d found something she wanted to buy, but it was completely the opposite. She was looking at two books that had made her so enraged she was actually in tears.”

The books, titled “How To Survive (Almost) Anything,” included a boy version and a girl version. In the boy version, the chapters covered topics such as “How to Survive a Shark Attack,” “How to Survive in a Desert,” and “How to Survive Whitewater Rapids.”….

KC was so upset at the sexist nature of the books that a bookstore employee took notice and asked her what was wrong.

“After looking through the books, the employee agreed they were offensive and pulled them from the shelves! She said if she had seen them first they wouldn’t have been there to begin with. She was great because she took action and validated my daughter’s feelings.”

Cooper, a science fiction writer, is proud of her daughter for drawing attention to the books and having them removed from the store, and took this experience as a lesson learned for both KC and herself.

So at my local Barnes and Noble, there are many books I find offensive and sexist. Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg is one and Guyland: The Perilous World Where Boys Become Men by Michael Kimmel is another. I was once in that bookstore reading Lean In (I don’t want to pay for it) and feeling upset by the sexism and flippant attitude towards men. Any chance they will ban those books? Hah!

And why should they? Is it fair to ban books because we don’t like what they say? The mom in this story is proud of her daughter–it’s fine if the daughter wants to speak up but she shouldn’t be proud that they removed the books from the store, she should be horrified that she and the store clerk are teaching an 8 year old that it is okay to be a PC fascist who gets her jollies from restricting free speech. How would mom feel as a SF writer if they banned her books from stores?


Cross-posted from Dr. Helen’s blog

Helen Smith is a psychologist specializing in forensic issues in Knoxville, Tennessee, and blogs at Dr. Helen.

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All Comments   (7)
All Comments   (7)
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It is really strange. Because an 8 year old objected, nobody gets to read the books. Her mother should not be proud.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
Who? Never heard of her.

Well, now she got some more exposure. Although I don't think I'm going to be buying her books after this.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
She hasn't published any books yet. According to her website, her published output so far consists seven short stories and a lot of poetry.
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
Reminds me of a German phrase that was once very popular with people who liked to ban things they didn't like.
Triumph des Willens
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
"...She was looking at two books that had made her so enraged she was actually in tears.”

At 8 years old.

What the hell have they done to that poor kid?
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
The mother validated that she's passed on her own high functioning mental retardation to her daughter.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
kid is sadly misguided, mom is an a**hole, clerk is a jerk.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
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