Children and
My Bloody


I am a middle school teacher and some of my students are interested in reading My Bloody Life. I have not read it yet but it is a title that they just brought up to my attention. Is it something proper for this age kids?

--- Gabriela

Hi, Gabriela:

You may be asking the wrong people, for we here have a rare view of what kids know and don't know by the time they reach middle school.

We figure that those in that age group have a direct knowledge, far more than their parents would ever begin to guess, about the realities of gang life, drugs, the world.

Schools, as you know, are now run like prisons --- with guards, fences, gates, IDs, and elaborate regulations. And, like prisons, they are also a great source of knowledge of the truth of what we used to call "The Underworld." Between classes, in the hallways, at the lockers, on the way home ... the truth is being purveyed to those who are curious, and (despite the way most schools are programmed) continue to be curious.

In addition, your charges have spent half of their waking lives in front of the television set. Television, as you already know, is the great teaching tool of our times, and American television delivers several powerful messages.

The commercials teach that by owning things --- cars, stereos, computers, a better shampoo --- one can beat the odds, can make it in this world.

The dramas and "reality" programs prove that interrelationship, serious interrelations between people and within families, are, mostly, a sentimental wasteland, or, more, a joke. The cop/adventure programs, on the other hand, prove that life is short, nasty and brutish ... and that violence and the mere possession of arms will make one honored if not feared by one's society and one's peers.

Finally, the music programs (MTV and the like) promote the ideas that drugs are a gas, girls are easy, love is sex (and vice-versa), and that fame --- no matter in what form, no matter how obtained --- is there for the taking.

§     §     §

It is crucial, however, that you protect your students' parents from the fact that their children know, and know intimately, these truths. You must be especially careful of the students who have parents of religious bent. It is essential for your own safety and well-being that they believe their children are innocent flowers, who, by enforced prayers and church-going, are well protected from not only the realities of the birds and the bees, but, as well, from the reality of American life ... such realities as the astounding hurt of American street life, combined with the worst hurt of them all --- the trauma of living in a society that preaches love, tolerance, and forgiveness and practices something completely different.

We must thus protect the parents of middle-school children. For that reason alone, I would suggest that you do not assign My Bloody Life for in-school reading. The book is an honest, unflinching picture of American urban life. It tells, without stinting, why so many of our young are forced by economic determinism into a world of easy violence. It tells simply, without fudging, the central role of sex as a power locus for children who, in 21st century America, have no other escape route, even and especially through the institutions adults have set in place: school, camps, political, social, and religious organizations.

If you assign this book, adults who watch over the school curriculum will sweep down to make your life a nightmare. They have a deep reaction to anything that verges on reality. Furthermore, your students don't need this or any book like it to tell them what they already know.

Their parents, however --- for everyone's safety and protection (most especially your own) --- must be kept in the dark.

--- Lolita Lark

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