Book by: Spurlin, William J
Review by: Laura E. Luthy
Academic Advisor, Computer Sciences Department
University of Texas at Austin

The National Council of Teachers of English solicited this book for its first lesbian and gay studies title. With contributions from a diverse population of those identifying as gay males, lesbian females, transgendered persons, Latina, Native American, and South African, these educators/authors shared autobiographical essays that provided a glimpse into their personal lives and classrooms. Contributors discussed their decisions whether or not to be “out” in their classrooms. Those who were ‘out’ discussed the process used to integrate their decisions into the classroom and the impact or repercussions of those decisions.

This collection begins with “Cruising the Libraries” in which Lee Lynch brims with the frustration of growing up lesbian in a time of meager printed material featuring people like her within stories. “At about the age of thirteen, I stumbled across Carson McCullers’s The Member of the Wedding.  I totally understood Frankie Addams.  Her anguish at not belonging in the world was mine.  Her aborted attempts to relate to the wedding couple, to the femmy little girlfriend and to the sailor who picked her up were so like my own search” (p. 4). 

The strengths of this book were the coming-out stories, the references to literature with a gay, lesbian, transgendered theme, and the constructive ideas for introducing GLBT themes in an educational setting from elementary classrooms to college-level courses.  This book offers some helpful, practical information for fostering an open classroom/an educational culture that is healthy and safe for students of all genders and sexual persuasions.  Tatiana de la Tierra, in “Coming Out and Creating Queer Awareness in the Classroom,” typifies contributors’ intent when she expressed that “Coming out is my small contribution within a society that I hope will one day be just, inclusive, and progressive.  I don’t want to look back at my life years from now and wonder what would have happened if only I had come out, if only I had strived for racial equality, if only…I have a clean conscience, and I have hope” (p. 189).  

Although this edition was conceived as a collection of essays designed to assist English teachers, it would be a worthwhile resource for advisors who seek to be informed and open-minded regarding situations that can arise in an advising session.  We must be aware of varying perspectives and viewpoints if we are to help struggling students. This text would provide a population of students with a list of books featuring characters they can recognize and with authors they can identify with.  If this book is not available through your campus library, please suggest it to the collection development department.  This text needs to be readily available to the students, faculty and administrators at every institution of higher learning.

Lesbian and Gay Studies and the Teaching of English. (2000). Book by Spurlin, William J.   . Review by Laura E. Luthy.  326 pp., $33.95. National Council of Teachers of English.  IBSN 1-8141-2794-0.     

Actions: E-mail | Permalink |