“As someone on a school board, you can’t please everyone,” says Brittingham. “But as long as you can find common ground, and forge ahead, you can claim victory.”
Posner is less certain anything can be claimed at all.
“Delawarean librarians put that list together,” she says. “If you can’t trust the librarians, whom can you trust?”
* * *
Not surprisingly, the controversy over Cameron Post has only brought more attention to the book itself. Over the summer, the local bookseller Browsabout Books had trouble keeping copies of Cameron Post on the shelves after the board’s decision. The sudden surge in demand had store manager Susan McAnelly placing orders by the 50s. “It’s in line with our mission,” McAnnelly says. “We put books in people’s hands. It’s not my job to tell people what they should be reading.”
Before long, Browsabout became a collection point for free copies of Cameron Post. McAnelly said donated copies came from Harper Collins, which published the book and AfterEllen.com, a lesbian/bisexual culture website, as well as from various individuals. To date, 250 of the 266 copies donated have left Browsabout in the hands of Cape students. Given the potential for 250 essays on Cameron Post, Lewes might be on the verge of becoming an unlikely epicenter of gay literary criticism.
Brittingham says he stands by his vote against the book. He freely admits he’s not a professional educator—he’s a former Marine who owns a moving business and works for the Delaware Department of Corrections. But he is an elected official, he says, and he’s served since 2006, even once running unopposed. He sees that as a clear mandate. “I’m military,” he says. “I’m about law and order. If I see something that you’re doing that’s going to bring you harm, I’m going to stop you.”
Posner, who holds a joint Ph.D. in educational planning and social policy from Harvard University and Northeastern University, adopts a more narrow view of the board’s authority. “Our work is to focus on policy, and not to get into the specifics of management,” she says. “We’re not 21st century educators. We’re a governing board. We should be looking at governance and policy, and staying there.”
Posner says the compass should stay at home, in the hands of the parents—not the school board. Of the 10 books offered on the Blue Hen List, students had to choose, at the most, two; among the remaining eight, surely even the most scrutinizing parent can find something agreeable?
Minard, meanwhile, won’t officially endorse the book as an elected official, but she refuses to condemn it as a work of art. She still believes it isn’t appropriate school-assigned reading for high school freshmen. But her vote, she says, “doesn’t mean that Cam Post isn’t a great book, or that it wouldn’t speak to someone who was struggling to find themselves.”