Asha's Mums

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Asha's Mums
AuthorRosamund Elwin & Michele Paulse
IllustratorDawn Lee
CountryCanada
LanguageEnglish
GenreChildren's Literature
PublisherWomen's Press
Publication date
1990
Media typePrint Paperback
Pages23

Asha's Mums is a 1990 book by Rosamund Elwin and Michele Paulse, illustrated by Dawn Lee.[1]

Plot summary[edit]

The story is based on Asha's struggle to explain having two mothers to her friends and teacher and gain permission to go on the school trip. Asha's teacher Ms. Samuels sees Asha's mothers' names on the permission form and assumes it has been filled out incorrectly. A worried Asha confides in her mothers who agree to talk to the teacher face to face to sort matters out. In the meantime, Asha informs her classmates about different types of families. The story concludes on a positive note as Asha is granted permission to go on the school trip, and everyone has learned that families come in all shapes and sizes.[2]

Controversy[edit]

In 1997, Asha's Mums was one of three books about same-sex families banned by the School District 36 Surrey in Surrey, British Columbia.[3] The others were Lesléa Newman's Belinda's Bouquet and Johnny Valentine's One Dad, Two Dads, Brown Dad, Blue Dads.[3] A case to overturn the ban was filed with the Supreme Court of British Columbia later the same year.[4] The ban was overturned by Justice Mary Saunders in December 1998,[5] although the school board then appealed the decision to the British Columbia Court of Appeal.[6]

The Court of Appeal ruling in September 2000 overturned Saunders' ruling that the ban had been religiously motivated, but substituted its own narrower finding that the books could not be banned from use because they met the school board's criteria for inclusion in school libraries, thus leaving both sides of the case technically able to claim victory.[7] On the day following the decision, the Vancouver Sun republished the entire text of the book in its print edition.[8]

Because of the ambiguity of the decision, the case was taken up by the Supreme Court of Canada.[9] In Chamberlain v Surrey School District No 36 [2002], the Supreme Court of Canada found that the ban was unreasonable, contradicting the secular and non-sectarian principles of the BC School Act.[10] Under this ruling, a ban on books about same-sex parents could not be legally justified.

Within months of the Supreme Court decision, the Surrey school board again banned the three books, this time citing reasons including "poor grammar and spelling" in Asha's Mums, the inclusion of the "age-inappropriate" subject of dieting in Belinda's Bouquet and purported mockery of "different skin colours" in One Dad, Two Dads.[11] At the same time, however, the board approved two other books, ABC: A Family Alphabet Book and Who's In a Family, which also included depictions of same-sex parents.[12]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Wacky and wonderful tales for kids". Vancouver Sun, February 23, 1991.
  2. ^ "Sensitive tales lift the lid off fears about sexuality". The Globe and Mail, April 20, 1991.
  3. ^ a b "Surrey book ban under fire from Victoria". The Province, April 27, 1997.
  4. ^ "Gay-rights activists file petition". Ottawa Citizen, August 2, 1997.
  5. ^ "Surrey trustees get lesson about books". Vancouver Sun, December 18, 1998.
  6. ^ "Surrey trustees to appeal ruling on books ban". Vancouver Sun, January 13, 1999.
  7. ^ "Both sides claim victory in same-sex book case". Vancouver Sun, September 21, 2000.
  8. ^ "Asha's Mums". Vancouver Sun, September 21, 2000.
  9. ^ "Top court eyes B.C. ban on gay books for pupils". The Province, October 5, 2001.
  10. ^ "Supreme Court overturns book ban". Sudbury Star, December 24, 2002.
  11. ^ "School board rejects books with gay parents for bad grammar". CBC News, June 13, 2003.
  12. ^ "Ratified books not error-free: Surrey school committee OK's two new same-sex books". Vancouver Sun, June 28, 2003.