COLUMN: Bunnies, sexuality and the freedom to read

A book about a gay bunny has been the subject of challenges

This cover image released by Chronicle Books shows “Last Week Tonight With John Oliver Presents A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo,” written by Marlon Bundo with Jill Twiss and illustrated by EG Keller. (Chronicle Books via AP)

A book about a bunny — and not the Easter Bunny — has been making news headlines.

The book, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver Presents a Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo, written by Jill Twiss and illustrated by E.G. Keller, was published a year ago, in March 2018.

This is a satire piece, written and presented as a children’s book.

It’s a response to Marlon Bundo’s A Day in the Life of the Vice President, a children’s book written by Charlotte Pence, daughter of U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence.

A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo tells the story of a bunny owned by the Pence family.

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The bunny also happens to be gay — unlike Mike Pence, who is known for his opposition to expanding LGBTQ+ rights.

Proceeds from sales of the book are going to The Trevor Project and AIDS United, two organizations friendly to the LGBTQ+ community.

A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo wouldn’t normally attract my attention.

I don’t usually go for stories with bunnies as protagonists, regardless of who they are hopping around with.

And most of the time, I don’t find contemporary political satire to be all that funny, although there are exceptions.

Why am I interested in this book?

The answer is simple. There are some who do not want me to read it. It has been one of the most challenged books in the United States this year.

Since it was published, there have been efforts to have A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo removed from some American libraries.

Others have spoken out against the parody.

“The ‘satirical’ late-night talk show host’s screed was not just vicious in tone, but also vulgar and vile in every sense of the word and way,” Jim Daly, president of the conservative Christian organization Focus on the Family, wrote after the book was released.

Like Pence, Focus on the Family is not seen as being friendly to the LGBTQ+ community.

Oddly enough, Charlotte Pence, author of the original Marlon Bundo book, wasn’t among those opposing the satirical work.

“His book is contributing to charities that I think we can all get behind… I’m all for it,” she said in an interview shortly after the parody was published.

A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo isn’t the first book to be challenged, and it won’t be the last.

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Here in B.C., we have had some book challenges of our own.

In the 1990s the Surrey School Board tried to ban three children’s books: Belinda’s Bouquet, Asha’s Mums, and One Dad, Two Dads, Brown Dads, Blue Dads. Each of these books dealt with same-sex couples.

The Supreme Court of Canada overturned the ban.

And much more recently, Chilliwack school trustee Heather Maahs has taken issue with the novel, Tomorrow, When the War Began, by John Marsden.

At issue is sexual content in the Grade 9 novel.

These outcries and efforts to keep certain books out of libraries end up increasing the public’s curiosity.

And so, because of the opposition to A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo, I want to find out more.

Maybe it isn’t worth reading. Or perhaps it’s an important, worthwhile story.

If the critics didn’t want me to pay attention to this book, silence would have been far more effective than their efforts to have it pulled from the shelves.

Now it’s time to try and get my hands on a copy of A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo.

John Arendt is the editor of the Summerland Review.

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