At the library today we hauled a big stack of books, some chosen by me, some chosen by Moomin, over to a good spot on the floor. I offered to read anything in the stack. Over Batman, Marvel Team, the Amazing Ant-Man, Garfield, and more cracktastic comics… he chose “Eleanor Roosevelt: First Lady of the World“, a comic-book style biography. We learned that Eleanor’s mom and dad and brother died before she was 10. She taught dancing at a community center, got married to her distant cousin, had 6 kids really fast, and hosted a lot of dinners and parties and by the way she hated war. Then Franklin got polio. And then was President and stuff. (And then I took a moment to explain the Great Depression.) He liked the part about how Eleanor was at a theater or movie or something, and refused to sit on the white side or the black side, but instead put a chair in the middle of the aisle and would not move.
Most of the book was about Eleanor being a delegate to the United Nations and how she was all fierce about it and about writing the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights. I thought this would be the most boring thing in the world to a 6-year-old who complains if there is not combat occurring every few pages, with liberal use of words like “Pow!” and “Ka-THWAP!” I was wrong. He was fascinated and asked me a lot of questions about what “Human rights” meant.
I have to boast, I am sorry… On the page where Eleanor was in the Red Cross, he said “Hey! I know who founded the Red Cross! Do you? Because it was Clara Barton, do you remember the book about Clara Barton?” Really… I thought I would burst with pride there on the library floor… What a terribly smug feeling. I have to remind myself this is the kid who, just recently, meanly pinched the arm of another kid for casting a Dungeons and Dragons spell on his character’s in-game pet mutant zombie rat. It is a good thing that he has an occasional flaw, like being carsick or whining for more lemonade.
Then we read a Batman Strikes comic book about Dwight “Night Train” Goldwater, whose family was kidnapped and threatened by crooked bookie gangsters backed by the evil supervillain “Bane”. There was a lot of kapow, some ridiculous electrified Bat-Bolos, and about 2 seconds of plot as we wondered if Dwight would throw the fight for Heavyweight Champion of the World. I had to explain professional boxing, gambling terms, Bruce Wayne’s detailed research into the real estate holdings of the gangster, and all sorts of other strange stuff. Moomin impressed me with his expressive readings in different voices, particularly the way that he did the TV and fight announcers with pompous masculinity. It was awesome.
I was shocked to read at the back of the book that Eleanor Roosevelt was the only female delegate to the United Nations. 1946! Surely somewhere… but no. I didn’t think I could be surprised by sexism ever again, I’m so damn bitter. But there it is. I was surprised. I thought that in 1946 there maybe would have been more than one token woman in the attempt at global policy-making and politics. I explained to Moomin that I was surprised, and that things are a tiny bit better now, but only a little bit.
For a while on the drive home I imagined a wonderful graphic biography series of women in rock music. I totally imagined myself interviewing Joan Jett about her life story and writing the copy for the comic book biography for 2nd graders. Wouldn’t that be awesome? You’d read it, wouldn’t you? A whole series of biographies! Hell, why stop at punk rock? I’ll write the 2nd grade comic book edition of “Judith Butler, Gender Warrior” too.