CM . . .
. Volume XIII Number 3 . . . . September 29, 2006
The stories in 101 Ways to Dance range widely in setting and theme, from summer activities such as the cottage or an exhibition to school scenes. One is set in a hospital ward. Stinson doesn't shy away from difficult themes. Her stories include gay and lesbian love, teen pregnancy, and a love story focused on two special education students. Stinson's tone never belittles, never judges, never preaches. Instead, she has created very realistic characters who display their love, lust and longing in typical ways. Teen readers will undoubtedly relate to their feelings and their actions.
The book includes a biography of the author, an interview with her, and an excellent range of discussion questions. More information is available at her website: kathystinson.com. While the stories obviously lead to discussions about the various facets of human sexuality, there are other avenues suggested as well in the discussion questions. For example, "If you expected to die within the next year, what would you want to experience?" or "How do you hope to be like - and unlike - either or both of your parents?"
Teens are curious about their sexuality and intensely aware of sexual feelings, and Stinson's book addresses the topic in a refreshing and candid manner. Is it too graphic, too tantalizing? Stinson, herself, answers this question:
There may be adults who will prefer their kids not read the collection, who might say their kids aren't ‘ready' for such stories. But I think it's usually adults who aren't ready to accept that their kids are curious about sex, and about other people's experience of it, even if they aren't yet sexually active themselves. I think most teens (if not all) are sexually curious to some degree, and that those with access to stories about different experiences appreciate the safe context of a book in which to explore that curiosity. If they have an open and comfortable relationship with an adult, then the door will be open to talk about what they've read, if they feel the need.
This collection of short stories will open a wide variety of conversational doors for teens and for the adults around them. In a world where there is so much focus on “media sex',”this book presents an excellent opportunity to examine how ordinary teens deal with their sexuality without being at all judgmental about their feelings.
Ann Ketcheson, who lives in Ottawa, ON, is a former teacher-librarian and teacher of high school English and French.
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