When I was working as an ASL interpreter in a high school in rural Nova Scotia, the English teacher announced one day that the class was going to read The Outsiders.

The kids groaned as he handed out the battered paperbacks. Having found the book dated when I read it in my own grade ten English class years earlier, I sympathized with their reactions. But the teacher was determined to secure everyone’s enthusiasm for the plight of the Greasers.

“When S.E. Hinton wrote this book,” he informed us brightly “He was only 16 years old.”

It seemed bizarre that someone who had likely been teaching this book as long as I’d been alive would get such a major fact wrong, so I stayed after class to clarify.

“Um, I’m pretty sure S.E. Hinton is a woman?” I hated that a question had snuck into what I had meant to be a declarative statement.

“Oh I know!” he chuckled. “But the boys won’t want to read it if they know it was written by a girl.”

His perspective was clear. Girl stories were for girls. Boy stories were for everyone.

On “universality“.