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Stuff for the Teen Age

She Pretended to Be Pregnant: Gaby Rodriguez at TeenLIVE

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Happy New Year from TeenLIVE! For our first TeenLIVE event in 2012, we were lucky enough to hear from teen author and activist Gaby Rodriguez about her book, The Pregnancy Project. Seeing the effect of teen pregnancy on her family and peers, the straight A student decided to stage a pregnancy for a senior project at school to combat stereotypes and gossip. The day after she revealed that her pregnancy was, in fact, fake, her life was blown into a media whirlwind! News outlets swarmed her small town of Toppenish, Washington, and less than a year later, she’s flying across the country to Hollywood and New York City for talk show and radio appearances, book signings and tours, and magazine photo shoots. Rodriguez is Washington state’s 2011 ACLU Youth Activist award winner, and a movie based on the book, starring Alexa Vega of Spy Kids fame, is now playing on Lifetime. All of this while tackling her freshman year of college!

The Hamilton Grange Library’s Teen Center was the perfect place for the event. The stadium seating was nearly packed, and Rodriguez was front and center on stage. The awesome layout of the center, paired with Rodriguez’s great laid back personality, created an atmosphere for personal experiences and asking questions. Being skyrocketed into the spotlight wasn’t easy, but Rodriguez is still completely down to earth. The audience was full of “what if”s, from “What if your fake baby bulge would’ve fallen out at school?” to “What if you were actually pregnant? After this project, what would your family say?” She answered questions about the impact her project had on those around her, and her fears, strengths, and weaknesses. She even doled out some helpful advice about talking to siblings and, considering she has seven of her own, she’s somewhat of an expert on the subject.

A teen author who’s just about to enter her twenties, Rodriguez talked about the teen writers that have influenced her. She’s a huge Ellen Hopkins fan! She was thrilled to find out TeenLIVE hosted Ellen Hopkins (see our September event). She’s also got Lady Gaga’s latest album on heavy rotation (and you can find all that’s hot in the music world in Anne's recent blog post). At the end of the night, the teens of Hamilton Grange Library had an opportunity to speak with the author one-on-one, and everyone went home with a signed copy of her book. Rodriguez didn’t go into her project intending to write a book, but now that she has, who knows what she’ll do next!

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Gaby's Message -- How sadly misguided!

February 2, 2012 While it is laudable for a young girl to write books, one would wonder what kind of a message is she conveying to anyone with a thinking mind. Why write a book about being pregnant (and first pretending it is authentic), when she is not pregnant? It would have been more appropriate to find some other person who is pregnant and do a biography of that person's experiences. At least it would have a ring of truth to it. If Gaby is trying to champion the cause of chastity, that is a wondrous thing to do! However, to create a bogus autobiography in order to prove any point would be considered bogus. Since she is young, with little understanding of integrity and ethics, it is probably OK. Most of her readers are probably near her age. A few years ago they were reading fairy tales. I suppose one could say this book of Gaby's is just another fairy tale!

i disagree on all counts.

i disagree on all counts. What Gabby did was amazing. She shattered stereotypes, and made everybody look differently at teen pregnancy. And I'm warning you, don't underestimate teen authors. They can write amazing things. Ever heard of Nancy Yi Fan, who published Swordbird at age twelve? Or Christopher Paolini, who started writing Eragon at fourteen? And what about Mary Shelley, who wrote Frankenstein at 18? Being a young writer myself, it irritates me that you belittle what Gabby did. I'd like to see you try what she went through. And besides, she's not talking about being pregnant, she's talking about her experience.

Ethical problems with Rodriguez's project

Here's a letter to the editor I wrote about this: http://www.yakima-herald.com/stories/2011/06/6/06-07-11-letters-to-the-editor 06/07/11 Letters to the Editor Yakima Herald-Republic Appalling 'experiment' and news coverage To the editor -- I am appalled that the Yakima Herald-Republic published yet another article about Toppenish High School student Gaby Rodriguez's "social experiment" without prominently raising the issue of poor ethics. The fact that the student was terribly uncomfortable with her deceit in faking a pregnancy should have signaled everyone that the project should be halted. What kind of lesson is all this gushing media coverage conveying about the acceptability of lying? Will other students and teachers now be encouraged to engage in unethical and potential dangerous experiments? And we still don't know -- despite five Herald-Republic articles, an editorial, and a "Today" show interview -- what Rodriguez learned that she couldn't have learned simply by interviewing pregnant girls at the school. An area science teacher and two social science and psychology professionals with doctorates told me this "experiment" likely would not have received approval in a university setting. Toppenish High should be teaching students proper research methods; it has committed educational malpractice here, with the apparent collaboration of mentors at Yakima Valley Memorial Hospital. The state should investigate. And the Herald-Republic and the "Today" show have committed journalistic malpractice by failing to raise these important ethics questions. HARRIS MEYER Yakima

Ethical Problems With Rodriguez's Project.

To: You Who Disagrees on All Counts. The point being made in my comment was not about the appropriateness of teenagers writing books. There are probably many teenagers who are excellent writers. Beethoven wrote, "Ode To Joy," at the age of 14. It is one of the greatest musical pieces ever which has survived centuries. Charlotte Church was a worldwide soprano by the time she was 16. Elizabeth Taylor and Judy Garland were world famous film stars by the time they were teenagers. You said that you would like to see me try what she (Gaby) went through. She did not go through child birth, so you cannot be referring to her doing that! I was a parent alone at an early age. I do write, and was nominated for the Emily Dickenson Award for one of my poems. The point I made about Gaby's work was that she was writing solely on her own perceptions of having babies, and at first presented it as her own experience. If her book was about an apology for having lied, and seeking foregiveness from the public for what then made her feel uncomfortable (as well it should), then I apologize! I did not read her book. What she did is similar to someone lip syncing a song while someone else is doing the singing, and then trying to pass it off as her own. That is not the stuff of Pulitzer Prizes! I agree with Harris Meyer's assessment. "Poor ethics," are a large part of this situation. I have to wonder why accolades and great media attention are given to lying. If other students create fictional autobiographies to call attention to themselves, what example has Gaby set? If a person faked a resume when seeking a job, would the interviewer roll out the red carpet and say, "Welcome to our company."? I think not. The interviewer would say, "The door is that way!" I agree with Harris Meyer that Tuppindish High School committed educational malpractice. What they did was to convey this message to the students. "If you are doing a research project, it is OK to fake it, if you don't feel like doing the work." If the research happened to be medical or highly technical in nature, faked material could literally cause a calamity! Child birth is not trivial, and that subject should not be presented in a half witted or careless manner. I do not know why the "Today Show" avoided ethical questions regarding Gaby's book. Maybe they thought that to bring up such matters would be too controversial. Maybe they thought that their audience would not understand the point of discussing the ramifications of lying, or that their audience are not concerned about lying because morality does not interest them. As journalists they are aware of the First Amendment, "Freedom of Speech", as well as the fact that fictionalizing the news, if they were to do it, might cause great problems with their overall credibility. I hope that Gaby writes more books in the future, and I hope she is successful. I hope also that if they are fiction she acknowledges from the beginning that they are a product of her fantasy world, not an story of her life.

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