My first experience with Brent was a simple one. He sent me an email, asking if he could review my forthcoming (at the time) Young Adult novel Jumpstart the World for his blog, The Naughty Book Kitties. I contacted my Knopf publicist, had a copy mailed to him, and that was that.
Except it wasn’t.
Just days later, a Facebook friend left a post on my wall. It was about a teen book blogger who’d gone viral with his criticism of school and public librarians and their handling of LGBT literature. For those who haven’t read the post, I’ll offer the short version. When Bent was in middle school, he asked his school librarian where all the LGBT titles were hiding. She told him: “This is a school library. If you are looking to read inappropriate titles, go to a book store.”
(Or better yet, read the whole post HERE.)
Cheryl is one of the authors I might not know if it weren’t for the literary corner of the Twitterverse. As it is, I feel as though we’re old friends, trading books and dog pictures and keeping up on each other’s career. And there’s always the retweet, that simple click of a button that authors can—and do—use in support of one another.
I first became interested in Cheryl’s groundbreaking YA novel SCARS when I clicked through a Twitter link and watched Cheryl in a TV interview. That’s when I learned that Cheryl was herself a victim of unimaginable ritual abuse as a child, and was…as the old writers’ saw goes…writing what she knows. That’s even her arm on the cover. I’ve always been deeply impressed by all forms of emotional honesty and emotional courage (often one and the same) and I knew this was a book I had to read. I’m also halfway through Cheryl’s new paranormal YA novel HUNTED, which seems to be getting another great reception from her readers and fans. So nice to see success come to authors who deserve it!
Brian Farrey is one of my “Tweeps” (translation: Twitter pals). He’s also one of the four people who participated in (and, irritatingly, won) The Bet
. Yet, bizarrely, these are not his main claims to fame. Some actually find it more important that he is the debut author of the terrific YA novel WITH OR WITHOUT YOU
(which…I just have to say…please let me know if that book doesn’t pull in most of the major LGBT awards in its category so I can go hurt someone for being on the take) or that he is an editor at Flux books. Or that he has a middle grade novel tentatively titled THE VENGEKEEP PROPHECIES
due out this year. People and their priorities, huh Brian?
There sure is a lot going on right now around book banning and censorship. In fact, it's come to a town near me. San Luis Obispo, a small city about 45 minutes down the Coast Highway from me, reviewed a book today that someone wants taken off high school shelves. Here's the problem: We don't know who. After ten years in the school curriculum, the book was reviewed today as the result of an anonymous complaint.
The book is "Kaffir Boy" by Mark Mathabane, a memoir about survival as a child in South Africa during Apartheid. Some anonymous person is upset by page 72, which contains a fairly graphic description of children prostituting themselves for food.
I have an old friend, Dave Congalton, who's hosted a local talk radio show since...I'm not quite sure, but I think since the beginning of time. He asked me this morning If I'd call in
Who could possibly think the YA novel Speak is pornography? Unfortunately, there's an answer to that question. He's a guy in Missouri, Wesley Scroggins. In an article called Filthy books demeaning to Republic education, he mischaracterizes Laurie Halse Anderson's classic YA novel Speak, the story of a young rape victim, and says it should be classified as soft pornography. Because it contains two rape scenes.
Is the suggestion here that the purpose of writing about rape is to entertain and excite? Because that's a pretty sick sentiment, Mr. Scroggins. In a world where the statistics on child sexual abuse are so shockingly high, does he really think the solution is not to utter a word about the problem in books? It's better if they don't read about someone who survived it, even if it's happening to these readers right now?
Such dangerous logic. But then, all censorship is dangerous. If you think a book is
Is it just me, or is there a lot going on with censorship right now?
There's Young Adult author Ellen Hopkins' reverse invitation to a Texas Book festival (they invited her, then withdrew the invitation). Then there was that mess regarding Glen Beck's 9.12 Project getting books pulled from school--and even public--libraries without any formal book challenge. I wrote a report on this backlash against (primarily) LGBT lit, and it's featured on the Red Room home page all this week. You can read it here. And it's almost Banned Books Week (September 25th through October 2nd, 2010).
But there is a bright spot in all of this. Some interesting and important groups and projects have emerged. Well, emerged to me. They've probably been around for quite awhile. But I'm now lucky enough to have discovered them.
I have gotten quite a bit of blowback about the language in that book (always from adults, never from youth). Almost none of it has been said to my face. For example, at one of these town in IN, I was told that the school had received phone calls from parents troubled about a handful of words. But when I speak, and open for questions, it's very rare for anyone to bring it up directly. I wish they would. I have opinions on the subject, and I'd like to have an open discussion.
I guess that's what blogs are for.
So here are my opinions:
(This is one in a series of blogs on frequently asked question that I posted on MySpace when I began that blog. I’m guessing most of my visitors to this site have not seen them.)
I want to talk about the labels (figurative labels, not price stickers and such) that we put on books. Particularly the ones that relate to reading levels. As in, This one is for a teenager. This one is for an adult.
Like there’s such a huge difference.
Here’s my opinion in a nutshell: I think it’s all meaningless.
A few examples.