I didn’t mean to alarm anyone by not posting for a week. Things have been a bit busy. Mostly with good stuff, but at such a fast pace I haven’t had blogging time.
First – A wee movie for your enjoyment. This turtle belongs to my daughter, OfficeMouse. When she got the turtle, it was smaller than a quarter.
The turtle thinks it is a cat. This is very confusing to the real cats.
Second – I have heard nothing from the Kentucky high school where TWISTED and other books still appear to be banned. I have no idea what is going on and hope that everyone down there is figuring out how to have constructive, professional conversations about the place of YA contemporary literature in the classroom.
Third – WINTERGIRLS is preparing to move to the world stage. I think the Australian edition will be the first one to go to press. Authors Melina Marchetta and Alyssa Brugman said very nice things about the book – thank you! As it stands now, WINTERGIRLS will be published in Australia, New Zealand, Portugal, Norway, Korea, Poland, Spain & Latin America, Italy, Germany, and Holland. And Great Britain, I think. This is all VERY exciting!!! As soon as I get cover images of these books, I’ll post them. It always fascinates me to see what images the non-US publishers choose to appeal to their markets.
Fourth – last weekend I got to speak to the lovely booksellers at the New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Conference. You can read Part One of Jennifer Brown’s conference coverage in today’s Shelf Awareness.
Fifth – I have been struggling a bit with some health issues. I added up the stress factors of the past year and everything suddenly made sense. In addition to the two deaths in the family this summer, and caring for a niece for a while, I was on the road for business for more than 100 days of the last year. That is officially Too Much Travel and explains many things. So please, if you have been trying to get me to come at speak at your school or conference, please understand why I am going to have to say no. I am already scheduled for 50 days next year and we’re going to try and limit it to that number.
Plus One – I’ve been sneaking into the cottageand writing amidst the power tools, but BH assures me we are days away from being able to clear out the equipment and handing over the keys to me. Some of the interior projects, like the wall of bookcase have been put on hold until I hit the road again. Next week I might make a video that shows the entire project. For now, here are a couple of recent shots.
The south wall with the magic window in place. It only requires a little bit of siding work (that is cedar siding) to be done. BH is planning on stoning that bit of wall from the bottom of the siding to the ground. I don’t know if he’ll have time to do that before the snow flies.
BH standing next to the woodstove where the fire is crackling away. The stove is covered in soapstone so it should radiate plenty of heat. The floorboards are 125+ years old.
The English teacher in KY who has been dealing with the challenges to several books, including TWISTED, has to jump through new hoops before the books will be allowed back in the classroom.
Three of the books: TWISTED, LESSONS OF A DEAD GIRL, and RAPTURE OF CANAAN have again been banned by the superintendent. According to the teacher, he does not feel they are appropriate for college level work, i.e. they do not belong as literature circle selections in an AP English course.
The teacher writes: "The superintendent wants to know that other schools are using these books in the classrooms, not in their libraries. If you all know of ANY schools where any of the listed books are being used, or if you have any evidence that they are "college level" and prepare students for college, PLEASE send it …."
Here is my plea.
If you use any of these three books in your classroom, please email us.
If you can provide your rationale for any of these three books, please email us.
If you are a college professor and you have knowledge of the teaching of these books, please email us.
If you are or were a student who was taught any of these three books please email us.
Send all your information and comments to my assistant, Queen Louise. Her email is queenlouise AT writerlady DOT com . We’ll forward everything to the district in questions.
Thanks so much for all your help with this, my friends.
I now have the specifics of the challenge to TWISTED in Montgomery High School in Mt. Sterling, KY.
It started as an effort to remove seven books. These were all options for literature circle reads. All seven were pulled from a teacher’s classroom after a parent complained about the content of the books. The first six were pulled on August 24th.
The books in questions were: Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson Deadline by Chris Crutcher Lessons from a Dead Girl by Jo Knowles The Rapture of Canaan by Sheri Reynolds What My Mother Doesn’t Know by Sonya Sones What My Girlfriend Doesn’t Know by Sonya Sones
A week later, Unwind, by Neal Shusterman, was added to the list.
Of those original seven books, the official challenge paperwork was only filed for three titles: Twisted, Lessons from a Dead Girl, and Unwind.
Many, many thanks to all of you who took the time to write to the schoolin support of the books. I suspect it made a big difference.
The challenge committee (six people) met last week. Here is the outcome: Unwind, approved, 5-1 Twisted, approved, 4-2 Lessons from a Dead Girl, approved, 3-3 (tie broken by an assistant principal in favor of the book)
An appeal has been filed by the parent about Unwind. It seems that appeals were not filed for Twisted or Lessons from a Dead Girl.
Please note: as of yesterday, September 25, NONE of the originally challenged seven books had been returned to the teacher’s classroom by the administration. None.
I think this is a cautious victory. I won’t be surprised if there are more challenges coming from the parent or parents who spearheaded this one. I wish there was a way to help promote some conversation with them about their notion that books like these lead to dangerous behavior.
At the same time last week, Ellen Hopkins was dealing with her own book banning nightmare. A parent in Norman, OK who objects to Ellen’s books was able to have Ellen’s school visit there cancelled.
The number of attempts to remove books from schools and libraries is growing. This is not a thing of the past, sadly. It is a thing of today.
What do you say to people who believe that one parent can dictate curriculum? How can we talk to people who view books that reflect the realities of society as dangerous objects that need to hidden away?
And this was sort of buried in Tuesday’s post. "The Kids’ Right to Read project is a collaboration of the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression (ABFFE) and the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC), which offers support, education, and advocacy to people facing book challenges or bans and engages local activists in promoting the freedom to read." [text from their website]
If you are a reader upset with a censorship issue in your school, an educator who knows of a book being challenged, or anyone else who has to deal with attempts to ban books, check out the KRRP website.
(Yes, I know this is a long post. With no pictures. It’s important. Please read through to the end. And then pass it on.)
While I was out of town last week, I received word of three attempts to remove two of my books from high school classrooms, TWISTED and SPEAK.
The challenge I have the least information on is apparently taking place at Downingtown West High School in Downingtown, PA. TWISTED is on the 9th grade summer reading list there. Some parents object to the book because of the description of sexual behavior in it. UPDATE: I just received a note saying the parents in Downingtown and the teacher were able to work through the issues. Yay for the good and reasonable people of Downingtown!
The second TWISTED challenge is taking place this week at Montgomery High School in Mt. Sterling, KY. A parent there feels the book is inappropriate.
Here is a quote from the draft of the letter I am sending to the Mt. Sterling superintendent:
"I suspect the roots of the parental concern about TWISTED are the scenes in which teenagers make stupid, dangerous, and occasionally horrifying decisions.
Why on earth would someone like me put things like that in a book?
Because readers who can experience those decisions – by reading about them – and appreciate the consequences of those actions – by seeing those consequences affect the lives of a book’s characters – are less likely to do the stupid, dangerous and occasionally horrifying things themselves.
Jesus knew this. He did not simply reiterate the Ten Commandments, or tell us to love one another and walk back into the desert. He told stories that made His listeners think. They make us think two thousand years later.
Storytelling is the traditional vehicle mankind uses to pass wisdom from one generation to the next. TWISTED contains a lot of bad decisions, hard consequences, and wisdom.
In an addendum to this letter, you will find a listing of the state and national awards TWISTED has received. They were all very flattering, but none of them mean nearly as much to me as the email I get from readers. Here are a few quotes from them.
“I just wanted to say thank you for writing this book. I have been considering killing myself for many years and now i am entering my junior year of high school and about 10 minutes ago finished this book. It has given me a new perspective on life and that death isn’t the easy way out. I can relate to Tyler in many ways… I greatly appreciate this book because now I know that there is hope in my life and that death is not the answer. And one more thing this is the only book I have been able to pick up and not put down from start to finish. I finished it in one day.”
“… I read "Twisted" today. I started around 4, and I couldn’t stop, I finished at 9:40. This book, was so eerily similar to my life, not completely, because I haven’t done any "Foul Deeds" (haha), and I don’t have the same "Bethany" situation, but my father is so much like Tyler’s, it sounded like he was based off him. He yells about grades constantly, to the point of making my house unhappy. I’ve considered suicide before and told no one, just buried it. I know this sounds strange, but I connected to this book in a very strange way. I can’t explain it, I just did. I’ve never sat down and read a book cover to cover, but for some reason, I couldn’t stop… But, I mean, this sounds silly, but I just want to thank you for writing that book. I feel different now, I know it may not make perfect sense, but this book changed part of me. So, thank you.”
"…Twisted really got to me. I’ve had 3 suicide attempts and the way you wrote the way he was feeling, and the hopelessness and complete unhappiness he had to deal with really hit home with me. You really nailed it… After finishing twisted I realized how much of a miracle life is, and how problems are only temporary. I could honestly bore you with a 3 page email explaining to you all I’ve learned and connected with from your writing. Basically I really appreciate and look up to you and your work."
Those emails, sir, are the reason I write hard, true, literary books for teenagers."
If you are looking to get a head start on observing Banned Books Week, feel free to write to the schools involoved with these challenges. PLEASE, I BEG YOU: be civilized and polite!! Our country is suffering an influenza of rudeness. Calling names and heaping scorn does not further discussions or change attitudes. It just builds the barricades higher.
If you have personal experience with TWISTED, as a reader, a parent, an educator, or a librarian, please share those experiences (in a positive, constructive way) with these people
Dr. Daniel Freeman Superintendent of Montgomery County Schools email@example.com
Please also remember to send prayers and support to the teachers forced to deal with these challenges. Being a teacher is one of the most important, and one of the hardest jobs in the world. Having your professional integrity called out by an attempt to ban books in your classroom is a devastating attack. My heart goes out to all of the students, teachers, staff, and community members who are standing up to the attempts of a vocal minority to impose their will and their taste in literature upon an entire school.
The American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression and the National Coalition against Censorship have joined forces to create the Kids’ Right to Read Project (KRRP). It is a brilliant, powerful, and much-appreciated collaboration. KRRP wrote to the Temecula Valley Unified School District to protest the attempt to ban SPEAK.
I used to get really angry atthese things because I felt they were a personal attack on me. Then I grew up.
Now I get angry because book banning is bad for my country. It is an attack on the Constitution and about the core ideals of America. It is the tool of people who want to control and manipulate our children.
Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas wrote in 1953 that the “Restriction of free thought and free speech is the most dangerous of all subversions. It is the one un-American act that could most easily defeat us.”
What do you think? What are you doing to prevent book banning?