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book parts and house parts,

a mini blog

  • Writer's picturesusann cokal

My Book Is Banned ... on being unpopular in junior high vs. "challenged" in literature

I was unpopular in high school. I was extremely unpopular in junior high. I didn't want anybody to know back then ...

Well, obviously the people who shunned me in school knew, but I would never tell my parents what a hard time I was having, and I tried not to let my few friends notice it much either.

I've made the American Library Association's list of 100 most challenged books of the last decade (2010-2019). That means a lot of people really, really, really don't want their kids to read my third novel, The Kingdom of Little Wounds. And I am thrilled.

And it's number 78 on the list! Sandwiched between some of my very favorite books of all time. I cannot get over the surprise of seeing my name among so many lumaries':

Many of these choices seem odd--these are some of the most gorgeous, moving, life-changing books ever written. Why would anyone want to ban House of the Spirits? Is the portrayal of politics and war just too much for some readers (or their parents) to take? Is Awakening on the list because it ends with a suicide--or because the exploration of women's rights is just too much? I can only guess at some others.

I do have a better idea about mine, because although I have done my best to avoid looking at many of the reviews, sometimes I'm inadvertently slapped in the face with a parent's opinion--there's syphilis, see, and that's upsetting; Renaissance medicine was dangerous, and it was a culture in which girls' bodies were a battleground for politics and all sorts of other evils, and the parents in the story are really not attentive.

And I'm pretty proud of it all. I poured my heart and my fears into that book, which is hard to do if you've ever been picked on before. My junior-high self never could have imagined being so daring as to let people see what really lay inside me, for fear it would have picked apart. And now it has been. And I see at last that being unpopular in some circles is a compliment. It puts me in astonishing company.

Now I'm notorious.

And that's a good thing for my desperately anxious little 1982 self.

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