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My Book Is Banned ... I suppose I know why.


I'm unpopular in a special new public way. 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 a lot of kids won't, because a small group of mostly moms are power-tripping through recent literature and actually getting books banned from libraries.

My little book is number 78 on the list, sandwiched between some of my very favorite writers and books of all time. Mind-boggling:

Clearly, these bans (censorship) are reprehensible. So many good books that nourish the soul and instruct the personare being squeezed out and silenced because they address trauma, sexuality, race, and other forms of otherness. Those books will not be sold; they will languish unread and unknown, despite the important stories they tell. Imagine not being able to read 1984 or The Awakening, Fallen Angel, or so many other classics. Imagine if those books did not exist. Imagine if their authors had had to self-publish because of bans or boycotts; and too few people read them, and they slipped into the deep waters of Time's river. Contrary to a popular belief, a banned book does not sell more copies--it sells far fewer, because if libraries aren't stocking it, a major channel for getting books into hands and hearts just dries up. Also, without a market for a book, a publisher will stop printing it and bringing out books like it. The bans deprive us all of a readerly experience with big ideas, deep thinkers, conjurers of language that transforms the way you think of the world and your own potential ... The Most Banned list includes some of the most gorgeous, moving, life-changing books ever written. I can see why some of them threaten the delicate parents' committees at school libraries: A Clockwork Orange might be too brutal for some, and 1984 is not a cheery forward glance. Still, shouldn't students get to decide whether they can handle the thought experiment? But 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--I have written a filthy book: There's sexual assault, abandonment, homosexuality, and enslavement. Still, that book got nice reviews, a bunch of stars, and a silver honor in the Michael L. Printz Award series from the American Library Association (who also keep track of the book challenges). Almost every complaint includes this: There's syphilis, see, and that's upsetting, especially in a book that tells several fairy tales, none of which turn out as a modern reader might hope. Syphilis is awful--painful, doomful, mysterious, expected and still never expected. It's a figure for the random fate that assigns death and suffering, unfair and without regard for a Big Plan or a moral judgment.

Circumstances overwhelm. But there is hope for a happy ending ... through fairy tales and through reading. Read whatever you want. In this novel, that means winning the right to read a Protestant version of the Bible.

In a world, in a time.


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