Planned school visits by YA authors Meg Medina and Rainbow Rowell set to coincide with Banned Books Week (September 22 to 28) have been canceled due to local challenges over the content of their acclaimed books, the National Coalition Against Censorship reports on its blog.
Medina’s visit to Cumberland Middle school in rural Virginia to speak at a bullying awareness event was canceled after the principal refused to allow her to reference her book Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass (Candlewick, 2013) or show its cover, NCAC reports. “Though the book portrays the lived experience of bullying in a way that brings it home for teens, district superintendent Amy Giffin said they decided Medina and her book weren’t ‘appropriate’” for the rural area, NCAC reports.
In her own blog about the incident, Medina says, “I make absolutely NO APOLOGIES for the title of my book. The title is bold and troubling, and it suggests exactly what’s inside. Besides, we can fret all we want about the word ass, but that word isn’t the real trouble, is it?
“What’s hurting our kids is the savagery on their phones, and Facebook pages and in their classrooms,” Medina says. “That, and the reluctance of those around them to step up and do the tough work of pulling the issue out into the open and talking about what bullying really looks and sounds like and about its radioactive impact that lasts for years into the future.”
Meanwhile, Rowell was set to speak to kids at the Anoka-Hennepin School District in Minnesota and at the Anoka County Public Libraries—but her invite there was rescinded after a parent’s complaint sparked a larger protest by a conservative action group who took their concerns to the county level, NCAC reports. The decision to cancel Rowell’s appearance was made over the objections of the county’s public and school librarians, who had been looking forward to an author visit ever since choosing Eleanor & Park (St. Martin’s Griffin, 2013) for its Rock the Read county-wide optional summer reading program. Many of the county’s teens had read the book during that program.
“These incidents go to show how far people are willing to go in expense of free speech to placate a vocal minority and keep them from being offended,” NCAC says. “At the heart of these cancellations lies the belief that we can clean up the world by erasing the parts some people dislike. The alternative is acknowledging those parts, dissecting their roots, asking how we can change them and facing them head on. That is what Medina and Rowell are interested in doing.
“To censor an author because she might use the word ‘ass’ (a banal swear) is to run away from the power of language. It is a missed opportunity for a lesson about how and why words affect us in different or greater ways….ignoring realities rather than confronting them, white-washing the world so it makes a prettier picture, is the antithesis of education.”