Happy Banned Books Week!
This week always gets me thinking about censorship, free press, and the fear of the advent of a Brave New World or Handmaid’s Tale type of societal control. I was so glad when the DFW Writer’s Workshop decided to donate banned or challenged books to a high school this year. The sad fact is that 33% of high school students and 42% of college students will never read another book after they graduate. Maybe part of the reason for that is they haven’t read books that ignite in them a joy for reading, for whatever reason.
As a teacher, I try to get my students fired up for reading, but in this age of screens as entertainment, it gets harder and harder. So, maybe we should worry less about keeping books out of kids’ hands and more about putting books into them, even if the book that gets them interested in reading might make us uncomfortable.
My donations this year, for the most part, were inspired by both this philosophy and the “We Need Diverse Books” campaign. So here’s my list:
- Our Bodies, Our Selves by the Boston Women’s Health Book Collective: Honestly, I was shocked to find this book on the list. A shocking number of women do not understand their own bodies because they were never taught and didn’t ask questions. This is not only an act of societal mysogynism, but also a health risk to women. Anyone who watched the episode of Orange is the New Black, “A Whole other Hole” saw a comedic depiction of a real problem.
- I knew that Geography Club (Brent Hartinger), and Annie on my Mind (Nancy Garden) would be challenged and wasn’t shocked to see them on the list. These are books about LGBTQ teens finding their way in high school. A message that is important in this day an age when we see so many LGBTQ teens contemplating suicide because they feel alone, or bullied. In order to develop tolerance in our kids, they need to learn about all kinds of people. That means all kinds of protagonists in their literature, and kids who identify as LGBTQ need to be able to find protagonists like themselves in their literature.
- I know that Leaves of Grass (Walt Whitman) has some of the same objections from the book banners as the above texts. But come on, how could you ban work from such an American poetic treasure?
- Am I Blue (ed. Marion Dan Bauer) is a collection of short stories by LGBTQ authors designed to teach tolerance for LGBTQ individuals to all students, while Revolutionary Voices (ed. Amy Sonnie) is a collection of reflections written by LGBTQ youth of color on their own unique journeys. Again, I feel these are an asset to a high school library, not something that should be put away in shame as if we are shaming the writers and readers as well.
- I know the above selections were a bit “cause-y” and while the causes are important, reading is also fun. So, I ended my donation with: Interview with the Vampire, The Vampire Lestat, and Queen of the Damned (all by Anne Rice). There is a very simple reason for this. I needed teens to realize that real vampires DON’T SPARKLE. Okay, so it was a different kind of cause...
Banned Books Week is very close to my heart because if we hide or shame a subject matter in a book we are also hiding or shaming people in our society for whom that subject matter is part of their identity, be them people of color (The Invisible Man by Ellison), women (Our Bodies our Selves), alternative sexualities (my above selections) or anything else. So even if you disagree with the book, read it so you can better understand and we can all grow more tolerant. Kids who are taught tolerance don’t become bullies.
Banning books makes our schools less safe.
--Kat Cook, DFWWW member since 2013
Here’s the upcoming schedule for everyone who has finished their summer reads and are ready for the next batch of book babies to take home with them…
Member Kenneth Mark Hoover’s latest novel, Haxan, has been released by ChiZine Publications and Harper Collins. Booklist described it as a “mixture of western and urban fantasy with a cold, moody atmosphere…”
Kenneth was recently interviewed by My Bookish Ways on the heels of Haxan’s release, and it’s a great Q&A for writers and readers alike.
Member Harry Hall’s book, The Pedestriennes, America's Forgotten Superstars, which placed in the 2012 Mayborn Literary Contest, is available for preorder. The book uncovers America’s original pastime before baseball – professional endurance walking – a sport that garnered crowds, media attention, and its fair share of controversy.
In anticipation of the book’s arrival, Dallas Morning News featured an interview with Harry on their runner’s blog.
And finally, though we have some time to wait, member Melissa Lenhardt just sold her mystery, Stillwater, to Skyhorse Publishing. We look forward to its arrival.
So, there you are. All aboard and buckle up. We invite you to join us and read us, because we're certain there's no better book train to be on than ours.
SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators) is hosting its regional conference here in the Dallas Metroplex. If you write YA, middle grade, or children’s books, look no further than Arlington (first they get the Cowboys stadium, now this…) to get some top tier education.
What: SCBWI North Texas 2013 Regional Conference
When: September 21, 2013
Cost: Early Registration (by Aug. 24) $165 for nonmembers
The day is full of breakout sessions and great classes. There’s even a cocktail reception in the evening which will allow you to rub shoulders with YA author Jill Alexander, Delacort Press executive editor Krista Marion, children’s book author Lin Oliver, and a Nancy Gallt Literary Agent, Marietta Zacker. Enjoy.
The conference features New York Times bestselling author Jodi Thomas as keynote speaker. There will be 10 literary agents in attendance, and more than 40 classes to choose from. It’s going to be a fantastic and memorable event! Will you be there?
For more information and to register, please visit the conference web site.
New at the 2010 DFW Writers’ Conference the contest focuses on those all-important first five pages. The best entrant in each category, as determined by a panel of judges independent of the DFW Writers’ Conference and the DFW Writers’ Workshop, will win a 10-minute appointment with an agent. The categories are:
- Mystery / Suspense / Thriller
- Science Fiction / Fantasy / Horror
- Young Adult / Middle Grade
Contestants may enter in several categories, or have several entries in one or more categories. The contest is open to everyone, age 16 and older, regardless of registration to attend the 2010 DFW Writers’ Conference. There is a $35 fee per entry per category. A portion of the registration fee will be donated to the children’s charity, First Book.
Enter today to avoid the last-minute rush.