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You Can’t Say That

Mark Your Calendars: Talking Book Bans with Elizabeth Acevedo, Ashley Hope Pérez, and More

By Appearances, Community work
OK, book lovers. Mark your calendar for Monday, Dec 6, 7 pm Eastern. That's when Elizabeth Acevedo (The Poet X, Clap When You Land), Ashley Hope Pérez (Out of Darkness), librarian and author Angie Manfredi (The Other F Word), and Gordon Danning from the National Coalition Against Censorship will chat with me about their experiences with the growing number of book challenges and bans. You can access the full press release here. Virginia has been a hotbed of challenges in recent months as Michael Paul Williams wrote about this past week in the Richmond Times Dispatch. Challenges are nothing new. (For a great historical perspective, you can check out historian Leonard Marcus's new book, You Can’t Say That.) Chances are that, before long, a challenge will come to a school near you. How will you respond? I'm grateful that James River Writers, one of our state's best-known writers' organizations, has stepped up to host this conversation. You probably know JRW from their annual writer's conference, but they do lots of programs to support writers, in both craft and in community-building. As part of their mission, together we've planned a free-flowing chat that will touch on some key topics, including basic definitions of bans, challenges, and censorship. Why are we seeing so many challenges, even for books that have been in circulation for a while? What are the underlying issues for parents, authors, teachers, librarians, and readers? How can school and library communities best prepare for these difficult conversations? What are fair boundaries...
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Stop the Madness: Banning Books Is Not the Answer

By Community work, Latino Life, The Writing Life
While Banned Books Week was last month, I've recently had a front row seat to the parent pressure being exerted on school boards across the country regarding library books and teaching materials. New Kent County pulled The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo from its shelves, and Henrico County, where I live, pulled Ashely Hope Perez’s novel, Out of Darkness, from high school libraries, pending a Superintendent review. Both novels are highly decorated young adult works, and both center narratives by Latinx and Black characters. Out of Darkness is a historical novel about the 1937 New London, Texas school explosion that killed 295 children and teachers. It won the 2016 Tomás Rivera Award and American Library Association’s 2016 Printz Honor Award, which recognizes an outstanding work of fiction for teens. The Poet X chronicles Xiomara's life as she discovers the power of poetry to understand and name her experiences. In its stratospheric debut, it won the 2019 Pura Belpré Award, the 2018 National Book Award, and the 2019 Printz Medal. I am a Latinx Virginian. I’m also a colleague of both authors, one who has chronically run into the buzzsaw of censorship myself for my novel Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass. I’m also a former English teacher, a parent who raised three kids into adulthood here in Henrico County Public Schools, and a former – and active – school volunteer. In other words, I am all about books, kids, and community. To my fellow Virginians (although the sentiment applies everywhere) I...
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Wild and Unruly Anthologies Coming Your Way *

By Appearances, young adult
Anthologies are hot right now, and I have a couple of pieces appearing in two that will appeal to both YA and adult readers. One that you'll want to order now in preparation for Banned Books Week 2021 (supply chain problems being what they are) is You Can't Say That: Writers for Young People Talk About Censorship, Free Expression, and the Stories They Have to Tell, edited by Leonard Marcus (Candlewick Press, July 2021.) There are few children's literature historians with Leonard Marcus's credentials, and in this starred collection of interviews with more than a dozen contemporary authors, he delves into society's impulse to censor what's unfamiliar or uncomfortable – all in the name of protecting children.  You'll find personal stories shared by people like Angie Thomas, R.L. Stine, David Levithan, and Robie H. Harris, to name just a few. We all had the chance to talk about why we wade into difficult terrain and how that has looked for each of us.  I'll be discussing the book this week with Leonard through the American Writer's Museum on August 12, 7:30 pm EST/ 6:30 CT.  Hope you can tune in and get a taste for what's in store. The second anthology is Wild Tongues Can't Be Tamed: 15 Voices from the Latinx Diaspora, edited by Saraciea Fennell (September 14, 2021, Flatiron), whom you may know from her many accomplishments as the founder of the Bronx Book Festival and as part of the leadership at Latinx in Publishing. The collection is garnering lots of...
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