Censorship in school libraries is heartbreaking, isn’t it? For whatever reason, some parents seem to believe that they are the arbiters of morality for everyone else’s kids as well as just their own, and take it upon themselves to have books pulled from libraries or reading programs.
That happened with Courtney Summers’s book Some Girls Are, which concerns bullying, girl-on-girl violence, and sexual violence. It was going to be an optional title on a summer reading list at a South Carolina high school, until one parent complained and the school’s principal decided to pull the title in violation of his school’s specific process for dealing with such complaints.
Kelly Jensen, a columnist for BookRiot and a former teen librarian herself, felt that this simply should not stand.
I’ve been out of libraries now for over a year, but I remain as dedicated as ever to teenagers and their rights. They are already subject to so much contempt culturally, and in all of my experiences, the bulk of teenagers are amazing human beings. They’re wild, awkward, funny, and even when it doesn’t seem to be the case, they really are interested in earning your adult approval. Teens face enough barriers every day, and to have a book that so carefully explores these barriers and so thoughtfully says I see you and I recognize how hard it is to be you, pulled from their hands — I fumbled mentally for what I could do to make some kind of difference for these kids. I’m privileged to have a platform here on Book Riot, as well as on my personal blog and Twitter, and because I’ve been outspoken and passionate about teens, libraries, and intellectual freedom, I had an idea. I could send down a box of 15 or 20 copies of the book for some of the kids who wanted to get the book to pick up a copy for free to keep.
So she posted a request for books, and it gradually snowballed to the point where she had to request help covering postage, too, and ended up shipping over 900 copies of the book to that South Carolina high school for the high school librarian to distribute to anyone who wanted to read it.
Kudos to Jensen and everyone who helped her gather all those books together and send them off. It occurs to me that this sort of rapid response is only possible now because the Internet is so good at connecting people all over the place together, and letting them coordinate donations and shipping to make sure the book gets to where it needs to be.
It also occurs to me that this is another area where printed books are better than e-books for some purposes. Yes, e-books can be downloaded instantaneously, and furthermore they can be read without anyone else knowing what you’re reading—so you could be reading a censored book right in front of the censor and they’d never even know it. But on the other hand, it’s not so easy to hand an e-book off to someone who needs to read it, nor is it possible to make such a useful symbol of resistance by having hundreds of them all shelved together as you can see in the above photo, and the other photos collected on BookRiot.
Anyway, it’s great to see this instance of censorship being pushed back. Hopefully it is only the first of many such efforts.