It’s Banned Books Week 2022! (The week started on Sept. 18 and lasts through Sept. 24.)
Since 2014, I have participated in the Banned Books Week Virtual Readout (which, by the way, can be done anytime — not just during BBW). In 2021, I read from “Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You” (here’s the recording and my post.) In 2020, I read from “A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo” (here’s the recording and my post). In 2019, I read from “The Hate U Give” (here’s the recording and my post). In 2018, I read from “And Tango Makes Three” (here’s the recording and my post). In 2017, I read from “I Am Jazz” (here’s the recording and my post). In 2016, I read from “Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out” (here’s the recording and my post). In 2015, I read from “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time” (here’s the recording and my post). In 2014, I read from “Captain Underpants and the Big, Bad Battle of the Bionic Booger Boy” (here’s the recording).
The American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom says it “tracked 729 challenges to library, school, and university materials and services in 2021, targeting 1597 books.”
This year, I’m reading from “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” by Jesse Andrews.
“Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” was “banned and challenged because it was considered sexually explicit and degrading to women,” according to the American Library Association Office for Intellectual Freedom:
I chose this book by using a random number generator to “assign” me a book from the list of the top 10 most challenged books of 2021.
I’ll be honest. This is the first year since I began doing this in 2014 that I didn’t connect in some way with the book. That’s OK, though. I can see how a teenager could relate to this book. Parents try to force teenagers to do altruistic things that the teens absolutely do not want to do (such as Greg’s mom orchestrating his visit(s) to Rachel, who has leukemia). Teenagers face the reality that their friends can become ill and they don’t feel equipped to respond (as is the case for Greg and for Rachel’s other classmates/peers).
I, a 57-year-old, don’t need to connect with this book for it to be worthy of being in a teenager’s school library. A teenager doesn’t need to connect with this book for it to be worthy of being in their school library.
There’s a reason why books we don’t connect to and/or don’t love deserve a spot in the library. There’s a reason teachers assign them. This book, for example, provides an example of how to use an unusual construction (it has a narrator which in the audio version is a “voice-of-God” type). It doesn’t tie things up with a neat (or necessarily palatable) bow.
Its characters can be off-putting and unlikable.
Take it out of the library because it’s messy and delves too deeply into the crevices of Greg’s sometimes-dysfunctional mind, and we all lose.
My Virtual Read-Out
More about Banned Books Week:
Here’s one resource (and you can find others at the Banned Books Week site):
Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many. My pronouns are she/her/hers.
Karen BakingInATornado says
The way the number of bans has been rising, pretty soon there will be nothing left on the shelves.
Paula Kiger (Big Green Pen) says
Mandy Barry says
This book talks about “eating pussy” and uses disgusting language that does not belong in children’s books! What is wrong with you?
Paula Kiger says
Have a nice day.
I am hardly a teenager given my 65-years on this planet, however it has been my privilege to read “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” by Jesse Andrews. Whilst I do not wish to enter a debate justifying reasons why the book has been banned I will comment on a specific memory it triggered. As a short, acne-plagued 17-year-old, white, wannabe heterosexual virgin, I remember vividly the language choices of male contemporaries: these creatures (many of whom I secretly lusted after) punctuated their conversations with loudly articulated “S M C!”. A secret code which I finally deciphered to mean Suck My Cock!
It would seem the desire to shock, along with hormone-induced curiosity, self-hatred and a desire to belong whilst developing a unique individuality, continues to define our coming-of-age.
Is it possible some folk have yet to transition to a place of acceptance and tolerance of difference? Perhaps their teenage fears and insecurities live on well beyond their teenage years and experiences.
Paula Kiger says
Hi Julie. Apologies for the delay in responding to your comment. I think you raise some really good points here, and thank you for sharing about your personal experiences.