See No Evil

One abiding trait of conservatives is the idea that you can control human behavior by … censoring information about human behavior! Book censorship is always a prime example:

Blogs, Twitter, and Facebook have been abuzz in the last 24 hours with news that four YA authors have pulled out of the annual Teen Lit Fest in Humble, Tex., a Houston suburb. The authors withdrew in support of writer Ellen Hopkins, who announced in a blog post last week that she had been disinvited from the festival, which is organized by the Humble Independent School District, and is scheduled for January 2011. In the post, entitled “Censorship Bites,” Hopkins announced that her invitation had been revoked after a middle-school librarian and parents approached a superintendent and the school board about her participation.

Hopkins’s novels in verse deal with gritty subject matter: her Crank series, which concludes next month with Fallout, centers on meth addiction, while her 2009 novel, Tricks, was about teen prostitution. “We all feel badly that we’re making this stand,” Hopkins told School Library Journal. “We don’t want our readers to feel like we’re punishing them. But this is about having the right to read our books, and these people don’t have the right to say you can’t.”

In the last few days, four authors who were also scheduled to appear at the festival—Pete Hautman, Melissa de la Cruz, Matt de la Peña, and Tera Lynn Childs—announced in quick succession that they were also withdrawing. “What is important is that a handful of people – the superintendent, the one (one!) librarian, and “several” (three? five?) parents – took it upon themselves to overrule the vast majority of teachers and librarians and students who had chosen one of the most popular YA authors in America to be their headliner,” wrote Hautman in a blog post. “That is a form of censorship as damaging and inexcusable as setting fire to a library.” And on her blog, de la Cruz wrote, “I believe that as a writer, we have to stick up for each other, and against censorship, and against people who want to tell everyone else what to think, what to read, what to watch.” Other authors scheduled to appear at the festival are Sharon Flake, Brian Meehl, and Todd Strasser.

Like all parents, my mom had her flaws. But one thing she never, ever did was censor my reading material. After a nun complained to her about my third-grade book report on “The Cardinal” (a then-popular potboiler about a priest who had an affair and also let his sister die rather than approve an abortion), my mother said, “If the book is too adult, most of it’s going right over her head. But if she does understand it, then she’s old enough to read about it.”

Think about that. I was eight years old. I have always thought that was the single most awesome thing my mother ever did.

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