Did you ever hear this saying?:
“First they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew. Then they came for the Communists and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist. Then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak out for me.” Pastor Martin Niemoller
I am very glad I spoke out aganst the banning of the Newbery winner in my last blog. Less than a week later I was contacted by a reported from Pickens County, South Carolina where they’ve banned Fat Kid Rules the World from all the school libraries because of a parent’s complaint. This is not the first time Fat Kid has been banned — it’s happened at least two other times that I’m aware of — but the closeness in proximity to my writing the blog about the Newbery banning reminded me of the saying above. It’s so true. We ignore actions taken to limit freedom at our own peril.
I’d like to write more about the book banning, but I have only limited time today so I will keep it short. I will say that some very positive stuff has come from it as well as the more obvious negatives. I think I’d rather share the positives, so here they are:
A student has been inspired to work together with his high school English department to try and get the book back on the shelf (go, Ethan!). That kind of activism is fabulous and I couldn’t be more thrilled to see someone moved to action like this.
An author friend of mine said that he’s no good at writing angry letters, so instead he bought a copy of Fat Kid for his local library to “replace” the copy that was lost from a different shelf several states away. He donated it in my name, and I couldn’t be more touched at such a thoughtful gesture. Thanks, David.
A reporter who writes for three newspapers in Pickens County allowed me space for a rebuttal article in which I got to speak about my feelings about book banning, and for that I was really grateful. Jason, I appreciated your willingness to present my views, not just the criticisms of my book.
People have written in on various forums to say that they disagree with the banning of the book, and all four copies of Fat Kid Rules the World that are available through the public library system are currently checked out.
I will also add that Pickens County, SC just HAPPENS to be where my grandmother, aunt, uncle and cousins live, and my grandmother found out about the book banning by reading a front page headline in her local newspaper as she had her morning coffee. My mom keeps saying, “But why did it have to be the exact town my mother lives in? Of all the places in America!” Part of me agrees with her (I mean, what are the odds?) but part of me has also been grateful for the opportunity to speak with my grandmother about the banning and to learn that she has a pretty open mind — more so than I might have given her credit for. You go, Grandma.
So, there are silver linings. And even though we live in a world where ideas, words & thoughts, can still be supressed, we also live in a country where we still have the freedom to speak out and make a difference. I count my blessings.