The Library Springfield-Greene County Library District Springfield, Missouri

Authors Reflect on Book Challenges as Banned Books Week Begins

As Banned Books Week gets under way in the library district, several authors we interviewed echoed one message that helps explain the deeper value of protecting the “right to read” in schools and libraries:

The books that make some people uncomfortable are often the same books that help young adults realize they’re not alone in their fears, insecurities and loneliness. They give courage and voice to others.

The public is invited to attend all the events beginning with a school officials’ panel at 7 p.m. Tuesday (SEPT 27) at the Library Station.

Here are some of the things authors told us.

Author and educator Beth Hammett, of “Natalie: Diary of a Senior Year,” said her favorite banned book as a youth was “Go Ask Alice,” which portrayed the pressures peers place on one another.

“It made me realize that there were ‘frenemies.’ In addition, it portrayed real life and real problems teens encountered … Banned books saved my life! They are like today’s reality shows where characters wrestle with everyday problems and solutions. Banned books answered many of life’s questions for me, and they helped me work through my own problems.”

Sarah Ockler, whose “Twenty Boy Summer” is restricted in Republic Schools, exposed the pain of losing a loved one. She says she wrote the book especially for families dealing with that pain.

“I'm always shocked when people focus on the limited sexual content and ignore the bigger themes and story. I was inspired to write (the book) through my work with an organization called National Donor Family Council -- we worked with families whose loved ones had died and donated organs or tissues.

“There were so many teens who'd experienced the death of a sibling or friend, and I knew I had to find a way to tell that story – the one of before and after… I wish I could say that I made the whole thing up, that it was a silly fantasy that no one ever had to go through that kind of pain. But they do. So the stories need to be told. And they need to be made available to the teens who most need to hear the message that they're not alone.”

Ockler will speak at 7 p.m. Friday (SEPT 30) at the Library Center and at Springfield library branches on Saturday (OCT 1).

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