The goddesses of the CCBC

Scott and me were taken out for lunch by the lovely women of the CCBC, Hollis, Katy, Megan and Merri. We talked graphic novels, manga, YA books and censorship and much fun was had.

My favourite moment was Megan or Merri’s (I’m jetlagged and can’t remember which) anecdote about a twelve-year old asking to borrow a newly arrived library book because the cover so appealed to her. The book was M. E. Kerr’s Deliver Us From Evie. Evie of the title is a seventeen-year old lesbian; the girl wanting to borrow the book was from a very conservative rural family. So the school librarian looked at the girl desperately keen to read the book and imagined the outrage that would result when her parents found she had read such a book and hesitated. Is this worth my job? she wondered. But she gave the girl the book because it’s not her job to say what the girl can and can’t read. If the girl’s parents didn’t like it and raised a fuss the librarian would deal with it then.

Sure enough next morning when she got to work there was the girl waiting for her. “I have to talk to you about that book.”

Oh no, thought the librarian. “Well,” she said. “What did you think?”

“It was the best book about farming I’ve read in my entire life. Thank you so much!”

It’s a lovely example of what is so often forgotten in debates about what children and teenagers should and shouldn’t be allowed to read: people don’t always read books in the same way.1 Sometimes kids (and adults) don’t even notice the stuff that is outraging others. Me, I still can’t figure out how Harry Potter encourages Satan worship . . .

I left lunch with many other ace anecdotes about being on the frontlines in the battle against censorship (which I will ruthlessly exploit for Saturday’s panel on Banned & Censored books) as well as lots and lots of reading recommendations. It was very inspiring. Thank you, all. You’re goddesses!

  1. When I was still in primary school I read The Alexandrian Quartet by Alexander Lawrence [I’m jetlagged, okay?] Durrell. One of the the books is called Justine. I loved it, but whoooosh did a lot of it go soaring over my head. I certainly didn’t notice any of the sex. []


  1. sara z on #

    Oh yes, Evie is a great book about farming! If I recall, the narrator is actually the younger brother, and there is a lot to the book besides “my sister is a lesbian.” That’s one of the things that sucks about book banning – usually the thing that makes people want to ban a book is only a small part of big picture.

  2. lili on #

    i remember finding a book in the library called “lili”. of course i borrowed it, and absolutely loved it. it was about dance, and sex (lots of sex) and betrayal and infidelity and madness and suicide. cheery stuff for a nine year old.

  3. Little Willow on #

    yay for the librarian, yay for the girl. reeeeeeeeeeead everything.

  4. Seth Christenfeld on #

    I’m fairly certain that the Alexandria Quartet is by Lawrence Durrell. 🙂

  5. Karen on #

    errm, just as an aside…

    Scott’s site seems to be down.

  6. John H on #

    here’s one for the good guys: a suburban chicago school district was in the news because of its required reading list. a member of the advisory panel proposed dropping nine books from the list due to ‘inappropriate content’ such as sex, drug use, language and violence. books like slaughterhouse-five and beloved.

    the panel held hearings yesterday in which students, teachers and parents spoke out against the proposal in overwhelming numbers. the panel voted 6-1 this morning against removing these books from the list.

  7. Josh on #

    Ya know, if you’d just mentioned a novel called justine that had age-inappropriate sex, I woulda thought first of a completely different book.

  8. Justine on #

    Josh: Oh, yeah, I read that book, too. But later. And, ah, hard not to notice the sex in that one . . . Ewwww!

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