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YOU CAN'T SAY THAT!

WRITERS FOR YOUNG PEOPLE TALK ABOUT CENSORSHIP, FREE EXPRESSION, AND THE STORIES THEY HAVE TO TELL

A calm, cohesive take on a hot-button issue.

Thirteen prominent authors of children’s and young adult literature talk about one thing they all have in common: All have been the targets of attempts to ban or remove their work from schools and libraries.

Editor Marcus, a noted scholar who interviewed each writer, focuses his introduction on the history of censorship, including a simplistic summation of controversies around Adventures of Huckleberry Finn that spells out the N-word. Each author discusses their work, their personal history, and the reasons why they’ve been censored. Some, like Robie H. Harris and Susan Kuklin, came under attack for discussing sexuality and gender identity. Others, like Angie Thomas and Katherine Paterson, met with objections to swearing (in Thomas’ case, likely a cover for objections to political content). R.L. Stine faced accusations of his books’ promoting the occult. All the authors are positioned as important, powerful voices attacked by conservative censors, and the title may leave readers with the belief that any and all objections are equally wrong. Not taken into account are the subjects of librarians’ weeding collections of titles that may contain offensive stereotypes or booksellers’ deciding whether to stock books criticized for representation seen as harmful. While the text is accessible to middle schoolers, the content may be more interesting for adults in education and the publishing industry, though it disappointingly lacks a fully balanced spectrum of views and sacrifices complexity for a uniform message.

A calm, cohesive take on a hot-button issue. (source notes, selected reading, index) (Nonfiction. 13-adult)

Pub Date: July 13, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-7636-9036-6

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: May 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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THE NEW QUEER CONSCIENCE

From the Pocket Change Collective series

Small but mighty necessary reading.

A miniature manifesto for radical queer acceptance that weaves together the personal and political.

Eli, a cis gay white Jewish man, uses his own identities and experiences to frame and acknowledge his perspective. In the prologue, Eli compares the global Jewish community to the global queer community, noting, “We don’t always get it right, but the importance of showing up for other Jews has been carved into the DNA of what it means to be Jewish. It is my dream that queer people develop the same ideology—what I like to call a Global Queer Conscience.” He details his own isolating experiences as a queer adolescent in an Orthodox Jewish community and reflects on how he and so many others would have benefitted from a robust and supportive queer community. The rest of the book outlines 10 principles based on the belief that an expectation of mutual care and concern across various other dimensions of identity can be integrated into queer community values. Eli’s prose is clear, straightforward, and powerful. While he makes some choices that may be divisive—for example, using the initialism LGBTQIAA+ which includes “ally”—he always makes clear those are his personal choices and that the language is ever evolving.

Small but mighty necessary reading. (resources) (Nonfiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-09368-9

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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BEYOND THE GENDER BINARY

From the Pocket Change Collective series

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change.

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Artist and activist Vaid-Menon demonstrates how the normativity of the gender binary represses creativity and inflicts physical and emotional violence.

The author, whose parents emigrated from India, writes about how enforcement of the gender binary begins before birth and affects people in all stages of life, with people of color being especially vulnerable due to Western conceptions of gender as binary. Gender assignments create a narrative for how a person should behave, what they are allowed to like or wear, and how they express themself. Punishment of nonconformity leads to an inseparable link between gender and shame. Vaid-Menon challenges familiar arguments against gender nonconformity, breaking them down into four categories—dismissal, inconvenience, biology, and the slippery slope (fear of the consequences of acceptance). Headers in bold font create an accessible navigation experience from one analysis to the next. The prose maintains a conversational tone that feels as intimate and vulnerable as talking with a best friend. At the same time, the author's turns of phrase in moments of deep insight ring with precision and poetry. In one reflection, they write, “the most lethal part of the human body is not the fist; it is the eye. What people see and how people see it has everything to do with power.” While this short essay speaks honestly of pain and injustice, it concludes with encouragement and an invitation into a future that celebrates transformation.

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change. (writing prompt) (Nonfiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-09465-5

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: March 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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