The Vampire Academy series has been banned! In Texas!
Okay, to be fair, the VA series has been banned by only one school district in Texas, but still. Wow. Who knew? The Texas ACLU just released their Free People Read Freely 2009 Report, which talks about all the banned book activity in Texas public schools over the last year. Artist friend John Picacio sent the link to me today, in which I learned that I was the second most challenged/banned author in Texas this year. I suspect this is probably only because JD Salinger doesn't have as many new books out right now. What's especially amazing is that this school district even made a pre-emptive strike and banned Spirit Bound along with the other VA books, even though it's not out yet.
What are my thoughts on this? Well, the short answer is that I think banning books violates the U.S.'s first amendment. I'm not always thrilled by my country's choices, but freedom of speech is one of our most precious and amazing features. Am I mad or upset about this school district's decision? No, not at all! If anything, I'm kind of humbled and amazed that I would actually join the banned ranks of greats like To Kill a Mockingbird and 1984. I keep trying to imagine a book banning committee saying something like, "Well, that concludes our discussion on the social messages in Lord of the Flies. Let's move on to...Vampire Academy." Really?
To give you a longer and more diplomatic answer about my thoughts, I'll simply repeat what I told John in the great article he and his pals did over at Missions Unknown. He had nice things to say about VA and the issue as a whole, so you should check the entire article out. I remarked:
As a former teacher, I absolutely respect and encourage parents to be a part of what their children are reading. However, banning books outright from schools and libraries takes this right away from families and denies them the chance to make their own decisions. It also flies in the face of the rights our country has always prided itself on, freedom of speech being the biggest. In my experience, many banned books are some of the greatest and most thought-provoking pieces of literature out there. Being in the company of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Robert Cormier is an honor.
I stand by all of that. I know districts like these have good intentions. I just don't think banning a book is the right solution. It's a gateway to other dangerous forms of discrimination in our world and limits our power to choose and think. Does that mean kids should be reading everything out there? No, but as I said, that's where parents or other guiding figures are hopefully stepping in to discuss the matters intelligently. I've always heard that the most powerful books are those that people either really love or really hate. I sincerely doubt this school district truly hates me or my books, but knowing I've created something that can trigger emotional reactions and make people pause to examine my messages is a pretty heady thing.
Many thanks to John for the info on this and to the readers who have supported me. I hope nobody will turn this into a Texas slam-fest because I actually love going to Texas and have met some of my most amazing readers there. And lastly, I want to offer kudos and applause to all those writers who have taken much, much bigger hits for their books over the years than this YA vampire author. You are truly great.