Once again, censorship opens its nasty mouth and takes a bite out of me. This time in Humble Texas, a suburb of Houston. Let me say first thing that I did two high school visits there a couple of years ago, and they went very well. The librarians were totally supportive and, in fact, took me to the amazing Houston Rodeo afterward. So when they asked me to take part in the Teen Lit Fest they help organize, I said sure. The event is scheduled for the last weekend in January, 2011. But I won’t be there after all.
Apparently, a middle school librarian saw my name on the roster and decided my presence would somehow negatively affect her students. I’m not sure how that is possible. Maybe she thinks I sweat “edgy and dark.” (Are those things catching?) Anyway, she went to a couple of parents with her concerns. I’m guessing she knew the exact ones who would raise a stink, and they did. They went to the school board, and the superintendent, Guy Sconzo, decided to uninvite me. (He says I was never invited, but I was!)
You know, I’m kind of getting used to this, and I had just about decided not to make a big deal about it. But then another Texas librarian, who is a great supporter, e-mailed Mr. Sconzo. His reply was arrogant and condescending and really made me mad, on two fronts. First, he admitted he “relied on his head librarian’s research” in regard to my books or me or both. Meaning he never bothered to read them himself. (Censors rarely do!) Never bothered to contact me with his concerns. Didn’t listen to the other librarians who lobbied heavily to keep me on the speaker roster, or ask other teen book festival organizers about their experiences with me.
Then Mr. Sconzo went on to say that there are so many authors they could never have them all at their Teen Lit Fests. Like I’m just another author. (Oh, except one that apparently gets under people’s skin.) I am not just another author. I’m an author who is a voice for a generation that faces real problems every day. An author who tries to dissect those problems, look for reasons, suggest solutions, show outcomes to choices through characters who walk off the page. I’m an author who cares about her readership in a very real way. I am thoughtful, respectful of my readers, and not afraid to tell the truth.
That is what censors fear. The truth. Mr. Sconzo doesn’t “want to jeopardize any possible negative reaction [sic] with what has been to date completely positive for literally all concerned.” (I always wonder about school administrators who can’t write a sentence correctly.) The truth may not always be pretty, but it is positive. What's negative is hiding truth in a dark closet, pretending it doesn't exist. And worse, manipulating people with lies.
Humble ISD seems to feel they speak for Houston. I hope if you live in or near Houston, you will choose not to attend the event. Censorship only wins if we let it. And wherever you live, I hope you’ll drop an e-mail to Mr. Sconzo, telling him why you think my books are important. Please concentrate on the positives, and don’t let anger dictate what you say. Keep a respectful tone (no swear words, okay?), or your opinions won’t matter to him. But please make it clear, if you’re with me on this, that I’m not just any author. And that you don’t believe in censorship. Here is his email address: Guy.Sconzo@humble.k12.t