Authors New to the Challenged List: Jarrett J. Krosoczka & Meredith Russo
By: Holly Eberle
Of the 377 challenges reported in 2019, there were 229 separate authors included. Some were challenged more than once and some only once. There were the expected, reoccurring classics like Harry Potter but there are several authors who are brand new to the Banned Books List.
Some of these challenges have news articles associated with them and some do not. We always assume that many challenges never get reported to the Office for Intellectual Freedom. The reports that do come in are confidential and some of those come in quietly, without any media involved. Do not be surprised if you are unable to find a school board meeting or a local newspaper story.
In this post I would like to highlight a couple of our “Banned Freshmen:” Jarrett J. Krosoczka and Meredith Russo.
Author: Jarrett J. Krosoczka
Book: Hey, Kiddo
Hey, Kiddo is an autobiographical graphic novel from the perspective of a 17-year old Krosoczka, who was raised by his grandparents. His mother struggled with heroin use disorder throughout his childhood. This is a rather intense topic for Krosoczka, an author you might be familiar with from titles such as Lunch Lady, Star Wars: Jedi Academy, or Punk Farm.
Hey, Kiddo was challenged in 2019 for “inappropriate words, inappropriate behaviors, sex, drugs, alcohol, stealing, infidelity, and murder.” These are all things that Krosoczka was mindful of, which is why he did not write it for the very young. The book was intentionally written for a young adult audience, which Krosoczka defines as ages 12 and up.
It is unfortunate that this book was challenged. This is a very real issue that is impacting more and more children. Krosoczka was hearing this from real kids during his book tours and school visits, which was a big motivator for writing Hey, Kiddo. I have also heard this in different ways as a public youth librarian and the board member of a teen center. The book may have been intended for an older audience but Krosoczka, like many real-life children, lived this life under the age of 12. It is important to acknowledge their stories and experiences.
Jarrett J. Krosoczka is interviewed about Hey, Kiddo on NPR here if you would like to hear from him personally. Or if you are feeling artsy, check out his website for a coronavirus special: Draw Everyday with JJK.
Author: Meredith Russo
Book: If I Was Your Girl
If I Was Your Girl is a young adult novel about a trans teen girl named Amanda. The story follows Amanda in her present with her father in Tennessee and her past while she was living with her mother in Georgia. She recently attempted suicide and we find her trying to start a new life on a clean page in Tennessee.
This book was challenged in 2019 because the author is a trans woman. It was explosive and the Arkansas host library had to request added police presence. If I Was Your Girl has won numerous awards including the Arkansas Teen Book Award, which was voted upon by Arkansas teens themselves.
This novel has a unique commentary on the social, religious, and cultural norms of the American South. While I was reading it over the weekend, I got to thinking maybe this was the sensitive issue but then reminded myself that the challenge was regarding the author herself. To those people, would it ever matter what Meredith Russo actually writes about?
The book was a work of fiction but it was loosely based on Russo’s experiences as a trans woman. If I Was Your Girl is a really awesome #OwnVoices story but Russo has a new book called Birthday too. If you are interested in one of her university talks, check out this video from Claremont McKenna College.
If I Was Your Girl may not be in the Top 10 for 2019 however eight of the Top 10 Challenged Books of 2019 are on there because of LGBTQIA+ content. This is significant. LGBTQIA+ content always seems to play some role on the Top 10 Challenged Books of the Year lists but this year it seems to be glaringly obvious.
Holly Eberle is the Youth Technology Librarian at the Algonquin Area Public Library District in northern Illinois and a member of the Intellectual Freedom Committee. She received her MLIS from the University of Illinois in December 2015. Her passion for the intellectual freedom rights of youth began in kindergarten when her elementary school library pulled the Goosebumps series off the shelves. She also is interested in the technological realm of intellectual freedom and privacy issues. Outside of the library she is a metalhead and you may follow her on Instagram @doom_metal_librarian.