Dear Banned Author: A Letter to Leslea Newman
The 2018 Banned Books Week (September 23-29) theme is “Banning Books Silences Stories” — a reminder to speak out against censorship. The Dear Banned Author letter-writing campaign invites readers to write to their favorite banned and challenged authors during the week, sharing how much their words have meant to them. Library leaders share their stories and letters in this Intellectual Freedom Blog series. Find more letters at #DearBannedAuthor.
In the mid-nineties, I sat in a college classroom learning about collection development and public libraries. Our professor brought a handful of books for us to discuss what happens when a book is challenged. Heather has Two Mommies was a featured book.
Prior to college, I had been a page at my small town public library. A place where materials were sometimes challenged, but most often they were just hidden or stolen. (The Last Temptation of Christ always ended up in the weirdest places.) And I wondered what would have happened if this book had been on the shelf there? I don’t remember the discussion that day, but I do remember how young and naive I felt.
Fast forward to today: I have two children who love to read, my brother has come out and is happily married, and I live in big city in a diverse neighborhood. I encourage my children to read across the spectrum and often pick books for them that represent their family, school, and neighborhood.
Looking back I think, what was the downside of Heather has Two Mommies NOT being on the shelf in my small town public library? I wonder how many people would have been overjoyed at seeing themselves or their family in books. Further, I question why is it still a struggle to get diversity in publishing?
Ms. Newman, Heather has Two Mommies was my first exposure to diversity in books. And building on that I now better understand how important representation is and that #WeNeedDiverseBooks.
Ann K. G. Brown is the President of the Reference and User Services Association, a division of ALA. She is a Research and User Services Librarian at the GW Libraries at the George Washington University in Washington, DC. Her research interests include the international student experience and how intercultural competency and cultural competency can be enhanced and implemented in academic libraries.