In the past year, there has been an unanticipated increase in the number of books that have been banned or challenged. Lawn Boy by Jonathan Evison is number two on the American Library Association’s Top 10 Most Challenged Books of 2021 list.
About the Book
Evison tells the story of Mike Muñoz, a young bi-racial (Chicano and white) gay adult from a working-class family in Washington State. Muñoz finds himself unemployed and adrift after being fired from a landscaping job because he refused to do a menial task for a client. As he tries to find a new job, he struggles with racism, microaggressions, and other social issues like poverty and class. Muñoz’s search for meaning leads him on a journey of self-discovery as he tries to find his place in the world. What sets Lawn Boy apart is that it focuses on race, class and economic disparity; it is a moving, humorous, and insightful portrait of a young man searching for the American Dream.
Challenges & Critical Reception
The coming of age novel has received top marks from critics and readers, but also some challenges as well in schools and libraries because it contains profanity and sexually explicit scenes. Some parents felt that the book was inappropriate for younger readers due to its LGBTQIA themes, while others thought its content was not sufficiently age-appropriate.
- Leander School District, TX – Instead of school board, Leander Police investigate book challenge
- Fairfax, VA – Fairfax school system pulls two books from libraries after complaints over sexual content
- Wake County, NC – Wake County school board rejects ‘Lawn Boy’ book challenge
“Mike Muñoz is a Holden Caulfield for a new millennium.” —The New York Times Book Review
“Jonathan Evison takes a battering ram to stereotypes about race and class in his fifth novel, Lawn Boy . . . full of humor and lots of hope . . . Evison has written an effervescent novel of hope that can enlighten everyone.” —Washington Post
“Irresistible . . . funny, honest and real.” —Seattle Times
“Evison meticulously evokes a richly detailed marginalized world . . . moving, evocative and beautifully written.” —The Providence Sunday Journal
“Moving . . . Evison convincingly evokes the small disasters and humiliations that beset America’s working poor. Mike’s gradual growth into self-awareness is punctuated by moments of human kindness and grace that transpire in and among broken-down trucks, trailer parks, and strip malls. Focusing on the workers who will only ever be welcome in gated communities as hired help, Evison’s quiet novel beautifully considers the deterioration of the American Dream.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review
“[A] deeply real portrait of an everyday Joe just trying to find his way. Evison combines humor, honesty, and anger with an insightful commentary on class that’s also an effective coming-of-age novel.” —Library Journal, starred review
“In his bighearted portrayal of Mike Muñoz, Evison has created an indelible human spirit content to live authentically, which just might prove to be the true American dream.” —Booklist, starred review
“Evison brings genuine humor to Mike’s trials and tribulations. The writing is razor-sharp, and Evison has an unerring eye for the small details that snap a scene or a character into focus. The first-person narration turns Mike into a living, breathing person, and the reader can’t help but get pulled into his worldview.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Evison’s enthusiasm for his protagonist and his book’s message is evident on every page. It’s the kind of book that elbows its way into your head and forces you to think about your world in a new way.” —Seattle Review of Books
Also, Evison notes that the book was “intended for an adult audience,” but “found some crossover success due in part to winning an Alex Award from the Young Adult Library Association for “books written for adults that have special appeal to young adults, ages 12 through 18.” In an interview with the Young Adult Library Services Association’s teen collections blog, The Hub, following his receipt of the Alex Award for Lawn Boy in 2019, Evison stated that he regarded the award as a chance to “connect with younger” audiences.
The book was eventually banned because of profanity and sexual explicit scenes. While some argue that the banning of the book was a violation of freedom of speech, others maintain that it was necessary in order to protect children from its graphic scenes and language. In any case, the ban highlights the power that books can have, both to engage and enlighten readers, and to provoke intense debate.
Before joining Lynn University as an outreach librarian, Sabine was a teacher and librarian at YOUmedia Miami, a media technology program at the Miami-Dade Public Library System for teens and before that was a content specialist in programming and production with WPBT-TV South Florida PBS in Miami. Currently, she is an adjunct professor at Lynn University’s College of Communication and Design, and is one of the primary faculty advisors for the student newspaper, iPulse. As an outreach librarian at the Lynn Library, her research specialties and liaison area are to the Communication and Education students. Sabine is writing her first book on empathy-based library marketing and communications and how to be equitable and inclusive in libraries with ALA-ACRL. Her Master’s degree in Library and Information Science and Master’s degree in Mass Media and Journalism are from Clarion University in Pennsylvania.