A week or so ago, a librarian talked about working with kids in a "boot camp" situation and how she has to select books that do not have violence, drugs, etc. She wanted some book recommendations, but they had to be squeaky clean. It seemed more than ironic to me that the kids who would best understand the life of someone like the characters in MONSTER, TALES OF THE MADMAN UNDERGROUND, and BANG! could not have these books to read.
A couple of years ago, my own public library was under attack. Books were mulched on the front steps (only a handful of people showed up thankfully). The group responsible tried to have the library director fired and the collection development policy changed and to have a citizen review board which would read all new books for the collection. They even were responsible for having a statue of David removed from the front of a shopping center and to have pictures taken from the walls of a local restaurant.
The tragedies of late, the kids who have ended their lives because they have been bullied, should remind us of the importance of speaking up. Books that feature LGBTQ characters are often targets of censors. or they never make it to the shelves in the gatekeeping mentality. I remember reading about author M.E. Kerr looking in a card catalog as a teen searching under H and L for books about people like her and finding nothing. Now there are books but how many of them are in the online catalog in schools. I suspect that those books are absent from too many collections. That's a shame not just for the LGBTQ kids but for ALL the kids. Books need to be mirrors but they also need to be windows. Wish I could take credit for this saying but it is not mine. It is my mantra, though, as I read and post about books. I know when I talk about these books in presentations that some minds close up, but I continue to talk about books for ALL readers.
And yet we survive. We manage to get books out to kids thanks to the work of courageous teachers and librarians. I have come to know so many of them through NCTE and ALAN and YALSA and now Facebook and Twitter. They stand up for the rights of kids. They challenge the assumptions of censors that if a book contains sex it is somehow pornographic and will encourage kids to have sex. They defend books with real situations and real language and real actions and reactions on the part of the characters.
So, even though BBW is over, SpeakLoudly will continue. I urge you to join your voice with those of these other incredible educators. Visit www.speakloudly.org. Join us. Join NCAC and FTRF and other organizations that support the right to read. Buy banned books and donate them to schools and teachers and libraries. We can survive together. We can band together and help defend the right to read and defend those who become targets for standing up for kids.