I live in a smallish river town called Anoka, Minnesota. Its claim to fame is its title of Halloween Capital of the World.
I wish that was all Anoka was known for.
Anoka – the city, county, and school district – also has a reputation for being homophobic, accepting of bullying, and generally being narrow-minded. Click here for an article on the atmosphere.
Recently, this school district listed a book on its summer reading program for high school students. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell discusses abuse, poverty, bullying, and feeling like an outsider in a frank fashion. Some parents did not find this material suitable for their own children. Those same parents want the book removed from the school districts libraries.
I believe parents have the right to determine what material is suitable for their child. I also believe parents do not have the right to determine, in this context, what material is suitable for all children within a community. The group called Parents Action League is becoming a driving force behind ensuring Eleanor & Park is banned from the school district libraries, and calling for corrective action against the individuals who recommended this book for the reading program. Regardless of one’s opinion on the book, this activity seems over the top for a minority of individuals who do not like it. To quote a dear friend of mine, “People need better hobbies. I cannot wait until the “F” word and banning books are the big issues in my life. Yikes.”
And it just so happens to be Banned Book Week. Irony much?
Coincidently, Rowell was scheduled to make an appearance at the Anoka County Library to read from her book. The Anoka County Library reneged on their invitation due to pressure from Parents Action League and the activity occurring with the school district – they were concerned about tax money going to pay for an author’s appearance where some parents want the book banned. The author offered to appear for no fee – no response given by the library. Click here for an article from NPR, and here for one from Omaha World Herald.
Hey, Anoka County Library, don’t let the book banning bullies push you around. Rowell needs to come to the library. She needs to read the book she wrote. She needs to share her life own experience. Poverty and bullying are disgusting, and by canceling the appearance and not speaking on this matter further shows you don’t think these are real issues affecting real people in Anoka County. Guess what? What is written in the book is what happens everywhere. Maybe, just maybe a high school student will read Eleanor & Park, and not feel so alone. Maybe instead of profanity, that student will find hope in that book.
And if Rowell doesn’t come for her originally scheduled appearance, you owe an explanation to those you serve. Speak up on the matter. SPEAK UP. Libraries need to be a champion for books like these. By not saying anything, you’re letting us, the people see the message of the book, down. I’m saddened the library system that saw me through some hellish times in my adolescence acts as though it isn’t powerful enough to overcome a group whose opinion of the book is in the minority. Besides, the activity is between parents and the school district – what’s it matter to you?
Hey, Parents Action League, I encourage you to be disgusted that children in our community are bullied by their peers, abused by those who should be caring for them, and exist in deplorable conditions for it is disgusting that things like that happen. At all. EVER. You don’t have to like the book, nor read it. But please consider the context of the story, regardless of swear words and situations. THAT is something to be disgusted about.
Sincerely, not one of the narrow-minded people from Anoka, I promise,