What happens when freedom of expression comes under threat? In frank and wide-ranging interviews, historian and critic Leonard S. Marcus probes the experience of thirteen leading authors of books for young people.
A powerful photo essay on transgender teens is called anti-religious and anti-family. A meticulously researched primer on sex education stirs up accusations of pornography and child abuse. Picture books about two mommies (or two penguin daddies) set off a hue and cry. Two hugely popular children’s series run afoul of would-be censors, one for its scatological humor, the other because it’s deemed too scary. Kids’ books that touch on race, sex, LGBTQ matters, the occult, “coarse language,” and more have found themselves under the scrutiny of those who challenge First Amendment rights.
Tune in as thirteen top children’s and young adult authors speak out about what it’s like to have your work banned or challenged in America today. Prompted by Leonard S. Marcus’s insightful questions, they discuss why their books have faced censorship—both blatant and “soft”—how the challenges have or haven’t affected their writing, and why some people feel they have the right to deny access to books. In addition, Leonard S. Marcus puts First Amendment challenges in a historical context and takes a promising look at the vibrant support network that has risen up to protect and defend young people’s rights.
Authors interviewed include:
Matt de la Peña
Robie H. Harris
Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell
R. L. Stine
About the Author
Leonard S. Marcus is one of the world’s leading writers about children’s books and the people who create them. He is the award-winning author of more than twenty-five books, including Show Me a Story! Why Picture Books Matter; Dear Genius: The Letters of Ursula Nordstrom; The Wand in the Word: Conversations with Writers of Fantasy; Funny Business: Conversations with Writers of Comedy; and Comics Confidential: Thirteen Graphic Novelists Talk Story, Craft, and Life Outside the Box. His essays, interviews, and reviews appear in the New York Times Book Review and Horn Book magazine. A founding trustee of the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, he teaches at New York University and the School of Visual Arts and lectures about his work across the world. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.
'You Can’t Say That,' a collection of interviews conducted by the children’s literature expert Leonard S. Marcus, offers an antidote to the censors, elevating the voices of 13 authors whose books for kids have been challenged. Marcus probes not just what made these works controversial, but also the life paths that led the writers to pursue their subjects, and how they reacted to campaigns to muzzle their work — all of which are sure to interest their young fans, as well as students of free speech.
—The New York Times Book Review
Each conversation is frank and utterly engrossing. Familiarity with the banned books discussed is not necessary to be absorbed in the discussions, which will certainly send readers to seek out the titles. Librarians and lovers of youth literature will feel like they are a part of conversations between old friends and gain new understanding into the value of their everyday work.
—School Library Journal (starred review)
Conversations exploring the writers’ childhoods and creative lives evolve gracefully into discussions of censorship experiences. . . Many interviews highlight the crucial role of librarians in fighting for public access to books. . . this is a thoughtful examination of the barriers young people may face when seeking “polemical” reading material, with high crossover appeal.
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Marcus begins his book with an informative and enlightening Introduction that charts the history of censorship and then proceeds to the interviews. . . . Marcus has clearly done his homework, his questions and comments reflecting wide reading of each of his subject’s work. . . . Marcus’ book is essential reading for all of those who treasure free speech.
—Booklist (starred review)
Thirteen prominent authors of children’s and young adult literature talk about one thing they all have in common: All have been the targets of attempts to ban or remove their work from schools and libraries. . . . A calm, cohesive take on a hot-button issue.
Marcus, author of many great interviews for The Horn Book Magazine, here compiles interviews with thirteen authors of books that have created what the great John Lewis called “good trouble.”. . . In all cases, Marcus provides welcome context in each author’s work and life as a whole, demonstrating that intellectual freedom is a right that permeates all creative work.
—The Horn Book
Hurt, aghast, defensive, baffled, dismissive, defiant: these are feelings authors might have about a challenge to their work, and here Marcus interviews thirteen writers who have been down this emotionally fraught road to probe how defense of their right to write and readers’ right to read is vital to democracy. Highlighted are books and authors that middle to upper graders will recognize, such as Meg Medina, Robie Harris, and David Levithan, but regardless of familiarity readers will contrast the individuality of authors’ sensitivities and priorities—there’s nuance, for example, on #ownvoices, on moving rather than removing library books, on what constitutes self-censorship, on whether subsequent editions should be revised.
—The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
This title focuses on thirteen children's and YA authors whose works have been challenged, banned, and/or generally condemned by individuals or groups due to their treatment and/or inclusion of race, sex, sexual orientation, language, "crude" humor, scariness, and more. . . . Marcus does not shy away from discussions of "soft" censorship—the reality that sometimes books are not purchased by individual teachers or librarians because they lack the confidence, comfort, or courage to defend what might be deemed as controversial material.
—School Library Connection