Scars is being challenged

UPDATE: Boone Library left a comment on my blog–Scars is on their shelves! BUT I just found out–Scars is STILL under review at Boone Library. Writer Debbie Ohi found out for me, and clarified.

Scars is being challenged at Boone County Public Library in KY because of a patron complaint. (The library is obligated to review the book. I am so glad the Boone library bought Scars in the first place–and four copies! Librarians are our advocates–I truly know this! It is individuals who challenge books.) This challenge makes me sad and angry. Trying to prevent any teen or reader from reading a book that might help them, might speak to them, seems so wrong to me.

When I was a teen, being horribly abused, I felt so alone and isolated. Alone in being sexually and ritually abused, alone in being queer, and alone in using self-harm to cope with horrendous abuse. Feeling like you’re the only one of any traumatic, hurtful, or shameful experience is painful. When you add social shaming on top of that, for all of those issues, it can feel unbearable. I desperately needed to know I wasn’t alone, and as an avid reader, I searched for reflections of my own experience in books. I never found it, not the way I needed–but I did find bits of experience that I could identify with, even though they weren’t my own, in books like Judy Blume’s Blubber (I identified with being bullied as a teen, since I was), Lois Duncan’s Down A Dark Hall (I knew what it was like to have the adults around me show one social face, while doing horrible things in secret), Anne of Green Gables (being initially unloved) and many more. Those books are part of what helped me survive my abusive childhood and teenhood. But I still, always, searched for a book that would be more true to my experiences. I never found it–and that is a big part of why I wrote Scars. It was a book I needed for myself.

It turns out that it was a book that many other teens needed, as well. I get a number of reader letters every week, and in so many of them, I hear from teens who have been in emotional pain and felt utterly alone in the world and not understood by anyone until they read Scars. Many of those teens also tell me that after reading Scars, they have managed to stop using self-harm, or reduce self-harm, and many of them have been able, for the first time, to talk to others about their pain, or go into therapy. Those letters are such a gift–knowing that Scars is actively bringing positive change into so many lives. Many of the teens experienced abuse, but some did not. Some were simply queer, or in emotional distress, and didn’t have another outlet.

Since self-harm is usually kept a secret–there is so much societal shame and blame around it–many people who self-harm go years without getting help. I believe that talking about the painful issues is one way to encourage people to find someone to talk to, and to get help.

I’ve also heard from many readers who have never been abused and never experienced self-harm themselves. Some of them have known friends who’ve used self-harm, and after reading Scars, they understand a bit better, have more compassion, and feel more equipped to help their friends. Many other teens have not known anyone who used self-harm, but write to me saying that they have more compassion for people in pain, in general. And a few people have told me that before they read Scars, they could not understand how anyone could ever hurt themselves, but after reading Scars, they got it. I have been hearing, over and over, how much Scars is helping others; it is what I hoped for, and more. To remove Scars from the bookshelves means preventing a lot of teens from finding understanding, safety, and encouragement to find help. It means preventing others from having a bit more compassion for their fellow students. Scars is a book I desperately needed as a teen–and it is clear to me that many, many teens also need it. Keeping it from teens is a reinforcement that no, you’re not okay as you are. That you should feel shame for being abused, being queer, or coping in a way that hurts yourself. For being different. Removing Scars, is, to me, removing some compassion, insight, and understanding from the world.

I hope you’ll join me in raising your voice against censorship. Please consider tweeting, blogging, FaceBooking (is that a word?), or in any way you can, helping to get the word out about this. I hope readers who need Scars will keep finding a way to get it.

If you’d like to ask that Scars NOT be taken off the shelves, here is the contact info:
Phone: 859-342-2665
Twitter: @boonelibrary

If you do contact them, please be polite. Librarians are wonderful!

One blog reader, Kerri Lane, suggested that another way readers could help fight this challenge is to buy a copy of Scars! I love that idea, and would like to suggest that people could buy a copy and read it themselves, give it to a friend or a teen….or get a copy from the library and read it.

Some other posts in support of Scars, and against Scars being challenged:

So many other people have expressed their support. I am heartened by all your many voices. Thank you!

You can enter to win 1 of 3 copies of Scars at The Sunday Book Review (US residents only)

and enter to win another copy of Scars from @JoanneLevy, simply by re-tweeting her tweet or mine: I’ll draw from RTs for free copy: @CherylRainfield SCARS is being challenged in a public library in KY.

About Cheryl Rainfield

I write the books I needed and couldn't find as a teen. I write teen fiction--paranormal fantasy and gritty realistic fiction. I'm the author of SCARS (WestSide Books, 2010) #1 ALA QuickPicks, and Governor General Literary Award Finalist, HUNTED (WestSide Books, Oct 2011), STAINED (Harcourt, 2013), The Last Dragon (HIP Books, Sept 2009), and Walking Both Sides (HIP Books, 2011). I also enjoy drawing, surfing the web, connecting with people I like, doing crafts, and being with my dog.
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81 Responses to Scars is being challenged

  1. Kathy–yeah, it’s ironic that Scars was challenged during Freedom To Read Week! I am *very* glad I found out about this challenge, and so grateful for the voices joining me. To have our books be challenged or banned and not know…and just have the books slip away…ug and ug and ug. Hard to think about. But…I’m glad to have your company in this as well–another writer whose work I respect!

  2. peter carver says:

    Good evening, Cheryl. I’ve just sent the library director in Boone County a message expressing my concern that they have considered stifling your important book — and pointing out to him/her that this is Freedom to Read Week here in Canada. Ironically tomorrow night there is an event at the Gladstone Hotel which is a panel discussing the question of who should select books for young readers — it’s being staged in support of this annual focus on intellectual freedom in Canada and beyond.
    There will always be people who think they know better about what other people should read — the sad thing about this is that it’s a public library taking this position. Clearly they’re wrong, and all we can do is tell them so, and watch out for similar wrongheaded idiocy closer to home — because, believe me, in Canada we have been just as dim on occasion. Chin up, Cheryl. It’s a fine book, and it will continue to find its audience.

  3. Thankyou! And good luck! There is a lot of support here and some great advice given and action taken.

    It’s quite exciting to be part of this! I so wish you well.

  4. Oh, Peter, thank you so very much! (hugging you) I really appreciate your writing them–and the lovely things you said. And yes–we’ve got to keep watching out for book banning and challenges–I think it’s all idiotic! Books give so much good to readers. And yes–people deciding what others can or can’t read–that feels so wrong to me! I’m actually feeling–surprisingly–pretty good right now, because of all the lovely support and people standing up for Scars. I’m hoping they won’t remove it from the library….

  5. Sarah Jefferson says:

    It seems that an important facet of this story is being ignored. The library involved is being demonized on this and other blogs. Libraries don’t challenge books – members of the public challenge books. Many great books have been challenged by all sorts of people – that does not mean that the school system or library involved challenged the book. Let’s place responsibilty where it belongs – on the person who challenged the book. Part of our freedom as Americans is that everyone is entitled to his/her own opinion even if it differs from our own or from the majority. So while everyone is blasting the library involved, we need to remember that a citizen challenged the book.
    Scars is a great book and I’m sure all of this contoversy will sell more books.

  6. Here is the link to the Banned Books Week FB page: – There is now another update about Scars on the Banned Books Week page from Beth Fehlbaum!

  7. Pingback: Cheryl Rainfield’s Book Scars Challenged in Kentucky Library |

  8. dldzioba says:

    I said on TeenLitAuthors I’d write a blog post and I did.
    You’ve got a huge amount of support. I hope we can all help overturn this.

  9. Cheryl, “scars” has obviously kicked these parents (and/or so called educators) squarely in their soft underbelly, right where it hurts. Your book attempts to shatter their pattern of denial is the best course of action, or lack there of.
    These are the very people who’s children need to read the book. Adults who prefer to hide their heads in the sand instead of acknowledge the world is not a perfect place.
    Cutting can be a symptom of abuse, it can be one of the manifestations of depression. it happens, it happens a lot and there is always a reason for it. All self abuse/self inflicted pain, be it bulimia, anorexia, cutting, has a basis.
    I, along with others posting, can only assume this WILL bring even more attention to Scars. Teens will find it!
    Take heart in the fact that you are in excellent company when it comes to challenged/banned books and ALL of these went on to being best sellers and ended up in the hands of their readers, despite ignorant censorship.

  10. Becky Kempf says:

    Boone County Public Library has not banned Ms. Rainfield’s book; in fact, it is still in our catalog and is currently checked out. Sarah Jefferson was correct in her post (#56) – a customer challenged the book, not the library. We simply contacted the author to find out more about her book as mandated in our policy for handling customer concerns. Currently we have four copies of the book – two on the shelves and two checked out.

    Please check our catalog:*&query=&page=0#__pos1

  11. Becky Kempf says:

    Here’s a better link to our catalog. Thank you.

  12. Christine Tripp says:

    >Part of our freedom as Americans is that everyone is entitled to his/her own opinion even if it differs from our own or from the majority.<

    This is also a freedom in Canada, the UK etc but having the right to an opinion should mean just that. Why would one person's opinion of a book result in a government institution going to the lengths of contacting an Author. If the Library has multiple copies of the book are they not already aware of it's contents. What would be the purpose in contacting the author to find out more about the book when it's physically there.
    It seems like a complete waste of everyone's time, including the libraries for one person's opinion/concern.

  13. concernedlibrarian says:

    First of all, I’d like to say that as someone who is personally familiar with self-mutiliation, I’m glad that Scars is available for people to read. Having something to turn to when you feel alone can make all the difference, especially when the author has first hand experience. Ms. Rainfield, you’re (for lack of a better word) amazing for writing such a courageous story. Keeping that in mind, I agree with Sarah Jefferson in that we need to be concerned with who made the complaint. As a former librarian (and I think I can speak for most librarians when I say this), I know that the last thing that anyone wants is to ban a book. Keeping something available that has the potential to make a great impact on someone is not something that we want kept from the public. I know that there is an amount of protocol that all libraries must go through when a patron challenges a book. I know it seems tedious, but I think (at least from my knowledge of working with patron complaints and challenged books, etc.) is that we want to submit as much evidence we can to ensure that the book stays on the shelf. Being “aware” of the content of the book is fine, but having that extra information presents a stronger case and helps when we’re dealing with the patron who complained. As Becky noted, the book hasn’t been pulled. It’s a horrible thing for a book to be challenged but it’s not like they’ve taken it off the shelf. So before we raise our pitchforks and storm the building, let’s wait until a resolution is announced. Obviously, I can’t speak for the library in Boone County, and I don’t want to step on anyone’s toes, but I just wanted to lend an opinion as a former librarian.

  14. Sadi says:

    I *wish* this sort of book would have been in my local library as I was growing up. I’m betting it would have helped me. As I said on another blog, I haven’t read this book yet, but when I was a teen, it would have spoken to me on *so many* levels (repressed sexual abuse, queer, self-harming). So much of adolescence is seeking out people/things/places one can identify with, to feel that there is someone/thing/place that resonates within oneself, that one may feel less alone. If I’d read a book like this as a teen… I can’t say what I’d have felt. However, I think it should be allowed to be where it can do the most good for the most people: In said library. In any library, really.

    Thank you.

  15. finette says:

    Another librarian here. Christine, virtually all libraries have procedures that they must follow when materials are challenged. I’ve never heard of a policy of contacting the author in every case, but I think it’s a really good idea because authors obviously tend to be some of the most passionate defenders of their own books and of the freedom to read in general, as evidenced by Cheryl’s awesome post. I want to reiterate that the library and librarians are not the villains here–in fact I’m willing to bet many of the librarians are just as angry/sad as any of us here.

  16. I am so excited Scars is now on the library’s shelves. 🙂

  17. Christine Tripp says:

    To me, it sounds like the mandate or procedure must be changed. I have every faith in Librarians and their ability to know their readers, the books quality and contents and ability to “defend” it’s right to be on their shelves. I really don’t understand how and why an author can defend it any better, being so close to the item itself.
    If Librarians are charged with selecting content and then can be challenged in regards to their selection, it’s very sad.
    Should we just appoint parents to pick books to purchase? I trust our Librarians to do the job, based on their knowledge of who their “clients” are and their education.
    To have one person come into the Library and voice their opinion and to have that result in having to take action is unbelievable.
    I do wish I had this power over every other aspect of what my government does… but this is a democracy.

  18. Cheryl, this comment was left on my website today in support of you & SCARS, and I told the writer I would forward it to you:

    Dear Ms. Rainfield,
    I stand behind you, not because I or my siblings suffered in anyway,
    but because we didn’t those who have earned my deepest sympathy
    and love… I need not know names, dates, places, circumstances, ect.
    I would never be able to read your book as I’m a sensitive man and I flatly refuse to let a perverse society rob me of my tender heart.
    I wish you well and may God Bless you,
    Respectfully Yours,
    Daniel Carroll
    Sunset Beach, CA 90742

    (Me again-) I want to remind your readers that in honor of Cheryl & SCARS and in support of SPEAKING LOUDLY, I am holding a contest thru Sat. 2/26. You can win a copy of SCARS and a signed copy of my novel, HOPE IN PATIENCE, by commenting on the post (address below). You can earn multiple entries by Tweeting, posting it on FB, and on your or someone else’s website. Here’s the link to the contest!

  19. B. A. Binns says:

    Librarians are almost never the issue, and they face requests tohave books removed from the shelves on a regular basis. One a request is made they the book MUST go through the local review process, that is out of the librarian’s hands. In most parts of the country the boards end up supporting the librarians’ original decision to put the book on the shelf.

    BTW – what you don’t hear about are areas where either the governing body takes a unilateral decision to pull a book from the shelf, or a group like a school board decides never to obtain the book in the first place for fear of complaints. And that happens all the time.

  20. Nicole says:

    I just bought it for my library. Sorry we missed it the first time around. Great reviews in SLJ and VOYA. Can’t wait to read it when it arrives. Good luck in this cause! Like one of the comments above says, banning is the one thing that will make a teenager absolutely want to read a book!

  21. Molly Walker says:

    I agree I with B.A. Binns and other librarians. I was a librarian while in college, and instances like this occured quite often. This “process” that Boone County is going through is required, all libraries have this process and this process must occur when a patron complains. So instead of bashing the library how about we support them? I am sure the library is just as upset as everyone else. Libraries support freedom of speech and I highly doubt the book will be pulled. In my experience, it’s very rare a book is pulled from a public library. Everyone is intitled to their own opinion obviously this book struck a chord with the patron who made the complaint. They are using their right of freedom of speech to say something about it. The library is just doing their job, and I hope this gets resolved soon.

  22. Ellen Jaffe says:

    The Boone County Library (and librarians)are, I think, supporting SCARS as they have purchased 4 copies. It’s good to clarify that it is a citizen/patron, not the library itself, who is challenging the book, and that the library has a review process it needs to follow if there is a complaint. A library, like a bookstore, is there to provide a variety of books: not all patrons will agree with or approve every book. A library, however, unlike a bookstore, is supported by public funds, and this is probably why they need to review complaints. On the other hand, the library is there to provide books and information for people who might not be able to afford to buy books. And people can challenge books for all sorts of reasons — in some ways, it seems a misuse of time and energy to review every challenge; on the other hand, what if a book promotes hatred or acts such as pedophilia (a book on this subject created a recent controversy on Amazon.) Is it clear who, in this situation, has the final say? (Library Board, librarians, other officiials)? I hope SCARS does stay on the shelves.

  23. Unfortunately, libraries do have to respond to these challenges. I don’t understand why one patron can cause such a mess. Sorry your book is caught up in this!

    Has the challenge been reported in the news anywhere? I wanted to mention it in my blog, but without some details or a link to an online news story, it’s difficult to “cover the event” as a newspaper might.

    If anyone has a link to a news story, it would help us fight this.


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  25. Sarah Jefferson says:

    I have been following this site for several days now. I’ve noticed that the author’s original post has been changed and “updated” several times to seem more positive toward libraries and librarians. The information should have been checked in the first place. Initial comments incorrectly referred to this as involving a school. The reactionary responses and rush to post on fb and twitter is fascinating. The institution involved had its phone number and website listed on this blog so that outrage could be expressed to the library director. Suggestions of going to the media were discussed. Responses from the author to blog comments suddenly stopped.
    This makes me wonder: would any of the people who contacted the library or library director in outrage be willing to take responsibility for reactionary responses fueled by mis-information? Responsibilty for “information” posted on blogs lies with the author.
    So documentation of the original blog, changes by the author, comments and responses makes a valuable contribution to the ongoing analysis of blogs, social media and reactionary responses.

    Data on sales of Scars before and after this controversy should be interesting. Will excepts of this be used for publicity? Only time will tell. That could make for another intersting analysis.

    • Sarah J, I always assumed it was a patron who made the challenge. I didn’t realize that some people would not assume that. My focus was on Scars being challenged, on the possibility of it being removed, because it is my book, I am the author, and I care about it (and the issues it deals with) fiercely. I know what it’s like to feel alone, and not be able to find a reflection of one’s own pain any where.

      It was the first challenge to Scars that I’ve been aware of in process. I was grateful to the library for telling me–and I wanted to make sure Scars was kept on the shelves. I think it’s important to have support, to show support. Of course I spoke out about this. Passionately.

      I stopped responding to comments because I’ve been finding this whole process emotionally taxing, and when some of the comments seemed to criticize me, I found it painful. I needed a breather. Once I found out the specific challenge, I found it even more painful. But it has always been important to me to reach out to others, and that is what I’ve done. I’m grateful for all support, from everyone who spoke out, and from libraries.

  26. Lauren Knowlton says:

    just wanted to let you know, as a youth services librarian, I am emailing the Boone County Public Library in respectful support of your book. good luck!

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