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:
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:
- Thoughtful, passionate, and wonderful post by Diane Chen in her SLJ blog Practically Paradise Book Challenges Made Visible: Scars By Cheryl Rainfield Challenged In TN
- Wonderful post by librarian Tasha Saecker on Walking Brain Cells: Scars Is Being Challenged
- Teacher and book advocate extraordinaire Paul W Hankins on FaceBook.
- Bookalicious’ Scars And How To Hide Them
- YA & Kidlit author & illustrator Debbie Ohi on Scars being challenged
- Joey Nichol’s post at Totally 4 YA Censorship Can Hurt, Too
- Dominique Dzioba’s Cheryl Rainfield’s Book Scars Challenged In Kentucky Library
- Author Cid Tyer’s Someone Told Me America Was A Place To Express Your Ideas. But Really We All Want To Be The Same
- YA author Beth Fehlbaum’s posts on FaceBook.
- YA author Claudia Osmond on FaceBook
- YA author Catherine Ryan Hyde on FaceBook
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. http://ht.ly/419n9