|My Baby with Her HERO, Lauren Myracle.|
I didn't realize how much I loved Lauren Myracle's writing until early this year when I read her most recent YA book, Shine. A couple of years ago I read her MG novels ahead of my own (8 year old at the time) daughter and thought they were very cute. She is Emma's favorite author/literary hero (she said it was the "highlight of her life" to meet her in person at this years DBF) and she constantly and anxiously awaits news of new books. When she got word that Shine was coming out, she asked if she could read it, and I told her that I had to first. It is still NUMBER ONE on my list of Top Ten YA books of 2011, but I had to tell my 10 year old that she needed to wait a couple of years. Does that mean I'm in favor of censorship? Abso-freaking-lutely NOT. I am in favor of responsible parenting, and I know Lauren would agree with my decision to read it myself, make an INFORMED decision in what's right for MY child, and leave it at that. I still love the book and not only believe it has a very real place in every library in this country, but I think it should be required reading for all students 8th grade and up. I'm sure many book banners would say otherwise because it delves into very real and very tough issues... Now I will get of of my soapbox in favor of Shine (read my review HERE if you want to know about why I love it with all my heart), and I will get into my reasons for learning more about this amazing author and person.
I will start with my first personal experience with potential censorship of her books, which happened to be LONG before I read Shine. I was a co-chair for the book fair at my daughter's former, very-well-reputed, private school here in the Atlanta area. My job was essentially to hand pick the books offered up to the 4th-6th graders. I chose about 1,100 titles in the end, and among them were Luv Ya Bunches and Violet In Bloom by none other than Lauren Myracle. I knew there had been controversy over Luv Ya Bunches the previous year, causing Scholastic to pull it from their shelves at school book fairs, so I had to read it for myself. Why the controversy? Because one of the 5th grade protagonists had two mothers. WHAT? We're focusing on that minuscule part of the book instead of the fact that this book was about a group of girls who were as "culturally" different as could be, yet still able to form strong bonds of friendship and love? I thought it was a beautiful book written in a very age-appropriate way, so I presented it to my co-chairs; there was some uneasiness about parental reaction. So... What did I do? Anticipating the likelihood that some psychotic overly conservative parent might make an issue of the two mom thing, I went to the administration and made a case for the books being on the shelves. I told them what is "issue" was and why I thought it still belonged in the hands of the kids at our school. Guess what? I got it on the shelves, and we couldn't keep it in stock. I felt like I did a great thing fighting for it, and I think that many girls who bought it learned valuable lessons on friendship in spite of differences. We need more books that focus on this. My blood boils to think that a book like this is challenged/banned, while books that glorify "mean girl" behavior are not even given a second thought.
Cue my next experience... My daughter brings ttyl home from a trip to our fabulous (props to Gwinnett County Public Libraries) public library. Okay- I had heard some buzz about outrage over this book and I was also well aware that Lauren writes MG and YA fiction. Being the ever-responsible parent that I am, I said, "Emma, I need to read that first. I know she writes for a broad age range, and you are only 9.". I read it, and loved it. It was funny, witty, and dead-on in it's portrayal of teen girls- the way they talk, think, bicker with one another, their insecurities in some areas and total lack of fear in others. Yes, they curse (so did I from about 6th grade forward). Yes they talk about sex. Yes there is a frat party and a drunken mistake. There are loads of stupid things the girls do, but that's what girls at that age DO. For a would-be banner to call that inappropriate material for a teen to read is laughable! I did deem it inappropriate for Emma at 9. Every few months she asks if it's time yet, and every few months I tell her "7th or 8th grade". I know that as soon as I say, "OK" she will be all over it and I think she'll feel the laughs were well worth the wait. My point is, I didn't ask my library to remove it from circulation or restrict it, I did what responsible parents should do... I was aware of what she was reading, did my homework, and firmly said "not yet".
Shine was my next experience, which I told you about above. When the line-up for this year's Decatur Book Festival was announced, Emma and I were both ecstatic that Lauren was to be on the agenda. What I loved even more was that she was doing two talks, one for Shine and one for her newest MG book, Ten. Emma and I went to both and Emma got her first real look at censorship. Lauren talked about her experiences with it and also about the book And Tango Makes Three (which is a favorite of mine that actually caused me to tear up as she spoke about the story). I had her sign the three Internet Girls books for my giveaway this week. I wanted to do this giveaway because I believe she is a true champion for free speech and she is a personal hero for not backing down to her critics. She understands the kids that she writes about, and she shouldn't be chastised for depicting them in an honest light. She writes about things that aren't necessarily easy topics, but does it in a way that is honest and relateable. I am HAPPY that my daughter is such a big fan because not only is she a great writer, she is a stellar role model and I am as proud as a parent could be when my child says she wants to be just like her. In fact, at DBF, I ran into her parents after her first talk and I felt compelled to tell them what an awesome job I thought they had done raising her to be the person that she is. I only hope that my girls make me as proud as she has made them.
|Lauren Signing ttyl, ttfn, and l8r, g8r for one of YOU! :)|
Again, I recognize that not ALL of Lauren's books are appropriate for ALL readers. Are James Patterson's? How about John Grisham? Clive Barker? Carl Hiaasen? Ridley Pearson? (In case you missed why I am asking this, all of the above authors write for kids AND adults.) My point is, the responsibility should NEVER fall on the libraries to censor what kids read; that is the sole responsibly of the parents.
Since I'm not actually going to review the books as promised (although I might later on), I am going to say that I give them all 5 stars. Lauren gets it! She gets what teens are all about. I had almost forgotten, and she has certainly made me remember! Teens will love them, and see themselves in them for sure! ttfn!
**Don't forget to enter my giveaway for the Banned Books Week Giveaway Hop where you could win SIGNED copies of all three Internet Girls books HERE**