I’m having a radical moment. Usually when I prepare for a conference in the back of my mind I have a hidden agenda for the exhibit hall. Perhaps I’m looking for scary books for second graders, possible entries for the Volunteer State Book Award, potential winning picture books, horse books, new titles on Helen Keller, biographies on African-Americans (for fourth graders illustrating that the Civil Rights Movement, the Underground Railroad, football/basketball stars, and musicians are not the only African-Americans out there). The list usually goes on like this. But today I have resolved to seek controversy.
As I travel the exhibit hall for ALA Annual Conference in DC, I will be asking publishers which books they anticipate will be challenged, which could be controversial, and which books need to be championed to get into the hands of children. You see, I am happily reading all the interviews for the SBBT Summer BLog Blast Tour and today read 7-Imp (Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast)’s interview with Brent Hartinger. I felt compelled to start clicking through other links about him like the SLJ article on AS IF! by Debra Lau Whalen in 2006 and his own personal homepage Welcome to Brent’s Brain. I wanted to read more about his approach to Intellectual Freedom fighting so I went to his blog and to the AS IF blogspot with their mission statement:
AS IF! (Authors Supporting Intellectual Freedom) champions those who stand against censorship, especially of books for and about teens.
ALA’s Office of Intellectual Freedom is the main source I would use for all issues of censorship and challenges. Did you know they have a blog? Perhaps I need to expand my knowledge base of resources to fight for Intellectual Freedom. It doesn’t mean I’m going to tell parents which books they should censor. It means I want to proactively prepare for a wide variety of issues and challenges and prepare my brand-new principal for any possible parent concerns. I want to be sure I have my principal on my team battling for student access to a wide-variety of materials.
I embrace a little controversy now and then (like the incredibly naive Michael Gorman posts) because we only grow in moments of dissonance or when gaps appear between what we thought we always knew and what might be a new reality. The SBBT itself came from a controversial decrying of kidlit blogs. You need to pay attention to what is happening here because it could change your basis of belief systems for children’s and young adult reviews. Perhaps you’ll cling to only review journals, perhaps you’ll embrace the diverse views available online, but what will happen from reading about the controvery is you will think and consider whether your views are valid or need tweaking. It’s the thinking process we need to engage.
Should make for an interesting exhibit hall tour. I’m looking forward to my tour through controversy. Who will join me?