The Closest One of My Books has Come to Banning

I didn’t really think any of my books would ever pop up on a “don’t let this in a library” list. Sure, some of them can get a wee bit bloody, but there’s much (much) more extreme stuff out there. My books have pretty much no sex. Little in the way of language. What would be there for someone to really dig in and object to?

So imagine my surprise when I heard from a librarian yesterday that The Perfect Place to Die had popped up on the “don’t order this” radar. The librarian had submitted a book order a month and a half ago, and they were waiting for it to be approved, something that’s typically just a rubber stamp. But they kept waiting. And waiting. And waiting. And so they finally asked what was the hold up, and they were told it had been denied because one of the books on it had been flagged by the financial office and the superintendent because of “questions of appropriateness.”

The first book on the list had been The Perfect Place to Die (right where it belongs on all book lists, of course), and based on the title alone, the whole list was stopped because the muckety mucks assumed the librarian was buying books about suicide.

Look. I get the fact that folks in the administration might be busy, and that they want to do what’s right for the students in their schools. But I also know that right now administrations across the country are facing extra scrutiny because of these pushes by organized groups to second guess every title in a library. A push aided by “helpful” lists of books that these organizations have compiled that contain “inappropriate” material. I’ve written about my feelings on the subject before, and they have only grown stronger.

I make it a point not to review things I haven’t personally read or watched. I realize that without that personal experience, I have no leg to stand on to say whether a piece of art is good, bad, evil, or whatever. The thought that so many people would turn over their opinions to some other organization and simply parrot back whatever that organization told them to object to is aggravating. If there are specific books parents or children have had issues with, then those specific parents or children can object to those specific books. But this catch all approach isn’t just lazy, it’s wrong. It allows a few individuals to have far too much influence on what’s “good” and “acceptable,” opening up the whole process to politics and backroom shenanigans. But I’ll get off that soapbox before I’m on it for too long again.

What I really wanted to do was just show how silly and shortsighted this approach is. If you haven’t read The Perfect Place to Die, it’s an historical thriller. It takes place in Chicago in 1893, and it’s about a girl who is very much trying to stay alive. It has absolutely nothing to do with suicide, despite the fact that there’s a Japanese forest with the nickname “the perfect place to die” because people go there to commit suicide. (Something I only know because I came across it while googling my book. Though if you google the phrase right now, the first result that mentions that forest is number 8. Everything else is about my book.)

I don’t know if the muckety mucks just saw a title about death and figured it must be about suicide, or if they googled the title, or what. I do know they most definitely didn’t take the time to even check for two seconds about what the book is actually about. They just decided to hold up the entire order and then question everything else that was on it.

All because of a title. No parents had even objected yet.

When I was out at the Texas Library Association conference, one of the questions on the panel was how I would feel if one of my books got banned. My response? “Bring it.” Banning books generally makes them much, much more popular. It brings free publicity and attention to those books. And so getting my book banned would almost definitely only help my career.

But if you’re going to ban my book, I always kind of assumed you’d . . . you know . . . read it first.

In any case, thanks for proving my point, muckety mucks. And thanks to the librarian for sticking to their guns and speaking up for me. They shouldn’t have had to, but they did just the same. Because librarians are awesome.


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