In the news just a couple days ago, on March 22, 2023, the American Library Association reported that there was a record number of requests to ban library books and materials in 2022. The ALA started to record banning numbers in 1982, so that’s a lot of history to cover. Book banning has been all over the news lately, not just for libraries, but in the schools and in bookstores themselves.
Some people joke that book banning must be good for writers, because a ban is almost instantly followed by
that book zooming up in sales, as everyone rushes to see what all the fuss is about. But actually, having your book(s) banned feels like the most intense slap in the face. It feels like a slap followed by tape being put tightly over the mouth. Someone, or a lot of someones, doesn’t want you to say what you want to say, and they’re willing to use force if necessary.
My first experience with censorship started pretty mildly. As a senior in high school, in 1978, I wrote a short story that was set in Heaven. God was actually a computer, and Jesus was a computer technician, or what I called way back then a “computer mechanic”. The angel Gabriel was a trumpet-playing, drug-using jazz musician. And the proverbial end of time occurred when God essentially blew up, and Jesus couldn’t fix him…except, besides a crazy thunderstorm, nothing happened. Earth continued. The story was accepted in the school’s little literary magazine, and word got out about its topic. Parents complained, saying it was sacrilegious and shouldn’t be allowed, but my creative writing teacher, and the administration, stood beside me and the story was published. I was proud of the support, but as the sales of the magazine were greatly decreased that year, I also felt incredibly mortified and guilty. That’s a pretty jarring experience for a 17-year old writer. For quite a few years, I tiptoed in my writing, and since it wasn’t true to who I am, pretty much all of my stories failed.
Years later, when I got my feet back under me, I had a story accepted at a literary magazine that was published at a well-known college. There was a faculty advisor and graduate students running the magazine and they praised me to high heaven. I was to be the lead story. About six weeks later, I received an apologetic email from the advisor. Seems the magazine had to be trotted in front of the advisory board of the college, and they felt my story was “inappropriate”. Why? It mentioned masturbation.
I felt slapped in the face again. I was only in my late twenties at that point. But this time, I picked myself up faster and submitted the story again, elsewhere. It was eventually published.
When I finally entered the world of book-publishing at the tender age of fifty, I not only had my feet back under me, I had them firmly planted. Years of writing, writing, and writing, hundreds of stories being published, along with poetry and essays, and following the pull of what I wanted to do – write for change in the world – helped me to be steadier when I put my words about controversial subjects out there. I’ve had 14 books traditionally published in 13 years, and, at times, earned the descriptions of “dark”, “disturbing”, “brave”, “fearless”, and “honest”.
But I am not untouched by what the ALA calls the highest numbers of books being banned. That same creative writing teacher, who stood by me when my God-as-computer story was published, has remained by me all these years, and as each of my books were published, he donated them to the library in the school where I graduated from, and to the school he eventually moved to and taught until his retirement. He is a much lauded and revered teacher, and I was placed on my school’s “Wall of Stars” in 2021. Yet last summer, as a result of the book-banning sweeping our country, my school district also swept through their libraries…and my books disappeared.
Why? Because the topics are “inflammatory”.
This one wasn’t a slap in the face, but an all-out sucker punch. At the same time, given the nature of what’s happening in our country, it wasn’t unexpected. So I got back up, soothed my hurt feelings, brushed myself off, and returned to my desk. My latest book, Hope Always Rises, was released on February 28, 2023. It’s on the topic of suicide and our treatment of those who choose to end their lives. I’m at work on the next book.
Hurt feelings go away. And tape just doesn’t stick to my mouth.
The best way to deal with book banning? First off, fight against it. Support every author whose books have been banned. But second, keep writing. Write your very best.
Those whose minds and ears are open will hear.
If you enjoyed Kathie's unique perspective, then you'll enjoy more of her writing in her latest book, Hope Always Rises. This book is perfect for anyone who has ever known someone who wanted to end their life, or anyone who has ever felt that way themselves.
Her book is part of the latest WOW Blog Tour, more info about the tour as well as dates and an interview with Kathie Giorgio can be found at The Muffin
Author bio: Kathie Giorgio is the author of seven novels, two story collections, an essay collection, and four poetry collections. Her latest novel, Hope Always Rises, will be released on February 28, 2023. She’s been nominated for the Pushcart Prize in fiction and poetry and awarded the Outstanding Achievement Award from the Wisconsin Library Association, the Silver Pen Award for Literary Excellence, the Pencraft Award for Literary Excellence, and the Eric Hoffer Award In Fiction. Her poem “Light” won runner-up in the 2021 Rosebud Magazine Poetry Prize. In a recent column, Jim Higgins, the books editor of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, listed Giorgio as one of the top 21 Wisconsin writers of the 21st century. Kathie is also the director and founder of AllWriters’ Workplace & Workshop LLC, an international creative writing studio.
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