The woman who represents my district in the Virginia state senate, Amanda Chase, is calling for the firing of Chesterfield County Public School librarians. What atrocities did they commit? Surely they were reading 50 Shades of Grey aloud to first-graders. Maybe they strapped a bunch of middle school students to chairs and read the book of Leviticus while performing atonement rituals? No, they simply created a summer reading list with highly popular books. All lists can be found under the 2016 link at the Chesterfield County Public Schools summer reading list.
It’s quite obvious from the statements Chase made to the Chesterfield Observer reporter that she has not read the books that were questioned by parents (including herself.) Chase called the books on the list, “pornographic” and “trash.” Really? Eleanor and Park is far from either of those regardless of your opinion on whether the book was good reading (and I may be biased as I loved it). I can’t even recall if Eleanor and Park even have sex, because I was too busy reading a story about how people are shitty to poor kids and Asian kids and do anything to ostracize them. I was caught up in how they found each other and had a really kickass relationship. How Park’s parents were there for Eleanor when they found she was a victim of neglect by her own family. Certainly this type of thing never happens in *PEARL CLUTCH* our schools!
I’ve got news for Amanda Chase. I went to Chesterfield County Public Schools from 1986 thru 1998. My librarian in 5th grade called me Blossom because I look like Mayim Bialik but it was also a term of endearment. She showed me where all the ghost stories and got me hooked on Betty Ren Wright and Mary Downing Hahn. When I was in middle school and didn’t want to spend lunch not feeling welcome at any lunch table, I was allowed to hang out in the library and cut the donated Campbell’s soup labels down to size. No one ever questioned my reading choices during that time. I may have been suffering from depression so badly that I disengaged from my education in high school but my English teachers always commented that they wished I would apply myself as they enjoyed my banter in class regarding our reading. I didn’t have the vast amount of young adult fiction that exists today. I reread The Catcher in the Rye sixteen times and felt solace that this kid in New York was experiencing a similar outlook on life. I didn’t feel so alone, and it probably kept me alive during a time when suicide was an option on the table more often than not.
If I had a more vast and diverse library to choose from, I wouldn’t have had to rely on just that one book. If the other kids had a more vast and diverse library to choose from, maybe they would have learned empathy sooner and not yelled, “dyke!” at me when I walked down the hall. Oh does that happen in Chesterfield County Schools? You bet. Fiction is an excellent source to teach kids empathy for those who are different from them. It normalizes the marginalized.
If you are local, I ask you to contact Amanda Chase and tell her to let the librarians do their job. They know what is happening in their schools and with their students. They know what books their kids need access to. And if there is a questionable book in the stacks, let the parents do the censoring for their own children. You don’t get to censor other children’s’ reading, Senator. Maybe I will include a copy of Fahrenheit 451 with a letter explaining how your comments on the Chesterfield County summer reading list are absurd at least and dangerous at most.