Friday, February 25, 2011


We all say it, as authors. Jokingly, of course: how we’d love to get a book banned. Under the header of “No Publicity is Bad Publicity,” we talk about how our sales would spike. We’d get to be notorious (which is every bit as good, if not better, than just plain famous).

Until, of course, it actually happens. Or—someone attempts to make it happen. As Sarah Ockler knows.

Yes, oh, yes, those of you in the Missouri area know I’m talking about the great Scroggins debacle. The attempt of one narrow-minded individual to ban the books of two incredible YA authors (Laurie Halse Anderson, whom I greatly admire, was also in his quest to ban).

No author can stand idly by, quietly, and just be glad they missed the bullet when the subject of banning rears its head. Because the bare truth is, we could all be banned. Every single one of us with a book in print. If you can type it, it can be twisted, taken out of context, misinterpreted and misrepresented.

I love and admire Sarah for exhibiting such grace during such a difficult time. To show our continued support, we ought to all order a copy of TWENTY BOY SUMMER and FIXING DELILAH now—even if we already own a copy. Buy one for a girl you love. Introduce her to a woman to admire.

…I’m thrilled to wrap up my Local Leg of the PLAYING HURT Blog Tour at Sarah’s blog. (You can get over to Sarah's blog, leave a comment, post links, and officially start filling out the contest entry form for the PLAYING HURT signed-copy contest)...I stand with the vast majority of my fellow Missourians when I say I do not support book banning, as I relate in the post which also appears today on Sarah’s blog:

Barefoot in the Bible Belt

Wull, gaaaw-lee, shore is a might cold ‘round these here parts. It’s Feb’rary, after all. Where’m I gon’ get a little heat? Think I’ll jes’ burn these here books. Ain’t nothin’ but a bunch ‘a smut in ‘em, anyhowse.

Come on—that’s the picture you get, isn’t it? All I have to say is “Midwest” or “Ozarks,” and you get that image: a barefoot hillbilly who’s never used a be-verb correctly in his entire life.

And as soon as I think of that stereotype, I get a full-body cringe.

I’m a lifer myself—born and raised in Springfield, Missouri. And when the Scroggins debacle ensued in the fall of 2010, and the works of Sarah Ockler and Laurie Halse Anderson were unfairly targeted in one man’s narrow-minded banning attempt, all I could think was, “Here we go again.”

But I’m not talking about banning—not entirely. I’m also talking about that ridiculous, awful, barefoot hillbilly stereotype. Because in addition to attacking the work of two incredible young adult authors, I feared Scroggins’s complaint was also about to add to the unfair stereotyping of Missouri.

In the months since the story broke, the headline continues to pop up here and there in the blogosphere. And just as I feared, instead of identifying Scroggins as the source of the banning attempt…Yep, you guessed it—the headlines or quotes or discussions that pop up indicate MISSOURI wants to ban books. MISSOURI stands for censorship.

Actually, the majority of us don’t.

I could go blue in the face pointing to a myriad of dry facts proving my point. I could talk about the slew of local bloggers who put up posts expressing disdain for Scroggins’ attempt. I could talk about the fact that MSU students convened to protest book banning.

…But more important than these overt, published examples of fellow Ozarkers’ disgust over book banning is that which can’t be quoted or measured or recorded. It’s the open-mindedness that has lived in the blood of so many Ozarkers for generations. A traits that stands in direct opposition to the goals of Wesley Scroggins.

Just as much as I feel the work of my fellow YA authors was completely miscategorized, I also feel that much of my own Missouri’s opinions have been unfairly categorized. And just as an author’s work can’t be judged by lifting a stray line out of context, neither should an entire region be judged by one man—or even one school district—that attempts to pull a book from library shelves.

To me, Missouri has always been a place of strength—and, yes, of open-mindedness. A place that I’m proud to call my home—and to showcase in my writing…


  1. I'm glad to see this post. As a Missourian (and Springfieldian) myself, I have to cringe at what other people must have thought of when they heard about all the book banning stuff going in at MSU. I still shudder sometimes when I walk by the building in which Scroggins has his office!

  2. I know what you mean, Natalie--I'm an MSU grad myself, and I shuddered, too, when the news broke...

  3. Thanks, Holly! And I so appreciate your support both during the Scroggins stuff and now. He kind of disappeared off the map, huh? The funny thing is that as hard as he tried to make it sound like the whole state was behind him, they weren't. I heard from so many wonderful folks in your great state that just wanted to lend their support in any way possible. So I know firsthand that the vast majority of people from Missouri are definitely not book banners!

    Thanks again for your kindness, and best of luck with PLAYING HURT! You should send a copy to the Scroggins' household! Kidding. Sort of. :-)

    -Sarah Ockler


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