It started out as a blip on my twitter feed.
The link was to a newspaper article in a different state. The article was about how an Anoka, Minn., parent’s group had caused the cancellation of a young adult author’s visit to Minnesota — the state I now live in. Apparently, some parents had objected to Rainbow Rowell’s book, ELEANOR & PARK.
I was outraged. For a few reasons but deep down inside I was ticked off that the state of Minnesota was being portrayed — or represented — by a few idiotic people.
I began tweeting to Rainbow and making a racket on Facebook about the insanity of this group canceling this author’s visit to Minnesota.
“Minnesotans are not all like that.” I tweeted. “Please come to Minnesota.”
For the past eight years Minnesota has been my home. But suddenly, I was loathe to claim it. Not when people who lived here acted like that.
Luckily, I wasn’t the only one ticked off.
I tweeted and posted on Facebook, asking other Minnesotans to express their support for Rowell and the response was overwhelming. I was not alone. There were plenty of like-minded people in my adopted home state. More than I had dreamed.
Not long after, I was thrilled to learn that Rowell had been invited back to Minnesota for a two-night appearance. The second night was a typical author event – reading and signing, but the first was a panel on censorship with the author, two teens and several librarians.
And I learned my own lesson about judging someone’s home — I blamed the narrow-mindedness on a city north of me — Anoka. But I was wrong. It was not the city of Anoka. It was a parent or two. That’s it. In addition, five librarians from Anoka stood up in the audience as they were acknowledged for putting themselves in the firing line to defend Rowell’s book.
It was such a moving night. Rowell cried. Audience members cried. I cried.
And here was the kicker:
It appears that the people who objected to Rowell’s book hadn’t even read it. Yes, you heard that right.
The rub? If they had, they might have backed off. Because ELEANOR & PARK is tame.
Ask the two teenage book reviewers who were on the censorship panel. TAME.
Sure, there are some swear words. But they are used to convey context — Eleanor’s life is not easy. She lives in extreme poverty in an abusive home and is bullied at school.
This is not a young adult book about kids killing kids. It’s not about kid’s doing drugs or having sex.
It’s not about any of these things.
It’s about hope. It’s about young love. It’s about a kid growing up under extremely tough circumstances that would probably lead the average kid to drink and do drugs and have sex. But not Eleanor.
She and Park don’t drink, don’t smoke, don’t do drugs, and ultimately decide not to have sex.
My ten-year-old said it best. After she heard Rowell speak, she begged me to let her read ELEANOR & PARK. I told her I would once she was a teenager. She was angry. Her response:
“Mom, you obviously weren’t listening. Rainbow said the most explicit scene in the whole book was hand holding!”
I wouldn’t budge: Thirteen at the earliest. But I was secretly thrilled. I, for one, cannot wait for my children to read Rowell’s book when they hit their teen years. The book’s message was so pure and so right and so just that I will rejoice when they are able to read it and we can talk about it afterward.
And yet some Anoka parents didn’t want to let their high school kids read this touching book that shines with hope and love and the human capacity to overcome and survive even under the toughest circumstances.
So, the story of trying to ban Rainbow Rowell has a happy ending. Some people tried to stop her from coming to town. They tried to make the entire state of Minnesota look bad.
My faith in my new adopted home was restored along with my faith in the general decency of people to care about others and to want to read a book that gives hope to the downtrodden.