Friday, September 27, 2013

Banned Books Week: In Which My Own Book is "Banned"

I put "banned" in quotes because, to my knowledge, none of my books have been publicly banned or challenged.  But the other day I came across a site online that was pretty much dedicated to discussing the complete and total horrid monstrous defamation that is my novel Jefferson's Sons.  It made for interesting reading.

First of all, this was a Catholic site; as far as I could tell, all of the comments were written by Catholics.  A Catholic school had assigned Jefferson's Sons in its seventh-grade reading class, and a parent was outraged, because in a Catholic school she didn't think her child would be forced to read smut defaming the Founding Fathers.  The commenters all agreed, suggesting she homeschool immediately.

Not a single person on the site had actually read the book.

Now, my book is about what it was like to be one of Thomas Jefferson's children with Sally Hemmings.  It's as absolutely historically accurate as I could make it; it's also suitable for fifth-graders.

I promise.  Now, you could take the same facts and write a book that would be suitable for adults only, but I didn't do that.  Yes, Thomas Jefferson had an affair with a black woman.  No, he didn't rape her. (I promise: I wouldn't have believed in the possibility of consent, either, until I did the research.)  Sally Hemmings was Jefferson's wife's half-sister; she was 3/4 white; they began their relationship 5 years after Jefferson's wife died and continued a monogamous relationship for 37 years, until Jefferson himself died.

My book is not about their affair.  It's about being the son of a President, and yet still a slave.  It's about how slavery at the absolute best it could be was still horrible.

The thing that gets me is that the people who have objected to my book have all objected to the idea that Thomas Jefferson had sex with a black woman.  They don't object to Thomas Jefferson owned slaves.  They're okay with Thomas Jefferson bought and sold people, including children.  Thomas Jefferson had a man whipped and "sold so far south his family will never see him again."  (TJ's own words)  Thomas Jefferson reminded one of his overseers that the chief value of young female slaves lay in their ability to "increase capital" by having a baby every year or two.  They're ignorant of the fact that Thomas Jefferson's extravagant lifestyle meant that, at his death, 160 people were sold.  Seven-year-old girls sold apart from their families.  No problem.  Sex with a black woman?  Cover the children's eyes!

Okay, so, I'm on a bit of a rant.  I do that sometimes.  I don't think my book should be banned.  I don't think any book should be banned.  But ESPECIALLY not by people who haven't read it.

P.S. I tried to add a comment to the anti-JS site.  The comments section is moderated; mine was rejected.

P.S. #2 I'm Catholic.