Monday, August 1, 2022

Healing Through Narrative: A Gift from the Old Knitting Factory

 Wow, I had no idea I'd gone three months without writing a blog. I'll try not to do that again. I've been writing a lot of other stuff, and there's been some big changes since April 1st. Appalachian Literacy Initiative was awarded some lovely grants that are going to allow us to double the number of students we serve from last year (and that was doubled from the year before!) AND hire our first employee. Her name is Hannah Smith, we all adore her, and today is her first regular day.

If you live near Bristol and have been hankering to help out at ALI, you can now drop by to sticker books and help Hannah any day M-F from 9-3. This makes me practically giddy. Last school year the entire board were working about as hard as we could, given the limitations of our other commitments, so we'd never be able to expand like this without Hannah.

Oh, and if you're a teacher, grades 3-5, in an Appalachian region school that is greater than 50% free lunch, you'd be eligible for our program. Applications are on our website, readappalachian.org, and are open until August 31st.

The other big news is that I learned that some weird symptoms I'd been having, especially while riding, which I'd tried to fix by addressing asthma and anxiety and some other stuff, were actually still the result of brain damage from my TBI five and a half years ago. AND THEY WERE FIXABLE. My biologist friend Kelly steered me toward a functional neurologist in Raleigh, and I've been going for treatments a few days a month, plus doing eye movement exercises at home. The difference is astonishing.

Also I took my new little mare, Rosalind Franklin, to our first two starter horse trials. She was overwhelmed and anxious, screaming for my daughter's horse, the first one--and we finished on our lousy dressage score, in second place. She was brave and bold the second one (and my daughter's horse wasn't there) and we finished on our very good dressage score, in first place! It was wiener-level, but we were the best wiener level pair, and I was thrilled.

None of that is what I came to say today. I came to say that yesterday I took a lovely Healing Through Narrative mini writing retreat, on Zoom, from my friend Betsy Cornwell, and if you're interested in that sort of thing I think you should take one, too. I got a lot more out of it than I intended.

I don't mean that rudely at all. Betsy's a NYT bestselling author of YA fantasy novels. She's a graduate of both my college (Smith) and my husband's (Notre Dame); the Smith alum online boards is where I first got to know her. We've been friends for five years now. We've only met once, but that's because she lives in Ireland and there's been this pesky global pandemic. I'm going to go see her next year, and I can't wait.

Betsy's a single mom to a young son. She's renovating an old knitting factory in rural Ireland, a place built to teach young girls to knit as a cottage industry, into a home and a retreat center for writers. She also teaches writing at the University of Galway, and at Kylemore Abbey, which is run by Notre Dame. I'd love to join her teaching a writer's retreat there someday. I'm also lately getting to asked to teach writing workshops these days, so I thought it would be useful to hang out on the two-hour retreat Betsy had put together, and learn some teaching skills.

The truth is I learned a lot more. We started out writing three-sentence false autobiographies of ourselves, in which only our names and pronouns were true. Everyone shared. People claimed to be fossils, aliens, airplane pilots, and gardeners, among others. I'm not going to share mine with you, because while I started out in the spirit of the thing, write whatever amuses you, don't self-censor, what came out tells me more about myself than I expected. It's feeling rather private and precious to me now.

Everyone had been invited to bring any passage of writing that spoke to them, to share. Again, this was moving and meditative. We all typed the names and authors of the passages into the chat box, so we could read further if we wished, and I am, especially "Sometimes a Wild God" by Tom Hiron, and the poetry of Vicki Feaver.

I read part of "Wild Geese" by Mary Oliver. Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine. Meanwhile the world goes on.

Then Betsy taught story structure in a way I'd never heard before, including that there's one ideal story that all stories return to: "A person goes on a journey/a stranger comes to town" and they are of course the same thing from different points of view. I ended up making a bunch of notes thinking about how what Betsy said intersected with the manuscript I'm working on.

Then we did another writing exercise, about sensation and healing and a little bit of magic.

It was healing and a little bit magic.

I absolutely loved these two hours. Betsy's running two more of these mini-retreats, online, on August 21 and September 18. She's got private mentorship time available too, as well as a monthly one-hour writing class, and a book club in which no one has to read a particular book. It's all up on theoldknittingfactory.com.

Meanwhile, thanks, Bets. It was good to be a student again. Love you.

Friday, April 1, 2022

Fan Mail

 So, the Tennessee house passed the book banning bill, HB1944, 63-24, and it's on to the Senate where its approval is anticipated. They're moving forward on HB2633, which would allow teachers to refer to their trans students by their gender assigned at birth/dead name, without fear of reprisal.

The fiscal note on HB2633 says that it's almost certainly unconstitutional and if enacted is expected to cost the state of Tennessee over 5 BILLION dollars in federal education funding, but hey, that's the price you pay to enshrine your bigotry into law.

Meanwhile, yesterday I received a letter from a fifth grade student. I'm not going to share one single personal detail about said person, nor am I quoting any part of their letter to me, which I consider private between us. I would not out this kid for the world--I feel such incredible tenderness, love, and concern for them.

They aren't trans, at least not to my knowledge. (As an aside, please note that I've switched to they/them pronouns in an effort to blur this student's identity, and you all fully understood what I wrote. Not that big a deal, is it? Carry on.)

They attempted suicide.

They were writing to tell me how important several of my books are to them, but especially Fighting Words, in which traumatized elder sister Suki, not the POV character, attempts to take her life. 

(I will point out that I deliberately wrote this book very carefully to make it age-appropriate for fifth grade readers. The word "suicide" isn't in the book. It's written to discourage attempts, not encourage them--there are guidelines for that, and I followed them.)

The letter writer wanted me to know that they are getting help. They hoped I would write the court trial scene, alluded to but not shown in the book, but noted gently that they understood if it was too hard for me. And they asked me some personal questions, again reassuring me I didn't have to answer if it was too hard. 

They are in fifth grade. 

I read this letter and I sat in my car outside the post office and I sobbed.

This book, Fighting Words, has been challenged in school libraries. To my knowledge, each time it has been put back on the shelves--but any challenge automatically removes a book from library shelves for a period of time.

This child needed my book, in a way that's impossible for anyone who hasn't been in a similar position to understand. They were not too young. They needed to hear that help is possible, that help can work, that despair never lasts forever but death does, that staying alive and fighting and speaking up is worth however difficult it is to do.

Any parent can remove any book from their own child's hands. But no parent should take away a book from another child. You don't know each child's story. You don't know which books they desperately need.

This is why book banning is heinous. It's why it's a crime. Suicide is the second-highest cause of death in children ages 10-14--behind cancer, birth defects, heart problems, pneumonia, influenza, Covid--a statistic we dropped from the afterword of my book because it's frankly terrifying. 

It terrifies me. It should terrify you. Keep the books on the shelves that explain hard things in age-appropriate ways. Stop being such flaming jerks who don't care if fifth graders live or die.

Wednesday, March 9, 2022

 I am in fact tired of being political. I'd like to write something about knitting. Or puppies. But the Tennessee state legislature is at it again, promoting HB0800 on to the next round of consideration, and this is so completely wrong I can't be quiet about it.

If you would, and particularly if you are a resident of Tennessee, please please please email or call your legislators about this. They need to know how you feel. One thing I learned in my trip to Nashville last week is that there's a sort of conservative echo-chamber going on, and the members inside it really do believe they're speaking for most Tennesseans--or, at least, most of the Tennesseans who count.

We don't want to live in a world filled with hate. Do you remember back when the legality of gay marriage was being debated? There were a lot of "slippery slope" arguments about how it would lead to increased crime and depravity and licentiousness.  Seven years later, it's clear that legalizing gay marriage actually led to--surprise!--gay people becoming legally married. That's it. It lead to an increase in the bonds that strengthen society. 

You can't find a single quote in the Bible where Jesus says anything about homosexuality. But Jesus does say, "Judge not, lest ye be judged." (Matt. 7-1)

Here's the letter I sent out today:

Dear Representatives of the House Calendar and Rules Committee,


I write to strongly protest HB0800. Here is the text of the bill:

WHEREAS, Tennessee public schools should focus student attention on academic curricula critical for student success, such as reading, science, and mathematics; and WHEREAS, textbooks and instructional materials and supplemental instructional materials are essential to students receiving a full and complete education; and WHEREAS, textbooks and instructional materials and supplemental instructional materials that promote, normalize, support, or address controversial social issues, such as lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, and transgender (LGBT) lifestyles are inappropriate; and WHEREAS, the promotion of LGBT issues and lifestyles in public schools offends a significant portion of students, parents, and Tennessee residents with Christian values; and WHEREAS, the promotion of LGBT issues and lifestyles should be subject to the same restrictions and limitations placed on the teaching of religion in public schools; now, therefore, BE IT ENACTED BY THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF TENNESSEE: SECTION 1. Tennessee Code Annotated, Title 49, Chapter 6, Part 22, is amended by adding the following as a new section: Notwithstanding § 49-6-2201(h)(9)(B), the commission shall not recommend or list, the state board shall not approve for local adoption or grant a waiver pursuant to § 49-6-2206, and LEAs and public charter schools shall not locally adopt or use in the public schools of this state, textbooks and instructional materials or supplemental instructional materials that promote, normalize, support, or address lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) issues or lifestyles.

1. "Supplemental materials" means any book in the school library, grades PK-12. This bill would prohibit any mention of LGBT people in any way. This is clearly discriminatory and unconstitutional.
2. That gay and trans people exist is not a controversial social issue.
2.  According to Pew Research center, 70% of all Americans, including 29% of white Evangelical Protestants, supported gay marriage as of 2021. "Christian values" do not necessarily include homophobia.
3. The point highlighted in green is simply ridiculous. Being LGBT is not a religion. 

This bill will stigmatize and marginalize our students who are LGBT or who have LGBT parents. Over 90% of Tennessee LGBT students already report harassment in public schools. 15% of all Tennessee high school students--straight and gay combined--made an actual suicide plan in 2019. We can not afford the toll this bill will take on our students' mental health.

People are born LGBT in the same way they are born left-handed. When my aunt was in public school in the 1950s her first-grade teacher tied her left hand to her desk because "left-handedness was the sign of the devil." Forcing my six-year-old aunt to learn to write with her right hand did not make her right-handed, but it may have contributed to the learning problems that plagued her through elementary school. Now, of course, we see "left-handedness as the sign of the devil" as both ridiculous and wrong.

Please vote no to HB0800.

Kimberly Bradley
Bristol, TN

Saturday, March 5, 2022

On the Corner of MLK Jr. Street and John Lewis Way

 Last Wednesday I spoke at a Criminal Justice subcommittee meeting of the Tennessee house legislature against the book banning bill, HB1944. Seventeen people had registered to speak and submitted their comments 24 hours in advance--11 in support of book banning, 6 against. 

A few random notes: there's clearly a hidden agenda at work here. All of the book banning supporters railed against pornography in the schools, repeatedly calling librarians pedophiles and sex groomers, quoting the Bible, and claiming that everything started to go wrong in public education the moment we actually enforced the Constitution and eliminated Christian prayer in public schools. However, when you look at the books actually challenged by Moms For Liberty in Tennessee schools, most are actually along the lines of "The Story of Ruby Bridges." The only book they actually challenged at elementary level on the grounds of sexual content was "Seahorse: The Shyest Fish in the Sea," a nonfiction picture book about seahorses. Moms For Liberty felt that, because male seahorses carry the fertilized eggs and actually give birth, this opened a gateway to acceptance of transgender people. 

You can't make this shit up.

Also, of the 37 people challenging books in Williamson County elementary schools (that's just south of Nashville, an affluent, predominantly white area), only 14 actually had children enrolled in the schools.

Since all the people testifying for or against the bill were only speaking to the lawmakers present--we couldn't address each other--and since only the lawmakers could ask questions, I wasn't able to say a whole lot of what I might have liked to. Happily, I'll get another chance: I've been invited, along with fellow writer and Vanderbilt faculty member Andrew Maraniss, and Tennessee Association of School Librarians representative Lindsey Kimery, to participate in a live call-in television news show about this bill. It's on Nashville's Channel 5, Thursday, March 10th, from 7-8 Central time. (That's 8-9 EST.)

Enough people were expected that they moved the meeting into the largest hearing room, and even with that perhaps a dozen people had to stand. The discussion of the one bill lasted three hours. One of the most vocal, nearly hysterical, voices in support of book banning was Victoria Jackson. I remember watching her on Saturday Night Live in the early 1990s, and I'd love to know how she journeyed from the cast of SNL to book banning in Tennessee. 

Almost no one wore masks in the crowded space. Covid's finally going away in a lot of the country, but in east Tennessee it's still rampant, so I had my mask on. I would have taken it off when I was speaking, but someone's perfume in the room set my asthma off, and I kept coughing. I used my inhaler, and I kept my mask on, but plenty of the Moms for Liberty gave me side-eye, as though I was deliberately giving them Covid. They didn't put on masks. They just glared. 

Nashville is a five-hour drive from my home in eastern Tennessee, so I'd driven over Tuesday night. I stayed in a hotel quite close to the Capitol that was inexpensive and had rooms, and the reason for that was that it was an absolute dive. Clean enough and safe enough, but phew. But in the morning at the free breakfast buffet all the patrons were wearing suits and nice clothing and were exceptionally well groomed. Guess I wasn't the only person with business at the Capitol.

In the morning I moved my car to the parking garage across from the office building where the hearing was. I went out to the street and waited on the corner for Lindsey Kimery and for author Ruta Sepetys, who were meeting me there so we could walk in together. (If you haven't read Ruta's new book, I Must Betray You, please do so immediately. It's wonderful, and also very relevant given the situation in Ukraine.) I looked around at the lovely spring day, and noticed that I was standing at the intersection of Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and Representative John Lewis Way. This pleased me immensely. The subcommittee vote didn't go the way I hoped--7-3 in support of putting the bill before the entire committee, which will happen next Wednesday morning--but I still feel it was a good sign.

I know I've mostly blogged about book banning, and I know it's not as intrinsically interesting a topic as the highjinks my animals are up to (the horses broke into the barn recently and ate $75 worth of horse treats. I'd stocked up because I have to mail-order these ridiculously expensive German horse muffins and I bought enough to get free shipping. And it's outlandish to feed your horse German horse muffins, but it makes my sweet mare practically purr. Though when she complained about not getting a muffin the day after she ate her share of several dozen, I wasn't nearly as sympathetic as she hoped.). However. Book banning is really important. In Tennessee right now, nearly half of our public schoolchildren get free lunch. We know that nationwide 61% of low-income children don't have any age-appropriate books at home. We know there are significant barriers to public libraries for many low-income children, particularly those living in rural areas. School libraries are our children's primary access to books. Increasing access to books is the most important factor in increasing children's academic achievement and consequent success. 

Also? Homophobia and white supremacy have no place in our schools or our society. Given the tenor of the earlier testimonies, I added a line to mine on the fly. It was this: "There are gay and transgender students in Tennessee public schools, and gay and transgender parents. Their existence is not pornographic."

There was a hiss from the room behind me. 

This is what it's about.

If you feel like watching a video of the subcommittee meeting, here's a link.

If you feel like attending the full Criminal Justice meeting where it will be decided whether this bill goes to the entire house, it's next Wednesday at 9am. If you'd like to speak, you need to email emily.hamby@capitol.tn.gov to ask to be put on the agenda, and you need to send her a precis of your remarks by 9am Tuesday.

If you'd like to comment at the call-in show on Thursday, please do.

If you'd like to email members of the Tennessee General Assembly, you can reach everyone through capitol.tn.gov.

Cheers!

Wednesday, February 9, 2022

A Tale of Two Days, with Books

 On Monday I decided to give myself a pandemic treat: I went to a swanky grocery store in a neighboring town. It was fun. I love my local Food City, but every now and again want to spend extra money for fancy cheese or exotic produce, or at least something I haven't eaten repeatedly in past few months. We haven't been traveling, we almost never eat out these days, only 3 restaurants deliver to our farm, and while I enjoy cooking I have lately been bored.

I needed to hand in my library books and get fresh ones, and since I was headed to Johnson City, I decided to go to our branch library, Avoca, which was on the way, instead of the downtown library I usually go to. Avoca's tiny but lovely. I don't go there often, since the downtown library is on the way to ALI world headquarters. I sit on one of the boards at the main library, and I'm there every week, and nearly every employee there knows me by sight as Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, one of the two writers in Bristol. (The other is Jennifer Estep: you should look her books up, they're fabulous.) 

So I was anonymously perusing the New Fiction section at Avoca when I heard a man in his 60s say, angrily, "I need to make a complaint about the selections in this library."

As many of you know, I've been on a fulltime rant against censorship lately, so my ears perked up.

The man said, "Where is the new ---?" and he named some popular novelist I immediately forgot.

The librarian said, "Bert, I'm so sorry. I tried like anything to get it in last week, but I couldn't. And now we're getting a new check-out system so I won't have it until the first of March."

The man said, plaintively, "No new books for a month?"

The librarian commiserated, and said, "I've got two I can't wait to read, and no, they won't be in the system until March."

The two then started slanging on James Patterson, while I carefully selected a Nora Roberts novel. Nora Roberts just gave a grant to fund ALI in two West Virginia elementary schools next year, and I am a big fan. Then I walked back to the children's section and they had Fighting Words prominently displayed.

That was Monday. Yesterday was ship-out day at ALI. This is the day, four times a year, when we send our enrolled classes teacher sets of 6 books each. Their students will chose one title from what we send and order it for themselves, to keep. This year we have 186 classes enrolled, from North Carolina to upstate New York, so it's a lot of work. We get extra volunteers in and start early. It turns out our efforts to organize and streamline our processes are paying off: we finished the ship out in a little over 3 hours yesterday, including our lunch break. (Come work ship out day! We'll feed you free lunch.) 

Here's what we shipped out. Third grade: The Bad Guys (graphic novel), Who Was? (biography series, many different subjects), Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer, Power Forward, Coraline, and Wish. Fourth grade: Dog Man (graphic novel), Mummies Exposed (nonfiction), The Graveyard Book, Bud Not Buddy, Front Desk, and Aru Shah and the Song of Death. Fifth grade: Brave (graphic novel), Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Brown Girl Dreaming, Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, Amina's Voice, and Hoot. I wish you could have seen how beautiful these books were, stacked in piles, gleaming, bright. 

At the end of the afternoon some of the teachers from local schools came to pick their books up themselves. If they do this, thus sparing us postage costs, they get to pick out some free books from our shelves of books that aren't part of our school program. It was really fun to talk books with the teachers and learn what interests their students. Bright nonfiction is big. Graphic novels, of course. Rick Riordan, Dave Pilkey. 

If kids can get their hands on books that excite them, they'll read them. When they practice reading they get better at it. When they get better at reading they do better in school. They graduate high school, they have more options, they can get better jobs. Books are a way out of poverty.

But they're more than that. Books are a way into imagination. They're fantasy, adventure, space travel. They can take a person far away from their home, put them into other people's experiences, change their lives. 

Or, you know, just teach them a lot of fart jokes. But I'm okay with that, too.

Thursday, February 3, 2022

The People In Your Neighborhood

 Warning: what comes next is a bill introduced to the TN state legislature followed by two emails, one  deeply homophobic and hurtful to many people.

First, Tennessee HB0800/SB1216, introduced into the House by Bruce Griffey and now co-sponsored by Todd Warner and Susan Lynn, introduced into the Senate by Frank Niceley:

As introduced, prohibits the state textbook and instructional materials quality commission from recommending or listing, the state board of education from approving for local adoption or from granting a waiver for, and LEAs and public charter schools from adopting or using textbooks and instructional materials or supplemental instructional materials that promote, normalize, support, or address lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, or transgender issues or lifestyles. 

It's worth noting that "supplemental instructional materials" by definition includes every single book in a school's library. Books don't need to be taught to count under this bill, they simply must be inside a school.

Next, an email I sent yesterday to Rep. Griffey and Sen. Niceley:

Dear Representatives Griffey and Warner,

 

As you promote HB0800, which blatantly discriminates against LGBTQIA parents and children in our state, may I remind you of the fiasco of North Carolina's HB2, which was estimated to cost that state 3.76 billion dollars in lost revenue before it was repealed?

 

That would be a disaster for our state, and it would have your names on it.

 

Kimberly Brubaker Bradley


Next, the email I received from Griffey in reply, in its entirety: 


In my opinion, and that of the vast majority of Tennesseans, schools are not the place for teaching or indoctrinating children with LGBTQ lifestyles or values.  Our schools are for learning reading, writing, and math.


Apparently, according to Griffey, Tennessee schools are a place for indoctrinating children with homophobia and hatred. But as I read his email I saw how it was wrong in many, many places. (I could start with expecting schools to teach history and science, though that's a trivial point.) That the "vast majority" of Tennesseans think the way Griffey thinks they do is clearly false: a bit of math and Pew Research statistics tells us that in 2019, 47% of Tennesseans polled said they support gay marriage. That's lower than the national average, but it's unlikely to have dropped in the last 3 years and I'd never call 53% of anything a "vast majority."


Then I pondered the phrase "LGBTQ lifestyles and values." I thought of the LGBTQIA (I prefer to write it that way) people I personally know, and what their lifestyles and values are. Some are committed churchgoers. Some are Christian pastors. They go to work, they go to school, they raise their children. Some are athletes. Some are artists. The only difference I consistently note between an LGBTQIA value and lifestyle and an anti-LGBTQIA value and lifestyle is that the LGBTQIA people are far less likely to be prejudiced.


Then I thought about what would make Griffey, a 70-year-old cis het white man, feel so convicted that LGBTQIA lifestyles were all that much different from his, and I realized, he probably thinks he doesn't know any gay or trans people. He only sees media representation--something he can easily "other." Anyone he encounters in his everyday life he assumes must be straight and cis, because if not he'd be able to tell, and he can't.


Here's news to Griffey: according to latest research, non-heterosexual people make up about 6% of the population. In Tennessee, trans people make up about 0.45%. So, say Bristol, the city where I live, has 40,000 people. That's 2400 gay people and 180 trans people. In Bristol, TN.


The Nashville metro area has a population of about 1.9 million. That means 114,000 gay people and 8550 trans people. These are not insignificant numbers. 


I just now got back from running a few errands. I went to the bank, the post office, and the local Food City to pick up prescriptions and breakfast sausage. I nodded hello to some strangers and was helped by a pharmacy tech and a clerk when my prescriptions wouldn't ring correctly. I probably encountered 20 people, all except the pharmacist (hi, Cathy!) unknown to me. How many of them were gay or trans?


I have absolutely no idea. Why not? Because it's none of my business. I'm not entering into an intimate relationship with any of them. I don't need to know their sexuality or gender identity, and I can't tell it by looking at them. Not only do I have no reason to assume they're straight and cis, I have no reason to care either way. I don't want to hear about Senator Frank Niceley's sexual past either. It's none of my business unless it breaks the law.


My husband works in a busy ophthalmology office--about 60 staff, and let's say 500 different patients every week. How many of those 560 people are gay or trans? You could do the math to show that, statistically speaking, there are gay people in the office every day and trans people at least some of the days, but also--it would be none of your business. Sexuality and gender identity aren't part of being a physician, an employee in a medical office, or an ophthalmology patient.


You'd think this would be obvious to everyone, but, it seems, it isn't. Representative Todd Warner hasn't responded to me. Neither has Representative Susan Lynn, though her Wikipedia page shows the following under Political Career, in its entirety: (TW)


In March 2018, she sponsored legislation requiring Tennessee schools to prominently display "In God We Trust".[4]

In 2020, Lynn voted against removal of a bust honoring Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard Nathan Bedford Forrest from the Tennessee State Capitol building.[5]

Lynn proposed an anti-transgender bathroom bill in 2016.[6] She called transgender identity a "mental disorder".[6][7]

With Bill Ketron, Lynn sponsored a "no-go zone" bill in February 2015.[8]


I really believe that most Tennesseans are better than this. I know our students deserve better than this. Children need to see themselves and their families reflected in the books they read. A brief mention of a female character's wife in a middle grades novel about a lost dog? That's as important as being sure the books our kids don't only feature white characters and white history. Our schools and books need to represent reality, because our students already do.


Yesterday HB0800 was scheduled to be discussed in the Finance, Ways and Means Committee but was removed from the calendar. If we speak out, we can be sure this loathesome bill never gets put on the floor. You can find out how to contact all these people at Tennessee General Assembly (tn.gov) Please do. The kind barista in the coffee shop you go to every day, the caring doctor who monitors your elderly mother's blood pressure, the cheeky kid who's your child's new best friend--or, possibly, your own child--depend on it.

 


Monday, January 31, 2022

Now It's All Making Sense

 This is going to be short, because I know I don't have my thoughts in order yet. I also know I'm not going to be able to sit down to my novel-writing work unless I write something about this first. So, here we go.

Every writer of books for young people has been aware of the big upsurge in book bannings, country wide. Often the challenges to the books are patently ridiculous--one complained that the jellyfish character in the young reader's graphic novel "Narwhal and Jellie" wasn't described as being a specific gender. 

It was a jellyfish. I'm not entirely sure jellyfish have genders.

(Turns out you can Google that. And the answer is: some do, some don't.)

Anyhow it began to seem obvious to me that there was something behind all this book banning besides your usual racism and homophobia, and it turns out, yes there is.

Most of the "grassroots" organizations carrying the banner for bills like HB1944, the one currently on the floor in Tennessee, are funded by certain ultra-rich ultra-right people, some of who hope to make a bunch of money off federally-funded charter schools.

Here's a link: Who Are Moms for Liberty?: This Week's Book Censorship News, January 28, 2022 (bookriot.com)

Here's another: Unmasking Moms for Liberty | Media Matters for America

Many very wealthy people in this country are using their money to improve society. Some aren't. We know that. 

Charter schools are a whole nother topic--good points and bad. The problem is that the most vulnerable people in our society--low-income kids, kids with learning disabilities, kids in foster care, those with backgrounds of trauma and resultant behavior issues--they're the ones that need strong public schools the most. As Appalachian Literacy Initiative has grown I've learned more and more about what it's like to be a poor kid in a rural area. The local school is the only choice. The school library is the only source of reading material. If we weaken public schools, for any reason, we're harming the people in our society who most need help.