‘Into the River’, which won Book of the Year at the 2013 NZ Post Children’s Book Awards, has been banned from sale or supply after a complaint from conservative lobby group Family First.
The story follows a Maori boy and his problems with bullying. It also features sex and drug use.
The president of the Film and Literature Board of Review Don Mathieson QC slapped an interim ban on the book pending a review of the Censor’s decision to make the book available to all readers instead of R14.
It is the first time a book has been banned by the Board of Review in 22 years.
Author Ted Dawe said teenagers use literature like his as a reference point and they’ll have – or not have – sex with or without his book.
“I’ll tell you one thing, teenagers hate being patronised and they hate being not included,” he said. “That’s why I write the way I do. I don’t think people will be encouraged or take drugs. I don’t think teenagers are that stupid.”
“My book isn’t exploitative, it’s not erotic, it’s a serious work of artistic and social import, and that’s the difference. If they can’t see that difference, I can’t explain it to them.”
Dawe also said groups who have made complaints resulting in a temporary removal of the text from shelves are pushing their beliefs on others.
“I just don’t want them dictating to me and to other people what we can and can’t say. That’s when they exceed the bounds of their freedoms and impinge on other people’s.”
Dawe also reiterated his book is aimed at teenagers not children.
A heartening tale… Way to beat the school book banners…
The book in question was Sherman Alexie’s young adult novel “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.” Published in 2007, it won the National Book Award and has become popular with young teens, supposedly for its universal themes of fitting in, making sense of race, and sexual discovery.
Local teens then started a petition to have the book reinstated. They collected 350 signatures, which is an impressive number of kids to rally around a cause like reading.
In response, a local bookstore Rediscovered Books started a crowdfunding campaign to buy a book for each of the 350 kids who signed the petition. It worked—the campaign raised $3,400, enough for a book per kid.
…when Alexie’s publisher Hachette got word of the incident, they sent Rediscovered an additional 350 copies on the house. So while the book may still be banned in the school curriculum, it’s available free of cost for any kid who wants to stop into Rediscovered and pick one up.