Updated: Oct 19, 2022
As the author of a frequently challenged book, I'm sometimes asked for a statement. Feel free to use this to fight book bans in your area.
My name is Dashka Slater. I am a journalist who also writes books for children and young adults including The 57 Bus. Every time a book is banned, whether it’s mine or someone else’s, I feel a deep sorrow. Book banning is fundamentally un-American, a betrayal of our most basic freedom — the freedom to think, to read, to discuss, and to arrive at our own opinions. Parents have always been free to make decisions about their own child’s reading material — I have no quarrel with that. But the book banners want to give one parent the power to decide what all children can read. I don’t expect everyone to like my book, but I do expect everyone to have a chance to read it and decide for themselves. The freedom to draw your own conclusions is the foundation of a democratic society.
That is the first reason that the recent wave of book-banning breaks my heart. The second is that books offer a chance for kids to see themselves reflected and affirmed, to know that they’re not alone, that their experience matters. Books also offer kids a chance to learn about people who are different from them, to develop empathy and interest in the experiences of people they might not have thought about before. I receive letters from both kinds of kids every week — kids who are excited to see some aspect of themselves reflected in my book and kids who tell me that they are nothing like either of the kids in the book and loved learning about someone else’s perspective and experience.
But my favorite letters of all might be from parents, which is the third reason that book bans break my heart. Parents often write me to say that their child gave them The 57 Bus as a way of opening up a conversation about an aspect of their lives that they wanted to talk about but weren’t sure how to bring it up. These parents often say that say that my book helped them understand something about their child and made their family closer. Why should those families be robbed of that experience just because another family has made a different choice?
Books have the power to foster connection, communication, and empathy, to make us better people. Not every book is for every reader, but every reader deserves the freedom to make that choice on their own, without the interference of government officials or meddling busybodies. If you don’t like my book, all you have to do is return it to the library and let someone else decide to check it out. Then go back to the shelf and find a book that speaks to you. That's the beauty of a library. There's something there for everyone.