Reflections on Censorship in Kidlit

Oh my goodness, I just had such a wonderful night. I'm smiling so big right now, you have no idea. To get the slightly sad part out of the way first: turns out the screenwriting workshop I mentioned is next Tuesday rather than today. The organiser got a little mixed up and sent over the wrong date, but nevertheless, still monumentally excited for that—I can't wait!

I did go to the panel today on censorship in children's literature and YA, and oh—I am so happy I did. I was debating whether or not I should attend, since it was pretty late on a school night (I'm writing this at about 10:30 PM, and I just got home!). But it turned out to be a beautiful experience—it's the first panel I've been to and I adored it.

Just for some background: the full name of the program was What Children Shouldn't Read: A Global Controversy and the panelists were four international authors who've been very active in this scene—some have had their own books banned, some have spoken out for or against book censorship, and all are award-winning and extremely prestigious authors. They covered topics ranging from LGBTQIA+ matters to violence to sex to drugs.

It was so interesting to hear their different, and sometimes conflicting, points of view. For the most part, all the panelists seemed to agree that too much censorship (in kidlit and otherwise) wasn’t okay—but from there, it all dissolved into differing opinions. One panelist was adamant that she would never allow her children to read literature that promoted violence, while another thought that reading those books was fine, as long as there was an informed discussion about them. Some authors were sure that the cause of censorship was nothing but pure intentions—parents believing that they could shield their darlings from the outside world forever—but others were of the opinion that it was mostly due to adults projecting their insecurities onto what they allowed their children to read.

The discussion continued like that for most of the time: panelists agreeing and disagreeing, audience members speaking up and asking questions, and quite a healthy debate going on. It was so interesting—I rarely get a chance to talk and listen about books in real life, so this was an incredible experience.

I didn't ask a question during the panel, but afterwards I did get to talk to one of the authors about a topic that hadn't been covered: mental illness and its prevalence in kidlit. It's something that, as you know, is close to me, so I was interested in hearing her thoughts. Mostly, she was of the same opinion as I was: there needs to be much more talk about mental illness, especially to elementary and middle schoolers; although it's certainly not as stigmatised as things like sex or violence, there's still a marked barrier between those with mental illness and what's considered "normal". Rooting out that issue from the very beginning through open discussion (and making sure mentally ill people are represented in kidlit) is so, so important.

And, saving the absolute best news for last: remember how Sarah Kay is performing at our school on Friday? Well, it turns out two of the students are going to interview her afterwards, and today at the panel, our school librarian (who was there as well) invited me to join them!

SARAH KAY, MAN. I CANNOT CONTAIN MY EXCITEMENT.

So that is ridiculous!! I'm counting down the days till Friday (and, of course, frantically preparing the interview questions with the other two girls)—and I will, of course, let you guys know how that goes. It's always lovely when literary events happen in Singapore, and I'm over the moon that we're getting so many packed into this week!