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Program Summaries
2023-2024

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November 2023 Program

Pat Scales

Summary by Betsy Kraft

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Guild members got an inside look at book banning at the November Guild meeting when Pat Scales shared stories and data of the recent rise of challenges of books for young people. Scales, a First Amendment advocate, is the former chair of ALA’s Intellectual Freedom Committee, and has appeared nationally as a spokeswoman for freedom from censorship. She has also authored two books on the subject: Books under Fire and Teaching Banned Books.

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Books featuring LBGTQ characters were top of the 2022 challenged list with those about people of color coming in second. Other topics on the rise were those portraying kids engaged in rights and activism. Scales said the banning of books began in the eighties, mostly directed at Judy Bloom’s body of work. But the rise of social media has rapidly accelerated the trend and grown with parent groups like Moms for Liberty and other like-minded groups and laws like Florida’s Don’t Say Gay.

Scales pointed with hope to teens themselves who have created teen banned book clubs and even brought legal cases saying the banning of books violates their civil rights. She pointed to the ridiculous extremes of the movement with the challenging of Mark Brown’s picture book, Arthur's Birthday, in which a girl brings a gift suggesting they play Spin the Bottle.

In advice to writers, she said just keep writing good books. And to those who wish to become engaged in the fight against banned or challenged books she says stay aware of what’s happening and help spread the word.

School Library Journal columns by Pat Scales

2023 Banned Book List from PEN America

October 2023 Program

Amina Luqman-Dawson

Summary by Fred Bowen

I write sports books so I hope everyone will forgive me if I use a baseball phrase.

 

 With her first book, Freewater, author Amina Luqman-Dawson “knocks it out of the park.” The book follows the adventures of Homer, an enslaved boy who escapes to the wilderness – The Great Dismal Swamp – to live among escaped Blacks and some who have never known slavery. Freewater won the 2023 Newbery medal as well as the Coretta Scott King award.

 

Not bad for what Luqman-Dawson calls her “baby book” meaning her first real book.

Long-time librarian and Guild member, Edie Ching, interviewed Luqman-Dawson at the October in-person (!) meeting of the Children’s Book Guild of Washington D.C.

Luqman-Dawson was a policy professional who worked for several non-profits and moonlighted by writing op-ed columns as well magazine articles and travel pieces. All along, Luqman-Dawson nurtured the dream of writing a book. She only shared that dream with her husband.

 

Some parts of Freewater were easy. Luqman-Dawson said the story “exploded in my mind” and she saw [the character of Homer] “clearly in my mind.”

 

Other parts were not so easy. Luqman-Dawson told the Guild she went through ten to fifteen drafts and at one crucial juncture when she felt stuck, benefitted from a mentorship with We Need Diverse Books.

 

Luqman-Dawson also benefitted from a sensitive editor – Alexandra Hightower - who helped her pull out more from certain characters but who knew when to leave certain parts of the book alone. Hightower was the first African-American to edit a Newbery winner.

 

In the end, Luqman-Dawson produced a page turner and a rollicking adventure that has impressed readers and critics alike. Edie Ching said that she has read the book four or five times and still sees themes and details she had not seen before.

 

Luqman-Dawson is working on a second book based on one of the many characters in Freewater. Expect another home run.

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