A Q&A With Wi8 Panelist Laurie Halse Anderson

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“Banned Books, Censorship, and YA Literature” are the topics of a Monday, February 25, Winter Institute session sponsored by the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression. The program, from 10:30 a.m. – 11:45 a.m., will feature Laurie Halse Anderson, author of Speak (Square Fish); Sherman Alexie, author of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers);  ABFFE Board member Mitchell Kaplan of Florida’s Books & Books; and ABFFE President Chris Finan. Winter Institute attendees are invited to join them for a discussion about how to meet the threat of censorship today.

Halse Anderson, whose work is frequently the target of censors, writes for children of all ages and is known for tackling tough subjects with humor and sensitivity. Two of her books have been National Book Award finalists, and her work has been honored by the American Library Association, the National Council of Teachers of English, and the Catholic Librarian Association, among others.

The proud recipient of the National Coalition Against Censorship’s 2011 Free Speech Defender Award shared some insights with ABFFE President Chris Finan on how she chooses the subjects for her books and why people try to ban them.

Chris Finan: Why did you start writing for young adults?  

 Laurie Halse Anderson: Because I remembered what it felt like to be young, confused, and powerless.

CF: How do you choose your subjects?

LHA:  It’s not an entirely conscious decision. There are always a number of notions simmering on the back burner, situations or aspects of adolescent life that frustrate or intrigue me. When one of the notions is ready, it jumps to the front burner. Serendipity pulls all kinds of information and people into my life and then the fun begins.

CF: Why do people try to ban your books?

LHA:   They’re afraid. The topics in my books are often the kinds of things that adults don’t know how to talk about with their teens. Their inability to do this is often what creates problems for these kids in the first place.

CF:  Do you believe your books make a difference in the lives of kids?

LHA:   I know they have. I’ve met my readers and their parents. I have the letters and the e-mails saying that after reading my book, a teen reached out for help, that the book made a difference. It’s never the book alone — the kid in question has to be ready and she has to have trustworthy adults in her life who will listen. But it’s nice to be a small, positive part of the growing-up process of a reader.

“Banned Books, Censorship, and YA Literature” will be held from 10:30 a.m. - 11:45 a.m. on Monday, February 25,  in the Westin’s Shawnee/Mission Rooms.

Readers who would like to learn more about Laurie Halse Anderson can follow her adventures on Twitter, twitter.com/halseanderson, and on her blog, madwomanintheforest.com/blog/.

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