The Author's Take on Banned Books

By Taina Piverotto

danforth photo by Erica Edsell
The author herself, Emily M. Danforth (photo by Erica Edsell)

The first week of October is National Banned Book week, and Fitchburg State had many activities planned. The activities were named after Robert Cormier, an accomplished writer and FSU alumnus, but there were many notable participants who had a lot to say at discussions and on panels.
I had an email interview with author Emily M. Danforth, (who stylizes her name professionally without capitalization) previous to her appearance on campus to discuss “The Summer my Book was Banned.” Author of a banned book, Danforth held a panel about her debut novel, “The Miseducation of Cameron Post,” which was the cause of a controversy in a Delaware school when its “adult themes” made the school board uneasy. It was on a summer reading list, and was discarded after debate among committee members. However, Danforth received support from students, faculty, and parents from Cape Henlopen and other parts of Delaware.
Danforth says the decision was “unfortunate, and, frankly, wholly unnecessary.” Her novel was one of ten on the list, and was not required. Discarding of the entire list seems a rather strong action for a book that wasn’t mandatory reading. She also says that she “wasn’t expecting it, but [she] knew it was always a possibility” because of the book’s subject matter.
The young adult (YA) novel was targeted specifically for its “adult themes” which made it “unsuited for the age group.” It had queer young people in it, and the “explorations of adolescent sexuality” gave it the metaphorical target around its throat, making it an easy target for attention to possible censorship.
This situation isn’t deterring Danforth from writing more YA literature. “I’m currently at work on another novel that will be published as YA,” she says. She has received emails from fans and meets with some as well who have been influenced greatly by the representation of queer characters in her novels.
My final question really had nothing to do with the banned aspect of her novel, but rather her personal advice for young writers out there who want to make their debut. She had this to say: “Get into that chair or behind that desk! Get out your notebook or laptop. Write like you mean it. Tell the stories you need to tell, the ones burning you up, and don’t let anybody or anything get in your way or keep you from it. Don’t make room for excuses…read widely and constantly and thoughtfully.”