Censorship in a small academic world

Via the NCTE Inbox, I came across this story this morning, “Novelist saddened her Appalachian observations facing a book ban.” Normally, this isn’t the sort of thing I would spend much time with because while I do care about such things and I of course oppose them, stupid book banning happens all the time. But this is a book written by the woman who was my MFA advisor, Lee Smith. Lee is/was a super-duper writer, teacher, general smart person. I’m not writing fiction right now (someday again, hopefully), but I learned a ton about it and writing in general from her. So a shout-out to her.

The book that’s being banned here is Fair and Tender Ladies, which is a first-person narrative of a girl and then woman, Ivy, from the time she was just learning to write until her end. I was most interested in the form of the book, how Smith starts out writing the character as a child– with all the misspellings and grammar errors and that sort of subject-matter– and how Ivy evolves into adulthood. Anyway, I wouldn’t describe it as a young adult novel (in the article I link to above, Smith doesn’t describe it that way either), but I think it’s a PG-13 story in its most graphic passages. Though it’s been a while since I read this; maybe there’s a full-frontal scene I forgot about.

Anyway, it’s a good book and I hope that being banned helps revive it a bit– I think that’s the usual result. And once again, I am reminded that it is a small academic world.

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