I recently learned that Miss Smithers was one of 65 books challenged in Texas in 2006. It feels great to sit alongside a list of other worthy, though not particularly contentious, books. These include one called Dirty Cowboy. It’s about a dirty cowboy who takes his annual bath, which renders him unrecognizable to his dog. His nudity is cunningly suggested but not shown. I’m gonna run out and get me that one as soon as I finish writing this blog, because not only does it feature dirty cowboys — only my favourite kind — it’s also got dogs! A few other contenders include that perennial banned book: Forever by Judy Blume, and The Emperor’s New Clothes by Hans Christian Anderson, illustrated by Michael Nuegabauer. We’re in the bigs now, baby!
Apparently Mr. Lemony Snicket/Daniel Handler can’t get too worked up about the fact that his first Unfortunate Event book got challenged, but maybe when I’ve sold fifty one million books, I won’t care either. Until then, I feel like it was an honor just to get challenged.
Then I realized that out of 65 hopefuls, Miss Smithers actually was one of the only 16 books that actually MADE the banned list. Well, that was more than I ever dreamed. Seriously. Especially since I made it to the top with Forever, Melvin Burgess’s Doing It (a book about doing it), Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eyes and, gulp, Dirty Cowboy.
This is too much. Really. Words don’t seem like enough to thank the school or teacher who orchestrated this recognition. I’m not sure if that person realizes that right now there are hundreds, if not thousands, of writers hoping to get banned in Texas. We slip our swearing and inappropriate content (sexuality, problems of any kind, cowboys who need baths) into our books and then we wait. And we hope.
I know there’s more to Texas than the book banning part. There’s Austin, for instance, and whatever places some of the lovely Texan librarians/book advocates I’ve met hail from. But in the minds of many people, especially those who live outside the red states or outside the U.S., Texas is where the real banning happens. Texas is to book banning what Hollywood is to the movie industry: it’s the heartland. Mecca, even.
Now that I’ve been recognized in this way, I hope I can do as well with future books. To that end, I’m considering including some sort of pole routine in my school talks. And maybe hiring me a dirty cowboy to dance on it.
Banned in Texas: It does have a ring to it! Now please excuse me while I go out to get a T-shirt made up.
For more information on banned books, in Texas and elsewhere, check out Chris Crutcher’s excellent and informative website. He’s an author who knows a thing or two about getting banned: Chris Crutcher
The ACLU report on banned books in Texas: Banned in Texas