Since the publication of her first novel, Bloom, in 2007, Elizabeth Scott has risen to the top of her class as a bestselling author, and a favorite writer of American teens. Her books cover a wide range of topics, from the sweet romances of Bloom and Perfect You to the mother-daughter burglary team in Stealing Heaven to teen alcoholism and kidnapping in Love You Hate You Miss You and Living Dead Girl, respectively and cyber-pin-ups and family drama in Something, Maybe. With an eclectic palette to choose from, it’s no wonder so many readers find something to love in Elizabeth Scott‘s work. Of course, with some of the controversial topics listed above, it’s no surprise that Ms. Scott has garnered some negative attention this year. I am so glad Ms. Scott agreed to do our Banned Books Week Q&A – here’s what she has to say:
BookPeople: What book(s) of yours have been banned or challenged and what were the reasons given?
Elizabeth Scott: My novel Living Dead Girl has been both challenged and banned. The most common reason given for its removal from shelves/in challenges is that the subject matter is “inappropriate,” although I do know of one challenge that asked for the book to be removed for the subject matter and for the “unsatisfactory ending.”
BP: What was your reaction when you first heard your book(s) were being challenged?
ES: I wasn’t surprised, actually. Living Dead Girl is about a girl who was kidnapped, and has spent the past five years living with her kidnapper – she’s clearly abused and yet no one – none of her neighbors, no one she sees when she’s out with her kidnapper – ever does anything to help her. And that – the idea that we, as a society, tend to look away from things that we know, deep down, feel wrong, somehow – I knew that would be upsetting for some people.
BP: How do you feel knowing there are people out there who don’t want young readers to have access to your books?
ES: I don’t agree with censorship, but I believe everyone is entitled to their own opinion. If you don’t believe in reading a certain book, then by all means, don’t read it. But just because you don’t want to read something doesn’t give you–or me–or anyone-the right to say, “No one should read this.”
BP: Has having your work banned or challenged changed the way you write?
ES: Nope. I tell stories–sometimes they are sweet and funny. Sometimes they aren’t. I wouldn’t change that for anything. Or anyone.
BP: Sexuality, magic, expletives, race, and LGBT themes (among other topics) are often the reasons people challenge books. Why do you write about these topics, and why do you think it’s important that they are included in young people’s literature?
ES: I write about them because they are part of life. I write about them because pretending sex/drugs/cursing/etc. doesn’t exist – or worse, claiming that it’s “bad” – won’t do anything. We’re all hoping to read something that makes us think, “Yes, this is exactly how I feel.” Why would you want to take that away from anyone?
BP: Has your status as the author of banned books affected your career as a writer?
ES: Not that I know of!
BP: What do the terms “censorship” and “intellectual freedom” mean to you?
ES: Censorship, to me, is what happens when one person or a group of people decide that they know what everyone should/must read/think/do. I think that’s dangerous. No one should have the right to tell you what to think or do or say or write. I don’t have that right. You don’t have that right. None of us do.As far as intellectual freedom–I’ll be honest. It makes me think of professors, and how the tenure system came to be–as a way for those who spoke and taught and wrote things that made others uncomfortable/upset a way to know that their beliefs wouldn’t endanger their jobs or their work.
BP: What are your favorite banned books, and why?
ES: I’m quite fond of the ttyl series of books by Lauren Myracle, which I think capture being a teenage girl exquisitely. And, of course, how can I not mention Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, which meant so much to me when I was ten years old and showed me that yes, there were girls out there who wanted their period and thought about boys and were sometimes confused about what they believed in.
BP: If you could say anything to Judy Blume, a literary legend and other of many banned books, what would you say?
ES: Judy Blume, thank you. Thank you for not being afraid to go where other authors didn’t. Thank you for writing the books you did. Thank you for making me see that I wasn’t alone.
BP: What advice would you give a student (or parent, or concerned citizen) whose school or library is facing a book challenge?
ES: Stand up for what you believe in. Don’t be afraid to use your voice. You deserve to be heard as much as anyone else. You matter.
BP: Since burning books is tragic, but bonfires can be fun, what should we burn instead?
ES: I vote we make s’mores and talk about the books we love.
Thanks so much to Elizabeth Scott! Living Dead Girl just came out in paperback, so come on in and grab your copy!