Our reading this week, Belinda Louie’s “Politics in Children’s Literature: Colliding Forces to Shape Young Minds,” has been useful not only as an identifier of the “stakeholders” of children’s literature but also in reshaping my understanding of censorship as a social issue. Before this course, I tended to think of censorship only as a large-scale problem. Reading this chapter, however, forced me to contextualize the wide-ranging connotations of such an idea in smaller terms by breaking down the individual forces of censorship involved in children’s literature. These forces, whom Louie calls stakeholders, are those individuals who “By advocating or rejecting certain books, by highlighting or being silent on certain issues… influence which books make their ways into the hands of young readers” (4). The chapter highlights seven stakeholders: authors, children, parents, teachers, district administrators, the public, and publishers. By directing censorship of children’s literature into the hands of these seven distinct groups of people, Louie simultaneously calls her readers’ attention to the people involved in deciding what books children read and to the idea of censorship as a more personal issue. While we may not have experienced a censorship case directly, almost everyone has had experience with the education system in some way, be it as a student themselves or in one of these other stakeholder roles. Most of us, then, have had a role in censoring literature, whether or not we are aware of this censorship.
As my partner Avery and I have been discussing what specific censorship issue in Georgia we want our project to focus on, I have often caught myself running into the same problem I struggled with before reading “Politics in Children’s Literature.” Repeatedly during this initial process, I’ve realized I was thinking of censorship not as a local concern but rather a national or even global one. Our first idea for the project certainly fell along these lines— we planned on researching the Georgia Literature Commission, the first censorship board in the United States. The GLC, established in 1953, stirred up state-wide controversy from the moment it was approved by the Georgia State Assembly until its “slow death” and eventual termination in 1973 (Washington Post). While the GLC’s run creates an interesting discussion about censorship in broad terms, we ran into an issue finding specific cases regarding the GLC in our local area, especially in regards to possible interviewees who might have a vested interest in the Commission. It is this minor roadblock which made me realize not only that I was thinking about censorship too broadly, but that I didn’t want to examine it in wider terms, at least not for the purposes of this project. My hope for this website is to provide insight into the ways in which individuals and communities are affected by censorship cases. Although our research into the GLC as part of the national censorship conversation offers a useful background, I think it will work better for our purposes as a jumping off point rather than the centerpiece of our research.
Louie, Belinda. “Politics in Children’s Literature: Colliding Forces to Shape Young Minds.” Shattering the Looking Glass: Challenge, Risk, and Controversy in Children’s Literature, edited by Susan S. Lehr, Christopher-Gordon Publishers, 2008, pp. 3-13.
Chokshi, Niraj. “Georgia created the nation’s first censorship board 61 years ago today.” The Washington Post, https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/govbeat/wp/2014/02/19/georgia-created-the-nations-first-censorship-board-61-years-ago-today/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.90a7acf9f484. Accessed 28 January 2019.