Tuesday, February 1, 2011

FAT VAMPIRE Banned, Somewhere.

Yesterday morning I awoke to find I had an email from someone about my Teen/Adult novel, Fat Vampire. People email me all the time. Sometimes they write to say they like my books. Sometimes they even write to say that they like my other books, but that they didn't like this one or that. I have a policy about not reading reviews, but it's hard to stick to your guns when reviews are coming straight into your inbox like that. But yesterday's letter was different.

I'm not going to print it, because a person who emails me should not have to expect that his private message is going to be published on even this tiny public forum. But I'll summarize: Fat Vampire is smut. The emailer went to his daughter's principal and convinced her to remove it from the school library. He promised to tell everyone about Fat Vampire and requested, in the future, that I please keep my books out of schools.

The following was my response. I have not yet heard back.

I regret that you were offended, [Name Redacted]. And in monitoring your daughter's reading and requesting that she refrain from books you don't find appropriate you were doing exactly what all parents should do, if they're able. You'll understand if I don't agree with censorship, however. The other parents at your daughter's school also have the right (some would say responsibility) to regulate their kids' reading, and you've taken that right away from them.

I think you're mistaken about my role in all this. I didn't put my book in your school, nor do I decide where they're sold. I merely wrote a story I wanted to write, and was grateful that my publisher published it. Ultimately my publisher is the entity that decides how my book will be marketed, as well, and with thousands of Young Adult titles to their name they decided that my book, too, is a Young Adult title. Mind you, I'm not saying I disagree, though I tend to describe it as a Teen/Adult title myself (which essentially amounts to the same thing). Regardless, I don't put my books in your or any other school, so I can't be entreated to keep them out. You could only ask me to stop writing, and to that the answer's no.

I don't envy you your task these next few years–you're going to have to be very vigilant. If you consider my book to be smut then you'll find that there are a great many Young Adult titles that are just as bad, and a fair number that are worse. Anyway, though I don't like book-banning I defend your right to tell anyone and everyone you know just exactly how you feel. You may want to temper your enthusiasm, however, with the knowledge that it's a rare censorship campaign that doesn't increase a book's sales.

Sincerely,

Adam Rex

41 comments:

Brian Biggs said...

You're so smart and more in control than me. I'd have asked for his address, or Googled it, and sent him a dead fish and a dirty magazine.

And you're absolutely right in every word you wrote.

Christine said...

I hope you don't mind that I've forwarded this post to the Office for Intellectual Freedom at the American Library Association.

--Christine (your still-traveling fan)

Sacha said...

You are a class act, my friend.

Nina Crittenden said...

Well said, Adam!

kaitlynsudol said...

Leaving behind the fact that I will never understand challenging/banning books, let's focus on how I don't understand what would go through someone's mind before they sent an email telling the author they challenged/banned their book.

"Hey, Adam! What's up? Just wanted to let you know your book is shameful smut and I made sure everyone knew it! Catch you later!"

Amy Scheer said...

Your response is right on.

But now I'm remembering the other day when I returned a book to the (public) librarian and said, I don't know if this should be labeled "J Graphic Novel." My son, age 10, had come to me to point out that the book had "words we don't say." I don't know who decides what goes where in that world, but I bet it's difficult being the decider, as it were.

kelly dipucchio said...

Wonderful response, Adam!

cheering for you and Fat Vampire!

Holly said...

I'm going to have to make you a trophy. As soon as I figure out how to knit one, it'll have your name on it.

David said...

Perhaps if you went through and changed every instance of the word vampire to slave...

Surfer Jay said...

That's awesome.

Adam Rex said...

Brian–I found for some reason that my response is outrage when I hear of other people's books getting banned, and more just sad and contemplative when it's my own. Go figure.

Christine–I'm glad to hear it, actually.

Sacha and Nina–thanks!

Kaitlynsudol–I have to agree. I can certainly imagine conditions under which I would let my school librarian (not the principal, certainly) know that I had concerns about a title. But I would ultimately defer to the librarian's judgement, and it would never occur to me to write the author.

Amy–As I say above, I have nothing against letting your librarian know about a concern. Maybe it's an honest mistake, after all, and the title really ISN'T supposed to be there.

Kelly–Thanks for the support!

Holly–I think what you do is get a regular trophy, then knit it a sweater.

David–We can fix that in the paperback.

Thanks Surfer Jay. It feels a little more awesome right now with all this support coming in.

Michaele Razi said...

Classy response, Adam! You didn't attack or demean and you understood his mindset as a parent. However, his energy in banning your book will only make the kids more curious. You know you've made it when someone wants to ban you. And smut? Really? There's TONS of YA books that way more troubling to me as a parent.

Ted Terranova said...

Well played sir, well played.

elephanta said...

Perfect way to respond. You rule!

Steven Belledin said...

Your response is obscene and should be banned from the internet!

Seriously, though, I wish I could be so level headed and tempered in my response. I find it rather surprising that the rage was intense enough to email you directly. If they go to this extent for everything they consider smut, they must be awful busy these days.

julie said...

Can't wait to read it now! I love banned books.

gm said...

Beautiful response, Adam, well done.

KMB said...

Level headed and honest. I love it. I can only imagine the outraged response this person was expecting/hoping to receive. Kudos to you for not giving in, Adam.

Condolences on your book being mistreated in some school, somewhere. I do feel bad for the children of that school who will have easy access to your story.

You know what they say about one bad apple...it makes the bunch run out to Barnes and Noble to buy your book! Hooray!

Mike Burns said...

I really admire how you handled that, good for you Adam.

yoborobo said...

You are like the Cary Grant of banned books: suave, cool, and collected. I think I would vote for you for something, but I'm not sure what as yet. :) I am now going to buy your book. When I am done reading it, I am going to donate it to my library.

Megan Kurashige said...

Adam Rex, you are made of win.

My sister and I both work in bookstores. She pulled Fat Vampire off the arc shelf and adored the hell out of it. She has been recommending it like crazy ever since and now I'm going to have to go out and buy my own copy.

Thanks for being such a gentleman on top of your magnificent story-telling, art-making skills.

kateweb said...

Spot on :D , I find the notion of banning a book because 1 parent or individual does not like it disturbing to say the least, it in not a schools job to be the mom or dad, it's the mom or dad responsibility. I hope your book will not be banned in other places and I hope your book is returned to that library.

Peter Underhill said...

Perhaps this 'protective parent' contacted you only after writing to the school librarian and your publisher and not receiving a suitably contrite response. 'Well in that case, dammit, the author will receive my ire!'

A beautiful and measured response.

Will you be my dad?

Anonymous said...

A very thoughtful and instructive response. Hopefully they took your wisdom to heart, though one suspects enlightenment, or at least learning something is not high on their agenda. How sad for them, and their child.

I've not yet read Fat Vampire (it's on my list) so I can't comment on whether or not it's smut, but the True Meaning of Smekday was a bloody delight from cover to cover. (Pardon my language.)

Adam Rex said...

Thanks to every commenter since my last post. I wish I had the time right now to respond to each individually.

I can't believe now that my editor had to talk me into blogging about this. What a nice response.

azang said...

I'm so sorry that happened to you. I guess it's time for me to finish reading FV and blog about it.

lyon said...

Great response. Probably good though that you didn't go with your first title idea, "Smutty Vampire Smut". It would have made it harder for your subversive campaign to bring down society from the inside to get traction. Just look at Huckleberry Finn, with a trashy name like that, it is a wonder anyone picked up the book.

Seriously though, what the smek!?

Carrie said...

This is so very well said. I have been a public children's librarian for twenty years and have talked to many parents who have had similar concerns about books being in a certain section of the library or on a certain shelf or being in the library at all. It really does help to acknowledge the parenting they are doing on their end. Freedom has responsibility. It makes parenting harder, but the hard work makes the parenting better. Freedom is what makes the parenting possible.

I have had people make it personal a couple times. I try to remind myself that what they are directing at me is motivated by concern for their child...I'll take an engaged parent any day over a parent that doesn't participate at all.

Adam Rex said...

That's an amazing way of looking at it, Carrie: the angry parent is better than the one with no engagement in their kids' lives. I'm guessing you're a very good librarian.

Anonymous said...

Way to respond with class and dignity. Wonderful response to ANY person who promotes censorship of books!

Anne said...

I'm still at a loss as to how Fat Vampire is "smut." I just finished reading it and... I guess the smut went over my head? o_O

kittens not kids said...

Well, I'll be checking your book out of MY library as soon as I pay down my overdue fines.

I am sort of amused that your paraphrase suggests that the complainant is going to "tell everyone about Fat Vampire." Great PR, and it's free, too!

Your response is incredibly intelligent, insightful and - compassionate, which seems like a strange word to use in this kind of situation. But it's true: when I think of the things in this world that can be labelled "smut," I feel genuinely sorry for the parent who tries to shield his child from it. YA books are probably the least "smutty" of what's out there.

So, Fat Vampire: added to my to-read list.

Heidi Estrin said...

Adam, I found this blog post because I friend put it on Facebook. I haven't read Fat Vampire but I absolutely adored The True Meaning of Smekday (laughed aloud alone in a quiet room numerous times while reading it). Now I know that not only are you an excellent writer but you are also a true gentleman.

Barb Outside Boston said...

Found this on School Library Journal--great response--I just ordered it for my teen--I love working at my school and in my town where this sort of thing is not accepted.

And no one expects you to individually respond to all of these!

Joe Sutphin said...

Wow...I couldn't agree with your reasoning more. It is our responsibility, individually as parents, to guide our own children. My son brought a book home a few years ago that I felt was not age appropriate for him. I did my best not to make him feel terrible for choosing that title for his project and I made another suggestion. He went with my suggestion and ended up reading a 5 novel series due to that decision, and he struggles with dyslexia! But that was my job to encourage him otherwize, not some other angry parent.

Sorrentino said...

Wow. I am both cheering for this parent and booing at the same time. Surely the book they are complaining about is harmless! As of late I freelance illustrate on the side but my current steady employment is at a public elementary school, working as the Media assistant(library assistant). We've had to monitor so much that comes in and out of that place. Keep track of reading levels, content of books and so on. Some of our series have come off the shelf because the material is too intense for our elementary level. A part of me feels that it's not only the responsibility of the parents but also the librarian in charge, to monitor what grade level or age gets to check out which books. Well I'm sorry this has happened to you, your work is always stunning but I'm glad a parent out there in todays world is so involved with their child. Cheers sir!

Adam Rex said...

::SPOILER ALERT FOR FAT VAMPIRE::

A reader asked me a question about FV on an unrelated thread:

http://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=7058774462027111667&postID=2526487708630669917

I'm answering it below, and it's a PRETTY BIG SPOILER.









He dies. But I wanted to give my readers enough leeway to be able to disagree with me if they wanted to.

Nony said...

Well, NOW I want to read FV and I only came to your site b/c I thought the illustrations in BTahBWP were spectacular and funny (but not scary).

Joe Iriarte said...

That was an excellent reply. I often have a hard time keeping my anger in check; when/if I ever face the same thing, I hope I can remember the example you set.

Kate Barsotti said...

Sorry you are facing such messages. You responded beautifully. I hope the recipient takes it to heart.

Adam Rex said...

Thanks, Kate.