It’s hard to believe that, in 2014, we’re still banning books. My personal opinion is that books can’t ever really be inappropriate, and that banning them, cutting them from reading lists, or discouraging kids from reading them does way more harm than good. However, there are plenty of people who don’t agree with me, and those people include the members of the Cape Henlopen Board of Education in Delaware.
The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth was on the Cape Henlopen High School summer reading list. . . that is, until the school board decided to remove it. Their reasoning? The book simply contained too many f-bombs. While that sort of makes sense (although, really, shouldn’t they have figured that out before they put it on the reading list in the first place?), it all starts to fall apart when you consider the subject matter of the book. Cameron Post, a girl from a small town in Montana, is sent to a Christian “conversion camp” to be “cured” of her homosexuality.
As Malinda Lo points out in her excellent post on the subject in Diversity in YA, “Among the other books on the summer reading list are The Fault in Our Stars by John Green and Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell, both of which include the word f*** as well as other words that could be considered profanities. In fact, using curse words is not uncommon in fiction — especially fiction that seeks to represent the real world.”
She’s absolutely right; if these other books that feature profanity are considered a-okay, what exactly is it about The Miseducation of Cameron Post that makes it so unacceptable? Could it possibly be that the book is about a lesbian exploring her sexuality?
Not to be too flippant about this, but. . . .duh. What makes this decision especially heartbreaking is that The Miseducation of Cameron Post is a truly beautiful book.
The Miseducation of Cameron Post is lengthy (almost 500 pages), but it quickly sucks you into Cameron’s world in Miles City, Montana. Cameron suffers the heartbreak of losing her parents early on, and after that she lives with her grandmother and her ultra-religious Aunt Ruth. Cameron knows she’s into girls, but she also knows that no one in Miles City, especially not her family, would understand. And when everyone finds out, she gets shipped off to God’s Promise, a camp that’s supposed to “un-gay” her through the power of prayer, therapy, and learning about traditional gender roles. However, this isn’t a simple “issue” book with a clear cut premise. The book is full of beautiful descriptions of the Montana landscape, first love, and heartbreak. It’s a pretty astounding book, and one that I’m glad I had the chance to read.
What’s more, it’s one that LGBTQ teens (especially those who don’t have a lot of support) definitely need. As Emily M. Danforth herself explains, she’s heard from readers who tell her that, “it would have been such a comfort to me and a learning experience to me and would have made me feel a sense of community if I had this book in high school.”
I get that the Cape Henlopen Board of Education has the right to offer (and remove) whatever books they want on their summer reading list. And I even think that they really believe they’re doing what’s best for their students by making sure the book isn’t part of their curriculum (just like Cameron’s relatives really seem to believe that sending her to a conversion camp will help her). The thing is, though, that I don’t think removing this book from the summer reading list is helping students at all. Reading a little bit of profanity more than likely won’t hurt a high school student, and honestly, most students hear more than their share of profanity just by walking through the halls or riding the bus. And, believe it or not, reading about a lesbian character falling in love, having physical relationships, and getting her heart broken isn’t going to traumatize anyone, either. On the contrary, reading about Cameron’s ordeals could provide a lot of comfort to any LGBTQ students feeling the same way, or just broaden the horizons of students who don’t identify with Cameron’s point of view.
According to this article, the board will be discussing the book again on July 24th. Let’s all hope that they make the right decision!
If you want to know more about the book, be sure to check out Emily M. Danforth’s website and watch the book trailer. You can even peek inside the dollhouse Cameron spends so much time working on! I hope you guys all check out The Miseducation of Cameron Post. If you’ve read it, let me know what you think! And, as always, I love to hear your suggestions for books to feature in Young Adult Education. Leave a comment, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or find me on Twitter @KerryAnn.