Banned Books Week—Weetzie Bat
September 29, 2011 Leave a comment
In honor of Banned Books Week, our staff is sharing their experiences with banned books, and at the end of the week, we’ll give away a copy of Trickster: Native American Tales, A Graphic Collection to one of our randomly selected blog subscribers. To enter the giveaway, just subscribe to our blog via the e-mail subscription link. To enter additional times, you can blog, tweet, or update your status on Facebook with a link over to the giveaway (tag @FulcrumBooks on Twitter and @FulcrumPublishing on Facebook), or “like” Fulcrum Publishing on Facebook! Just be sure to leave a separate comment for each entry and leave the link to each one. The contest ends on October 3.
Weetzie Bat by Francesca Lia Block wasn’t explicitly banned from our school library (it was on the shelves, right next to Witch Baby, which I had read and loved because of Witch Baby’s cowboy boot roller skates). But when I tried to check it out in fourth grade, the librarian aide, after gazing at the back of the book jacket, walked around the counter, took the book out of my hands, and hissed, “Young ladies should not be reading these sex books.”
In an instant, my mild interest in getting this book to read on the bus to Hebrew school grew tenfold. My tiny fourth grade mind was all, SEX book?! Give it here, lady. But the librarian aide wasn’t having it—she pointed back to the stacks and glared at me.
At that point, curiosity had already overtaken the portion of my brain that handles restraint and lawfulness. I had been checking out Stephen King and Michael Crichton books from the military base library all summer without anyone batting an eye, and there was lots of sex and swear words and glorious violence in those. What was so naughty about this book?
I made a big show of shuffling back to the stacks while I secretly slipped the book inside my coat. I hadn’t learned shoplifting from books—that was thanks to my older cousins who taught me to smuggle schnapps out of my grandfather’s garage.
It turns out that Weetzie Bat didn’t compare to the lust and gore of King or Crichton. Instead, that night I read an airy confection of a story, written in dreamlike prose, about two best friends who made a family amidst the new-wave punk/surf scene in Los Angeles. There wasn’t any explicit sex, just the admission that sex exists and that people have it for all kinds of reasons. One of the main characters was gay and talked candidly with another character about AIDS. A central message of the book was about making a family, which can happen in all kinds of ways besides a heteronormative nuclear unit. I’m not sure what the librarian aide saw on the book jacket to react so strongly—perhaps she read the name of one of the characters, Secret Agent Lover Man.
The story didn’t perform any transformative tricks on my young, innocent worldview, but Francesca Lia Block’s surreal, surfer-slang style of writing did inspire me to write my first novel. Which I proceeded to do, on those bus rides to and from Hebrew school. It was a comedy about a fourth-grade girl with superpowers who fights aliens on a battleship and then becomes president of the United States. I mailed it to HarperCollins, handwritten on 50 sheets of wide-ruled paper, sure that I’d be a best-selling author with my own mansion by fifth grade, but they never responded. (Ahem, if you’re reading HarperCollins, I’m still waiting on that response.)
I wasn’t gutsy enough to smuggle the book back into the library. It’s still on my bookshelf with the plastic library jacket and check out card pocket, and on the inside cover is the word CONTRABAND, printed in careful block letters by the hand of a fourth-grade thief.
Dani Perea is the marketing and sales associate at Fulcrum Publishing. Ever since working in a comic shop as a teenager, she has bought her books, instead of stealing them. When she’s not wearing her sales and marketing top hat, she enjoys punk rock, a rousing game of tumbleweed chasin’, and gazing at vast desert skies filled with stars, preferably all at once.
- Banned Books Week—The Catcher in the Rye (fulcrumbookblog.com)
- Banned Books Week—In the Night Kitchen (fulcrumbookblog.com)
- Weetzie Bat by Francesca Lia Block (fortitudeandpatience.wordpress.com)
- Banned Books & LGBTQ Characters (bonjourcass.com)