Staying asleep via censorship

read booksFreedom to Read Week, February 22-28, 2015.

Entry#14: author Natalee Caple on waking from the deep sleep of censorship.


My eight-year-old daughter has a legitimate grievance against children’s books and films. It bothers her that they always have boys and girls fall in love. She talks back to the television and throws books on the floor. There are numerous levels to her distaste but at the core is that she can hear the silence.

She knows the world is not like this. It’s boring, she says. It’s all the same. She feels restless in her anger. The princesses are getting stronger, the stories are becoming about other relationships — Brave was about a fierce mother and daughter, Frozen about love and responsibility between sisters.

But still, Imogen says, boys and boys fall in love, girls and girls fall in love. Sometimes people aren’t exactly boys or girls.

The Sleeper and the SpindleShe’s completely right, of course. I look for books for her, not instruction-type narratives but just stories with more diversity. At Christmas we ordered a new Neil Gaiman from the UK (it wasn’t yet available in North America) titled The Sleeper and the Spindle – it’s a retelling of Sleeping Beauty in which a Queen kisses the princess awake. When we told Imogen about it she was so happy.

It occurs to me that Freedom to Read is all about the right to see your world reflected back to you. To imagine yourself in every role without having to break your self-image to fit. Censorship is a great forgetting, a demand for mass sleep.

Now that the elementary schools will be teaching a broader sex education, new materials will have to be made. I read online about how terrified many parents are that these materials will change their children.

But Imogen and I are very happy because those books and films or whatever form those media will take will never corrupt any form; instead they will wake the masses from shifting nightmares and give them the ease of things seen in kind light.


Natalee CapleeNatalee Caple‘s most recent novel, In Calamity’s Wake, was published to international acclaim in 2013. Her poetry collection A More Tender Ocean was shortlisted for the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award. Her book of short stories, The Heart is its own Reason, was called “moving…arresting” by The New York Times. Her novel Mackerel Sky was called “breathlessly good” by the Washington Post. Natalee’s work has been optioned for film, nominated for a National Magazine Award, the Journey Prize, the Bronwen Wallace Award and the Eden Mills Fiction Award.