Monday, 28 September 2015

Celebrate the Freedom to Read with Mere Joyce #BannedBooksWeek

September 27th - October 3rd

It's BANNED BOOKS WEEK and we're recognizing this important week with BANNED BOOK features from our authors.

Please welcome Mere Joyce, author of BLANK CANVAS.

When I was in grade twelve, I had an awesome English teacher, and a not so awesome school librarian.

For our big project of the year, we had to choose a theme, and two books to compare within the framework of that theme. My theme was isolation, and I knew from the very beginning I wanted one of my books to be Stephen King’s Carrie.

Yes, it’s horror (and not generally classified as YA, even though the main character is a teen), and yes it has gore and language and other things some people dislike. But you know what? It also has complex characters, terrifying situations, and a few hard truths about being a teen. Plus, it’s a great story! It was the perfect choice for my project, and my teacher agreed. The librarian, however, did not.

I still remember the two of them arguing about it, and I can recall the librarian calling Carrie trash. I’m lucky my teacher refused to give in, that he let me read the book I wanted, but I’ve never forgotten how incredibly insensitive the librarian was to my choice, and to what I considered to be a good read.

I’ll be perfectly honest. If I don’t like a book, I don’t read it. So in the days of high school essay projects, the books often pushed on me by well-meaning teachers sat unread on my desk. Sure, they were great literary classics, but they weren’t what I wanted to read. And if I hadn’t had good teachers and parents who always allowed me to read whatever I wanted at home, I never would have developed the deep love of reading and writing I have as an adult. I like those literary classics now, but I didn’t then. Yet every book I’ve ever read has helped shape the strong, passionate reader I am today.

Now, in addition to being a writer, I’m also a librarian. And I’ve never told a teen (or anyone else, for that matter!) that their reading choices are inappropriate or trashy. Many people still don’t understand how terrifying a concept book censorship is. When you tell someone their reading choices aren’t good enough, you tell them they aren’t good enough, either.

Never censor someone’s reading. There’s value in reading anything, and if a teen wants to read a book, any book, it’s something to be celebrated! (Oh, and did you know Carrie was one of the top 100 most frequently challenged books of the 1990s? I have a feeling there were other teens like me out there, struggling to be allowed to read what they wanted, probably without the aid of awesome teachers and parents like mine...)

About the author:

Mere Joyce lives in Ontario, Canada. As both a writer and a librarian, she understands the importance of reading, and the impact the right story can have. Mere is a member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, and holds a Masters of Library and Information Science from the University of Western Ontario.
When she’s not writing, reading, or recommending books, Mere likes to watch movies with her husband, play games with her son, go for walks with her dog, and drink lots of earl grey tea with orange chocolate on the side.

Mere's first novel, YA Contemporary BLANK CANVAS, is now available.


  1. It's interesting how people can be so insensitive. As someone who loves books, I'm glad your situation had a good ending.

    1. Some people have a really hard time seeing things from a different perspective. Sadly, this event was something that has always stuck with me. Happily, it’s made me more aware of censorship issues, and has helped make me a better librarian!

  2. Thank goodness you became a librarian with an open mind. Great story about your experience seeing one in action who didn't have one of those.