Censored

When I went to my writer’s group the other day (note I’m calling it mine already 😉 ), the topic of what we would do as writers if asked to change our novel in a way we aren’t comfortable with. For example, upping the violence or sex quotient because it will sell more books. It made for a lively dialogue and has made me think a lot about keeping the integrity of the book vs. nabbing an agent. While I haven’t been faced with this dilemma, it seems as though it’s become a hot topic of late. Sometimes banning books doesn’t always happen after it’s published. Sometimes books are banned, partially or entirely, because there’s a stigma or preconception that certain elements sell and others don’t.  And since Banned Book Week  is almost upon us (Sept. 24 – Oct. 1) I wanted to see if anyone’s ever experienced this or know someone who has.

Yesterday, an article on being censored popped up in my email. The article was written by co-authors Rachel Manija Brown and Sherwood Smith relating to their experiences in trying to find an agent for their post-apocalyptic YA novel, Stranger. Their novel has a main character who is gay, has a boyfriend, and *egad* kisses him! They spoke to an agent who would sign them on the condition that the character was made straight. They refused to change their character on the basis that heterosexual couple sell more books and the agent refused to sign them. Banning a book before it even gets a chance to hit the shelves!

I’ve found that a lot of the covers of my YA novels feature waifish, white, flawless girls on their covers. And while I understand that many of these have central characters as white, females, not all do. I read a book, that shall not be named, recently where the female protagonist was severely physically flawed. The cover? An alabaster-skinned girl with no noticeable physical defects. For some reason publishers think that us as readers aren’t willing to invest in any cover with a less than model perfect, white person gracing it. I was way more frustrated when I found out that the heroine was flawed because I felt like I’d been tricked by the cover.

I do think it’s an interesting topic of conversation as I’ve been tempted to change some characters based on what I think will sell and I think that’s a shame.

YA authors asked to ‘straighten’ gay characters

Authors Say Agents Try to “Straighten” Gay Characters in YA

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