Sonderbooks Book Review of

You Can't Say That

Writers for young people talk about censorship, free expression, and the stories they have to tell.

compiled and edited by Leonard S. Marcus

You Can't Say That

Writers for young people talk about censorship, free expression, and the stories they have to tell

compiled and edited by Leonard S. Marcus

Review posted October 3, 2023.
Candlewick Press, 2021. 220 pages.
Review written September 13, 2023, from a library book.
Starred Review

I'm not completely sure what took me so long to get this book read, but in 2023, the topic of censorship seems even more timely than it was in 2021. This book helps teens understand what censorship takes from them.

Leonard Marcus here collects interviews with thirteen distinguished writers for young people whose books have often been banned. Those writers are Matt de la Peña, Robie H. Harris, Susan Kuklin, David Levithan, Meg Medina, Lesléa Newman, Katherine Paterson, Dav Pilkey, Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell, Sonya Sones, R. L. Stine, and Angie Thomas.

This is an examination of censorship from authors' perspectives. Here's a part from the introduction:

Here, then, from thirteen accomplished authors for young people are fresh perspectives on why writers write their books in the way they choose, regardless of the consequences; and on what can happen to a book once the author lets go of it and it enters the public square of our country and world's wildly divergent panoply of ideals, beliefs, and expectations.

Here, too, is a chance to examine at close range what it means when any person or group, however well intentioned, seeks to limit the writing or reading lives of others.

I ended up reading this book little by little, one author interview at a time, getting inspired by each one's passion for art and creativity. I think this look into their hearts will give anyone pause who wants to pull books from shelves.

Here's something from former National Ambassador for Young People's Literature, Katherine Paterson:

When the Berlin Wall fell and Communism seemed to be on the wane, I turned to my husband and said half in jest, "Now they'll start coming after me." He didn't know what I was talking about, so I explained, "There are people who have to have an enemy." For a while after that, I did see more challenges to my books.

May this discussion of young people and art and on bringing difficult topics to young people shed light on the world of ideas and the power of reading.