Sunday, December 19, 2021

The Book Banning Trend; Transcript of PFLAG National Featuring Deborah Caldwell-Stone, Malinda Lo and Maia Kobabe

"Something to Talk About Live: You Can’t Read This! The Book Banning Trend," by PFLAG National, YouTube, 9 December 2021
Transcript of "Something to Talk About Live: You Can’t Read This! The Book Banning Trend," by PFLAG NationalYouTube, 9 December 2021, featuring Liz Owen and Jean-Marie Navetta of PFLAG, Deborah Caldwell-Stone, Esq., of American Library Association, and authors Malinda Lo and Maia Kobabe.  Graphic at right is from source and video itself is embedded below.  Hyperlinks added.

Liz Owen (00:00): Hello everyone, welcome to Something to Talk About Live. My name is Liz Owen. My pronouns are she and her, and I'm the director of communications for PFLAG National. It is really, really great to have you with us. Uh, I don't wanna waste any time because this is such an important and timely conversation. I'm gonna turn it right over to my friend and colleague, Jean-Marie Navetta

Jean-Marie Navetta (00:22): Hey Liz, how's it going? 

Liz Owen (00:23): I'm good. How are you? 

Jean-Marie Navetta (00:25): I'm so excited about this conversation, I can hardly sit still. 

Liz Owen (00:28): I'm gonna get the heck outta here. 

Jean-Marie Navetta (00:30): Yes, so I can dig it all jiggly around here and get very excited and talk about banned books. So thank you, Liz. We'll talk to you later. 

Liz Owen (00:36): You bet. 

Jean-Marie Navetta (00:38): Hey everybody. My name is Jean-Marie Navetta. I'm the director of learning and inclusion at PFLAG National. My pronouns are she and ella. Um, and every single week we get together to talk about something related to LGBTQ inclusion, and so this is a very interesting show. Um, you know, a few weeks ago, um, my colleague Greg Rokisky, who is our social media guru, um, came to me and said, "I have this idea. There's this whole thing with these books being banned and I think we should talk about it." And he started to construct the list and construct what this could look like. And I'm so excited that this is really happening. 

Jean-Marie Navetta (01:11): Um, so for those of you who like to read the article and the questions, um, and read along, you can go to And that is where you will find this week- weeks article which is entitled, "Librarians Are Resisting Censorship of Children's Books by LGBTQ+ and Black Authors." And that appeared in "The 19th" and it was written by Nadra Nittle. Um, so to have this conversation, we have three absolutely incredible guests. Um, we have first, um, Deborah Caldwell-Stone, who is the director of the American Library Association's Office for Intellectual Freedom. We have Maia Kobabe, who is the author of "Gender Queer: A Memoir," and we have Malinda Lo, the author of "Last Night at the Telegraph Club," which was just named one of the National Book Award winners for, uh, Young People's Literature. So welcome everybody. And thank you for being here. 

Maia Kobabe (02:04): Hello. 

Malinda Lo (02:04): Hello. 

Deborah Caldwell-Stone, Esq. (02:05): Hello everyone. Thanks for having me. 

Jean-Marie Navetta (02:07): Oh, thank you so much for being here and for joining us for this really, really important conversation. So I wanna get right into the content. Um, so for those of you who haven't read the article yet, it is a pretty shocking piece when you actually get into some of the numbers and the ways this effort is actually showing up. So, Deborah, I was wondering if we could start with you. So one of the interesting things, and by interesting, I mean kind of horrifying things, um, but I saw in the article was that the ALLA, ALA had reported that between, uh, if we looked at September 2020 and September 2021, um, the reports of attempts to ban books had gone up about 60%, which is kind of an outrageous number for one year. So what's happening out there, and what do you think is behind the sudden urgency for this effort? We know this isn't a new effort, but it does seem to be ramping up. 

Deborah Caldwell-Stone, Esq. (02:57): No, I think we're seeing, um, the results of a fairly loosely, uh, I'll be fair, it's loosely organized campaign among a number of advocacy groups, uh, to impose a kind of, uh, orthodoxy on what's available to young people in school libraries and public libraries. Um, we're seeing groups like MassResistance, the anti-LGBTQ group, get involved with challenges. Um, we're seeing, uh, Heritage Action, which is part of Heritage Foundation, Parents Defending Education, Moms for Liberty, and they're all targeting specific books. Um, they're target, you know, it seems like the main target for their ire are books that deal with the experiences of LGBTQIA persons, um, or that are meant for families led by same sex couples or things like that. 

Deborah Caldwell-Stone, Esq. (03:48): Um, what's really insidious about their, uh, efforts is that their effort to frame any materials dealing with gay, queer, transgender persons as inherently obscene for minors. And when I say minors, they're talking about anyone under the age of 18, so that there's no accommodation for adolescents, young adults preparing for adulthood at all. And some of their rhetoric makes it sound like books that are intended for high schoolers are in the hands of five year olds. Um, and the that's been remarkably effective as well. So we're seeing elected officials join the bandwagon. Uh, the governors of Texas and South Carolina have both promised to erase quote pornographic materials unquote from school libraries and public libraries. Um, we're seeing the pa, uh, proposal of legislation that would make it possible for, uh, librarians and educators to be criminally charged for providing materials to young people that parents don't approve of. 

Deborah Caldwell-Stone, Esq. (04:50): Um, and we're seeing, uh, really this rhetoric, this framing around these issues, that's being really destructive. We're seeing equal efforts as well, targeting, uh, materials, dealing with racism, the black American experience, black history, it seems to be a twin campaign that feeds off of each other, both, uh, LGBTQ materials and materials that they're targeting under that, you know, false rubric of Critical Race Theory. Um, and, and we, we sometimes see challenges, uh, brought by one group to both sets of materials at one time at school board meetings. 

Jean-Marie Navetta (05:27): Yeah, it is. It's been very intense. Um, and, and, and you just keep seeing more and more in the headlines. Um, you mentioned something about the age of, of readers and how this is being portrayed. Um, Malinda, your book is recommended for readers, um, grades nine and up, so it's hardly a children's book. Um, could the level of resistance to your book actually surprise you given who it was written for? 

Malinda Lo (05:53): Um, well, you know, I think the resistance has only really popped up this fall. So "Telegraph Club," um, came out in January and it's done really well over the past year. Like it's, it's sold really well, it's garnered a lot of, um, awards and I mean, and critical acclaim. It won the National Book Award. I mean, I think that the reason it got on these lists is because it's been doing pretty well. Um, I, I think that the, the thing to remember is that, um, you know, book challenges are kind of random in the past, like it's not clear why certain books are challenged. It's not clear that people actually have read the books that are being challenged. And oftentimes, yes, I can see you all nodding. (laughs) 

Malinda Lo (06:36): I can, you know, know, oftentimes the ones that are challenged are the best sellers, because those are the ones that people are aware of. Um, so, so far, uh, these challenges have not affected "Last Night at the Telegraph Club" at all, as far as I can tell, but there is the issue that, um, overt book banning is not the only way it can cause harm. I mean, the... This, they have this chilling effect on- 

Deborah Caldwell-Stone, Esq. (07:02): Absolutely. 

Malinda Lo (07:02): ... teachers and librarians that can lead them to self censor and not acquire books at all out of fear that they will be challenged. And, you know, people have their jobs on the line and I can understand why they would do this, but it's a very... It's just a hard problem, you know, because we can't fight... 

Deborah Caldwell-Stone, Esq. (07:20): Absolutely. 

Malinda Lo (07:20): ... We can't resist what we don't know about. 

Jean-Marie Navetta (07:22): Exactly. 

Malinda Lo (07:22): So if they're not even buying the books, what, what can we do? 

Deborah Caldwell-Stone, Esq. (07:25): Yeah. And, and that's really the intent behind some of these efforts is, you know, we actually saw library staff charged with pandering obscenity to minors, um, in Wyoming. And now the prosecutor, fortunately, dismissed those charges, didn't, uh, act on them. But, you know, if you're an educator, if you're a librarian and you know that this is going on, you know, and especially in rural communities, small towns, and things like that, it's really easy to decide that you want to avoid the controversy and not acquire the book at all. And that's a real shame because we know that in those communities, that there's always young people who want or need the information, want to know about these experiences, or exploring their own gender identity, sexual identity issues, and they really need to be able to reach out and see themselves reflected in library collections. And when that doesn't happen, it, it just, impoverishes their whole experience, educational experience, their whole, whole life, and really defeats the whole purpose of what libraries are all about. 

Jean-Marie Navetta (08:30): It, it's true. You know, it was interesting, um, getting ready for today's show, I read both of the books. Couldn't put either one of them down. (laughs) If you haven't read these books, you absolutely should make it a, your business to start reading them there, just so good. And interestingly enough, um, Maia, I read about your book before I actually read your book. And so I went into it sort of wondering what was I going to see compared to what article says, and when I got to some of those places, it... When you read the context, when you read the whole thing, I, I literally could not figure out what was going on. So, um, you wrote a great, uh, well wrote and drew, um, a great "Washington Post," um, editorial about, um, the response to "Gender Queer," which is just so amazing. What did it feel like to know that your personal story has suddenly made you this kind of lightning rod, um, for other people's resistance? 

Maia Kobabe (09:21): Yeah, it was very strange. Um, I, my book has been out for even longer than Malinda's. It actually came out in 2019. It's been out for two and a half years at this point. And when it first came out, I did brace myself for some resistance. I know that it's really common for queer stories to receive push back online. So I kind of like braced myself a little bit for that. But when it didn't come in the first two years, I thought this is probably fine, it's... I'm safe now. Um, and then I really feel like what's happened is that this book, my book, Malinda's book, and a lot of other books have just been caught up in what really feels like a viral social media moment. And I absolutely do think that the majority of the people challenging the books have not read them. 

Maia Kobabe (10:00): So for me, I'm really not taking it as a judgment on my work or on my book, I'm really taking it as like my book is, uh, particularly vulnerable because it is illustrated, so it's really easy to flip it open and grab the singular, um, visual images that people disagree with out of context and really easy to like, get them viral online, maybe easier than it would be like a, a paragraph of like written text. Um, so huh I mean, it's, I- I'm not happy about it obviously. It's been, it's been a very distracting and kind of upsetting time. Um, but on the other hand, like Malinda said, it's like, it hasn't hurt the book at all. The sales are up, it's doing great. Many people have reached out to me in the past couple of weeks to say, "I saw your book was banned and therefore I decided to read it and I really enjoyed it," which is like a weird little silver lining. 

Maia Kobabe (10:48): And really what I'm coming to see is these book bans don't really hurt the book or the author, what they hurt is the communities. It's, it's like, I'm when I'm seeing it as is a community attacking itself. And like Deborah said, impoverishing itself. 

Jean-Marie Navetta (11:01): Yeah. Yeah. I, you know, I couldn't help as I read both of your books, thinking about, uh, as I've joked a million years ago, being in high school, there were no books like yours (laughs) on the shelves. And I always go back, you know, I, I have these moments where I go back and I think 15, 16 year old me, how would it have been different now? And I think these would've... These kind of books would've been lifelines. Um, Deborah, you know, this whole idea of what appears in schools, what youth have access to, the role that their parents have in controlling this has certainly become very much of a political tool. In fact, a lot of people have put, have pointed to Glenn Youngkin's campaign in Virginia, which, one of his commercials actually featured, uh, a student reading, uh, Toni Morrison book, um, as one of the reasons that he was successful there that this, this whole theme, this drum that is being beat, um, is, succee-, you know, is why he won. Do you think we're gonna see more of that, um, in the future as we head towards another round of elections? 

Deborah Caldwell-Stone, Esq. (11:57): Absolutely. I think that, um, I, I, I would actually argue that it wasn't one of the, um, primary reasons why Youngkin won his election, but I think that what, the lesson they took from that it's a way of activating, um, suburban women, that trended toward voting for Biden in the presidential election, and to draw them in, and to create controversy around that, um, and, and activate the that particular set of voters. And so we're seeing these groups, Moms for Liberty, um, or Parents Defending Education, they're doing anything, but, but they're out there, they're recruiting, they're organizing, um, uh, campaigns. We're actually seeing efforts to target and recall school board members who vote to support intellectual freedom, to support access to these materials. Um, and so I think it's going to be a real factor in elections. 

Deborah Caldwell-Stone, Esq. (12:56): And you can look at the, um, actions of the one state rep in Texas [NOTE: Matt Krause] who created that list of 800 and fif- 849 bad books. Um, and it's drawing him attention and otherwise he would be a nobody in the race for Attorney General in Texas. It it's got that, did exactly what he wanted, which was to elevate his profile and get him attention. And he didn't really ask for anything to happen with these books, he just asked, "Do you have these books in your library?" And the sad thing is, is we're now hearing from school districts in, um, in Texas, that there are a number of 'em using that list to identify and pull books simply because they appeared on his list without anything more. 

Deborah Caldwell-Stone, Esq. (13:42): And it it's in of course the majority of the books were either LGBTQIA themed, or dealing with, uh, race or racism. Uh, so, you know, it's, uh, you know, I think that we'll certainly see it, and we're certainly already seeing discussions of state legislatures. We know that there will be a bill pending in Georgia, a bill's already been introduced in Florida, uh, all aimed at providing tools for censorship, uh, aimed at what are called diverse materials, diverse topics in schools and libraries. 

Jean-Marie Navetta (14:15): Yeah. It's, it's definitely on the move. Malinda, you da, your book wh, it, it, wasn't just about, um, uh, a, you know, LGBTQ characters or anything, it had a lot of themes. It was coming of age, it was about race, it was about sexual orientation, it was about expression, it, it all came into play. Um, do you think it was this combination that led to so much ire? Because I have to admit as I read it, I thought I really have a hard time putting my finger on any one thing that I would call problematic. (laughs) I mean, it was so many different themes that we need people to, to learn, uh, to learn about. So do you think it was the combination, or do you think there was one thing that really attracted attention? 

Malinda Lo (14:54): Uh, well, first of all, I wanna, I wanna note that I have not faced anywhere near the amount of, uh, book challenges and resistance as Maia has with "Gender Queer." Like my books have always kind of floated under the radar, I think maybe because they're novels about queer girls and that doesn't seem as, as threatening as novels about trans and gender queer people. Um, it's, it's an interesting situation, um, to find my books in now, because as Deborah mentioned, that list of 850 books includes, uh, my first novel "Ash," which was published in 2009. 

Maia Kobabe (15:30): Oh my gosh. 

Malinda Lo (15:30): I mean, that book has been out for so long. Uh, it's a lesbian retelling of "Cinderella" that has, I don't know. I mean, they could... That actually was attempted, somebody did try to challenge that when it first came out, but that it didn't work. Um, so I, I think that, again, the problem is they're not really reading these books- 

Maia Kobabe (15:50): No. 

Malinda Lo (15:50): ... in the ways that readers read them. You know what I mean? Like I follow this, um, researcher on Twitter, Richard Price, and he's been getting some of the complaints from the school districts where these books are being challenged, including one school district where "Last Night of the Telegraph Club" is on their list of pending books to discuss. They've already removed Maia's book from their school district there. Um, but so Richard Price received these complaints and they say nothing on them when they ask, why are you challenging this book? It just says parental complaint, that's it? 

Maia Kobabe (16:21): Yeah. 

Malinda Lo (16:21): There's no detail. So I'm really not convinced that, uh, they know why they're challenging these books. (laughs) 

Deborah Caldwell-Stone, Esq. (16:28): I can confirm that because we, uh, we solicit reports from educators and librarians across the country, which goes into our most challenged book lists. And we're getting reports particularly about "Gender Queer" that, um, repeat the very same language from a social media post. 

Maia Kobabe (16:49): Yeah. 

Deborah Caldwell-Stone, Esq. (16:50): So we know that they're challenging this based on social media reports that they're reading or outrage articles in, you know, right wing press, and they're not actually reading the book. Uh and and you know, it's not uncommon for that to happen, but this really is... This is, part of this is fueled by social media and outrage and and deliberate... 

Jean-Marie Navetta (17:11): It is. It definitely is. And it ah, in some ways I'm surprised by what you just said, and in other ways, I'm, I'm not [inaudible 00:17:16] zero ways. So Maia, you know, we've been talking about sort of the front side of this, you know, what the bans look like and what making us inaccessible can look like. But, um, your book, as you said, it's been out a little while. Um, we are not talking about the impact that it's had on the readers. Um, and it's really significant. Could you talk a little bit about some of the feedback that you've received from readers, especially the younger ones, um, and, and what that's been like. 

Maia Kobabe (17:43): I've been getting so many messages from readers. I mean, ever since the beginning, I, when the book first came out, I was getting, uh, multiple specifically Instagram DMs. Yes, so from likely from young people, like a week, and a lot of people saying things like, "This is the first time I've ever seen myself represented in a book," or like, "I had... I've never heard this described this way," or, "I didn't even have the language to describe this." And then my favorite type of messages are when people say, I, like, "I shared this with my parents, and then now they like understand me better." Or like, "It's opened up conversations we hadn't been able to have before," or sometimes the reverse and sometimes like people say, "I'm a non-binary parent and I share this with my child." And that's like, really, just like so heartwarming and so lovely. 

Maia Kobabe (18:23): And there has been an uptick of messages again, since like the recent banning and some of them yes, are people saying, I, I heard about this because of the ban. And then I think other peoples maybe are seeing it, yeah, maybe slightly more prominently displayed in a bookstore or something and, um, and reaching out. Or, or librarians and teachers saying like, "I have this book in my classroom and I'm gonna make sure it stays in the classroom and on the shelf." So that's really heartwarming and heartening. 

Jean-Marie Navetta (18:48): What, what, I I I, you know, opposition is typically not listening to us and they don't particularly care about what's going on, but what is the thing that you wish that they could see or hear about books like yours? 'Cause I think they're so riled up in maybe not even reading the book and just getting to the ban, what are they missing that they're not listening to? 

Maia Kobabe (19:08): I think that they're missing how like smart young people are, and how most, especially like teen and middle grade readers, if they come across this type of material, it's often 'cause they're seeking it out because they're already questioning these topics because they want to know things about this. And that includes topics of Critical Race Theory or civil rights, students rights, and you know, sexual health and abortion, which are all topics that also showed up on that 850 book list. Like teens are so smart and they're so curious and they really want knowledge about the world, but sometimes they feel too like shy or hesitant to like ask like a parent or a teacher directly. 

Maia Kobabe (19:44): And so, um, and I also know like as a teen, a couple of times I did come across a book that felt like it wasn't quite right for me, but I was very good at being like, I'm not ready for this book and setting it aside. And I think that they're not counting on, yeah, just how smart and thoughtful young readers are and that they are ready... If they're ready for this material, like they will know. Yeah. And then, and just the fact that you can learn so much from books that are both also about people that are completely different from you and it can really like open up windows of empathy. 

Jean-Marie Navetta (20:12): Yes. I have to know while I was reading yours, I was actually saying this to one of my colleagues earlier as somebody who's who identifies incredibly as incredibly binary, cisgender and gay, (laughs) there were so many parts of it where I found myself saying, I, I know what that feels. Oh my goodness. I, I have that too. And I, and it, it was such an eyeopener to me, even as an adult, or at least that's what I'm told, to have these moments. And again, it left me with that wonder 15, 16 year old me wishing that she had that book. So, uh, we have about 10 minutes left and I wanna spend time talking about what we should be doing, um because PFLAGers are, um, nothing, if not acts, uh, action oriented. 

Jean-Marie Navetta (20:49): So Deborah, I wanna start with you. So how can everyday advocates be of service here? Um, how can they help defend librarians, defend the selections that are coming in in libraries? 'Cause I, I was listening to the point that you started with, that this isn't just about banning, but this is sometimes about intimidating librarians from bringing certain content in. So what should people be doing, um, with libraries and librarians? 

Deborah Caldwell-Stone, Esq. (21:12): In the present moment, start showing up at board meetings, I'm dead serious. We've, you know, we've... I think we've gotten into the habit of kind of ignoring small, local elected boards, school boards, library boards, and they're taking advantage of that. They're targeting those groups. And so we need people to show up and speak up at board meetings. More importantly, we need people to show up and vote in these elections. We do know that they're organizing deliberately to take over seats with an anti, um uh, excuse me, a pro censorship agenda. And we've already had it happen in three library boards out west where individuals who vowed to scrub the library of LGBTQ materials were elected to the library board. And because boards are the decision makers, they set the policy, they make the decisions, they may well have the power to do that if someone doesn't go to court and challenge it. 

Deborah Caldwell-Stone, Esq. (22:07): So get involved with local elections and pay attention to your local press. If you don't have any, pay attention to your local media. Join local, uh, if you've got a friends group for your local libraries, if you've got a PTO, that's another place where you can make a real impact in, uh, changing the rhetoric around the schools. Because these people get attention because they're the loudest voices. 

Maia Kobabe (22:29): Yes. 

Deborah Caldwell-Stone, Esq. (22:29): They need counter voices. 

Jean-Marie Navetta (22:31): Yeah. 

Deborah Caldwell-Stone, Esq. (22:31): So I guess what we're saying right now is, you know, engage, you know, engage in your, your local community and be involved with your schools and your libraries. Um, if there's a support group, join it, um, and pay attention to what's going on, participate in elections. Better yet, stand for election. Stand for those seats, compete for them, offer an alternative vision so that people know that censorship isn't the lesson we wanna be teaching our young people today. It's really, uh, it it's really as fundamental as that, but also, um, and, and, and pulling out a little bit further, state legislatures. You know, and I know that it seems like we're powerless that we've been gerrymandered to death, but even a few voices at a hearing can help turn away censorship legislation at this point. 

Jean-Marie Navetta (23:19): I know it would be unprofessional for me to cheer, but just know in my head I'm cheering right now at every word that you just said. (laughs) Get involved in your school board, this has been a strategy at my position for years, we need to play the same game, but even better. Um, so, um, both Mel, um, Malinda and Maia, I would love to hear from you, um, from the perspective of content creators. So what can advocates do to protect books like yours, um, what can parents and students do? And maybe Malinda, we can start with you and then Maia. 

Malinda Lo (23:46): Sure. You know, I, I think that something that I am still very concerned about is this self censorship, this quiet censorship, where the books are just not acquired. And I really want to encourage parents to talk to your kids, you know, ask them what they're reading at school, ask them if they, you know, it depends on your relationship with your kid, but ask them, you know, if they hear about anything like this going on at their school. You know, because the biggest problem is that we don't know what's happening. 

Maia Kobabe (24:14): Yeah. 

Malinda Lo (24:14): So if you find out about a book challenge at your school or an instance when a book has been silently removed, you know, get on your social media networks and tell people about it, to tell your local community, tell people on your Facebook groups. You know, I tell me. 

Deborah Caldwell-Stone, Esq. (24:30): Tell the ALA. (shouting) 

Malinda Lo (24:31): I wanna know. Tell... 

Jean-Marie Navetta (24:32): Tell the ALA. 

Malinda Lo (24:36): ... Tell the ALA. 

Maia Kobabe (24:36): Yeah, there's a form on the ALA website, like right in. 

Malinda Lo (24:37): Yeah. Tell people because that's the only way we'll know. Like a lot of times people ask me if my books have been banned and I'm just like, "Well, I only know if it's in the news." (laughs ) 

Maia Kobabe (24:46): Yeah. 

Malinda Lo (24:47): You know, because people don't necessarily come and tell the author. And I can't speak for other authors, but if you find about me, tell me (laughs), I wanna know. I'm, I'm, I'm, I'm on Twitter, just, just tell me. And so, you know, spread the news. I think we all have to share this information. 

Maia Kobabe (25:03): Right. 

Jean-Marie Navetta (25:04): I think so much of this happens in darkness. I mean, people just are not... It it's, it's not seen, and so it slides by. Maia, what about you? What do you think? 

Maia Kobabe (25:11): Yeah, I was just gonna say about my... The first time I heard about "Gender Queer" being banned was through the ALA's Banned Book field report from 2020. And there must have been a couple instances in 2020 that I literally never heard about until the book report, field report came out in September of this year. Um, I would say, yeah, um, checking the book out from the library and so that the librarian's like, "No, all this is in circulation and people are interested in this, and then if there's not a copy available of either of our books or any book that you see, that's banned that you wanna try reading." Um, every library has a some- something on the website where you can request a purchase and you can like request that they buy it. And I think librarians seeing those purchase requests, like it's sort of like, uh, that is also almost like an email or like a direct voice of them knowing like, oh, people in the community are interested in this and they want this available and they want to read this. 

Jean-Marie Navetta (25:58): Excellent. Excellent. Um, I, I really appreciate that, 'cause I think so many people, um, often feel powerless. I mean, sometimes this feels like the train is left the station and I think they're is always an opportunity to get it back. And I think these are really tangible suggestions. Things like requesting the book, letting people know that there in, in fact is demand for this content... 

Maia Kobabe (26:16): Yeah. 

Jean-Marie Navetta (26:17): ... Um, is, is so absolutely critical. So, um, I'm going to take my book nerd privilege, um, moment here, um, which is asking all of you, um, to tell us something fantastic that you have been reading lately. Um, because I think one of the best things that we can do with our platforms, isn't just talk about the problems, but talk about what is going right and what we are really enjoying. Um, and so, um, I'm gonna start again with Deborah so we can go around. 

Deborah Caldwell-Stone, Esq. (26:40): Oh, huh, I have to say I've been so busy, I haven't had a lot of time for recreational reading for the last few months. Um, but actual highlight a book I still cherish, and that's "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian." And it was just, uh, a glimpse into a world I didn't know anything about and, and the experiences of, uh, the protagonist and, and, you know, navigating the two worlds, his life on the res and, and the life in the white high school and things like that. Um, and I just enjoyed it. I remember vividly, uh, working on a challenge in a small community where all the young men in the community, all the 14 year olds were carrying the book because it was the first time they'd ever read a book that accurately reflected their lives living in rural poverty. And they, they were just so devoted and it was a heartbreaking when the board voted to remove the book from the, the library collection. Um, but that- that's one book I really cherish. 

Jean-Marie Navetta (27:41): Thank you. Um, Malinda. 

Malinda Lo (27:45): Well, I, I wanna talk about this wonderful book, "The Legend of Auntie Po" by Shing Yin Khor... 

Maia Kobabe (27:49): Yes. 

Malinda Lo (27:50): ... which is a graphic memoir. It's absolutely beautiful, the art is wonderful. And, um, the thing about this book is, so my novel "Last Night of the Telegraph Club" is about a queer Chinese American girl in the 1950s. There are very few books about queer Chinese American girls in history. This is another one (laughs) and it just came out this year. It's set in the 1800s, and the main character is in a logging camp. It's wonderful. And it's about, um, self-made myth, and coming of age, and exploring her identity as a queer person as well. It's a wonderful book, highly recommend it. 

Maia Kobabe (28:25): Second that, I love that book. 

Jean-Marie Navetta (28:26): I love the fact that, that we're like this, but we didn't think these books existed and yet here they all are. So that's right. It's so exciting. Maia, go ahead. I'm sorry I interrupted. 

Maia Kobabe (28:34): No, that's okay. I love that book. I'm friends with the author. We did a book event together earlier this year. 

Malinda Lo (28:38): Oh, great. (laughs) 

Maia Kobabe (28:39): Um, I wanted to shout out a book that I think has been a little under the radar, just "Out of Salem" by Hal Schrieve, which is, um, a book that's set in a high school in which there's like magic and sort of supernatural elements. And there is a werewolf character and zombie character, and they're both like queer and they become friends. And like, there's also a lot of really rich metaphor of like of monstrosity and queerness and the way people, you know, view other sexualities and other bodies as monstrous, but that can be like reclaimed and people like finding each other who have been sort of like pushed to the margins of their societies. And I just thought it was really, really well written. And, um, I believe it came out in early, early this year. 

Jean-Marie Navetta (29:16): Thank you. Um, thank you all. Uh, this was such an absolute treat. It was an absolute gift that when we came up with the idea, I wasn't sure if we'd be able to make it happen in here, all of you are having this conversation. Um, I'm so grateful to you for your time. I'm even more grateful for you to, for your advocacy and your creativity, and what you are putting out into the universe and giving people who sometimes feel like they are never gonna be seen a way to see themselves, um, and then defending the ability that for those books to remain on shelves. So, um, Deborah, Malinda, Maia, thank you so, so very much, and please keep up the incredible work that you are doing. 

Maia Kobabe (29:52): Thank you for having us. 

Deborah Caldwell-Stone, Esq. (29:53): Thank you for hosting this. 

Malinda Lo (29:54): Yeah. 

Jean-Marie Navetta (29:55): Thank you. Well, everybody, this gets us to the end of yet another show. Um, it's always hard to end these, um, when the conversation is that good. We will be back next week with actually our last show of 2021. I almost said 20, I'm so confused. Um, we will wrap up the same way we do every single week, which is reminding you to run fast, laugh hard, and most of all be kind, but please, please, please, if you haven't done it yet get vaccinated, and if you have been vaccinated, go get your boosters, um, so we can all be together again sometime soon. If you need any help before next week's show, um, make sure you visit to locate your lo-, uh, closest chapter. My name is Jean-Marie Navetta, and I will see you next week on Something to Talk About Live. Bye everybody. 


"Something to Talk About Live: You Can’t Read This! The Book Banning Trend," by PFLAG NationalYouTube, 9 December 2021.

Join PFLAG National live this Thursday, December 9th at 4:30 PM ET/1:30 PM PT for Something to Talk About Live! This week we'll be discussing Nadra Nittle’s article in the 19th, “Librarians are resisting censorship of children’s books by LGBTQ+ and Black authors.”

We are excited to welcome Maia Kobabe, author of Gender Queer: A Memoir, Malinda Lo, author of Last Night at the Telegraph Club, and Deborah Caldwell-Stone, Director of the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom to the conversation this week.

For more information--and to check out our discussion questions in advance--visit


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