As a writer and editor, censorship is something I feel passionate about fighting.
Censorship has to stay out of the writer’s room when you’re creating a book. You have to trust the story and later those who have empowered you to be published. Candlewick Press said early that if there were any censorship that they would stand beside me and Fat Angie. So when I put my belongings into storage in summer 2013 to set-out on a self-funded YA book tour like no other, I didn’t think about being censored. I was focused on showing up for youth on the fringe and empowering them through writing and discussion. It was a time to celebrate the outsiders in all of us and rise up. So having the Texas school censor me over a year later for what was to be a school visit coupled with a free screening of At-Risk Summer, I was definitely thrown.
The support for the Never Be Silenced video has been exciting and humbling. Authors, filmmakers, librarians, educators, booksellers, parents … they shared the link and were part of a conversation. That’s what this issue needs. People talking, asking questions and calling to attention why censoring a book that received one of the highest awards given by the American Library Association is not acceptable.
National Book Award Winner Kathy Erskine wrote, “This is very powerfully done. You have a great voice, even when others attempt to silence you!”“Watch the video. Read the book. No Matter who you are or who you love, we are all a little Fat Angie inside, in one way or another.” Cindy Vela, librarian Portland, Texas.Arthur Levine published author Mike Jung wrote, “Fat Angie is a game-changer. The fact that teens at another school in Texas are being denied the opportunity to meet powerhouse author in person is shameful.”
3. Growing up, were there books that you were not allowed to read or that you felt you had to hide? What would your advice be to young readers in the same boat?
There were two challenges to reading what I wanted growing up. One was access. Due to the poverty of my small-town Texas community it was difficult to find books that were relatable, not white washed or watered down. The second challenge was my father. None percent of him was comfortable with me reading Ernest Hemingway, T.S. Elliot or Kurt Vonnegut. Something about my interest in creativity scared him. Rather than engage me in a conversation he resorted to bullying. Shaming me for wanting to write and read beyond the limited curriculum.When kids tell me that their parents or friends shame them for reading, I tell them reading is the new cool-revolution. That they are rock stars for wanting to know more and be more and see more. That they should never surrender to ignorance.
4. What books inspired and encouraged you most during your middle school/young teen years?
My seventh grade history teacher gave me a beat up copy of The Outsiders. It was a story of being on the fringe and that’s how I had felt my whole life. Knowing S.E. Hinton (a girl!) published the book at seventeen, I felt like I could do that. I could be a person with heart, vision and words. I could be heard. And maybe someday, I would have some of get out of the limitations of driving circles around the Pizza Hut on Friday nights after the football games. Soon I snapped up John Updike, e.e. cummings, and T.S. Elliot. I was seeing how narratives could shape in compressed short form and novel. I was beginning to see the rough edges of voice, structure and taking risks on the page.
No. Fat Angie is perfectly imperfect. It’s a funny, serious, heartbreaking, invigorating look at being different in the midst of great pressure to assimilate. Everyone is Fat Angie. And that’s what I love about that book.
e.E. Charlton-Trujillo is an award-winning filmmaker and YA novelist living in Cincinnati, Ohio. To find out more about Never Be Silenced, check out the website. To find out more about Fat Angie, check out the book trailer, e.’s speech at the ALA Stonewall Awards; Fat Angie is available for purchase it on the Candlewick Press site.