Image of MC playing soccer on the cover of Kelly's Yangs 'Key Player: A Front Desk Novel'

One of Scholastic’s Best-Selling Authors Tells Publisher: “I Need You To Be Braver”

Last week author Maggie Tokuda-Hall revealed that Scholastic required her to omit all mentions of racism in her book to complete a licensing deal for her (and Yas Imamura’s) book, Love in the Library. A Scholastic license deal is a big freaking deal as they are the world’s biggest children’s book publisher/distributor.

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Surface-level, this was a terrible move by Scholastic to cave to right-wing political pressure amid waves of censorship of POC and LGBTQ stories. However, making matters worse, the removed paragraph touched on Tokuda-Hall’s family’s time in an American concentration camp. Additionally, the book was chosen as part of a series called Rising Voices: Amplifying AANHPI Narratives. While the CEO of Scholastic issued a statement saying their “approach was wrong” in suggesting edits, many authors are asking for more than an apology.

One of the 663 authors and counting who signed an open letter to Scholastic’s Education Solutions Division is author Kelly Yang. She is one of many best-selling Scholastic authors horrified by this response to accelerating fascism. In a vulnerable video, Yang shared her thoughts about these actions. She also broke down what it feels like to be targeted by this censorship and bigotry. Sometimes, in person.

“I get it. But I have a message for Scholastic. “

The Front Desk writer began with sympathy for the organization, citing offices in Florida. Even before this latest record-breaking wave of book bans and censorship, conservatives have attempted to undermine the wide representation of people in Scholastic titles. The past two years have resulted in a surge of school districts canceling the Scholastic book fairs, with censors usually citing discussion of race and inclusion of LGBTQ+ themes as “not age appropriate.” And it’s not just fairs. Librarians and teachers are put on hold from purchasing books, including from Scholastic, as right-wing activist groups want to micro-manage a job they aren’t qualified to do just to parents other people’s kids.

However, Yang correctly insists that they have to push past this. She says in the video:

As one of your top authors, I’m asking you to have more courage. You cannot be quietly self-censoring. Whatever pressure you may be facing, know that your authors are facing even more pressure. And we’re still out here writing these books. Risking our lives. Bleeding to make you millions. Trying to write the books for the next generation that will hopefully improve the world.

She continued discussing the importance of representation and capturing the moment children live in.

Let me tell you, it’s not easy. I am not a giant corporation. I am an individual. Every day people attack me personally. They write me emails, they come into my comments and my DMs. I had a guy show up at an event and whisper in my ear how much he loves seeing my books get banned. And yet, everyday I keep going. You know why? Because I am brave.

Despite getting paid pennies on the dollar, we authors are brave. The librarians—they are brave. The educators—they are brave. I need you to be braver.

You cannot choose which books to include in your Fairs and Clubs for kids nationwide and edit lines out because you’re scared of DeSantis. If you want to carry Maggie’s book, you gotta carry all of her book. If you want to carry Kelly Yang, you’ve gotta carry all of Kelly Yang—not some stripped-down verison.

I need you to not cave to polical pressure and be on the right side of history. Because it’s the right thing to do. Because you can afford it with your 90% market share of the school distributon channel. If you’re going to be deciding children’s book for the entire nation, your taste have to reflect the entire nation. And because I know it’s what Dick Robinson would have wanted.

I love you Scholastic. You’ve done a lot of good for a lot of kids, but how you play you next move will determine how you’re remembered. The world is watching. I am watching. I hope you do the right thing.

(featured image: Scholastic Press)

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Author
Alyssa Shotwell
(she/her) Award-winning artist and writer with professional experience and education in graphic design, art history, and museum studies. She began her career in journalism in October 2017 when she joined her student newspaper as the Online Editor. This resident of the yeeHaw land spends most of her time drawing, reading and playing the same handful of video games—even as the playtime on Steam reaches the quadruple digits. Currently playing: Baldur's Gate 3 & Oxygen Not Included.