Lawn Boy Controversy: What’s It Like To Be Banned? We Interviewed The Author Of A Controversial Book

Jonathan Evison is a Washington-based novelist who’s had some success with his work. He has penned seven novels, one of which was made into a film starring Paul Rudd and Selena Gomez, and has won a few literary honors for his writing. As a result, Evison may be better remembered as the author of a book that was censored. A young Mexican-American man is the focus of his 2018 novel, Lawn Boy, which was well-received by critics.

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This novel’s protagonist is likened to “Holden Caufield for a new millennium” by The New York Times Book Review. “Battering ram to clichés of race and class,” the Washington Post applauded the author for doing while generating a work “full of humor and hope.” Mike Muoz, a young Mexican-American guy, struggles to find his way in a world plagued with prejudice and class injustice in the book’s protagonist. The Young Adult Library Services Association awards the Alex Award each year to books published by adults that have a particular appeal to young adults.

But other than that, the book didn’t get a lot of attention. Until last September, that is, when an outraged mother shouted over the “pedophilia” and vulgarity she alleges the novel contains and how unsuitable it is for youngsters in her Texas school district. After her rant went viral, libraries throughout the country began taking steps to exclude Lawn Boy from their collections. Lawn Boy swiftly rose to the top of the list of most-banned books in the United States, a trend that has persisted for at least the past two decades, according to the American Library Association.

Some conservative lawmakers have jumped on board the anti-Black and anti-gay bandwagon, according to the American Library Association, which has spoken out on behalf of these authors. A cyberattack was launched against him, and he was doxxed, according to Evison’s account to KCM. People have sent me ominous comments aimed toward my 9- and 4-year-old daughters. Things are unusual,” he declares. He describes the sensation as “jarring.” In contrast, Evison, a self-described “old punk rocker” who fronted a band that featured members of Soundgarden and Pearl Jam, “embraces the controversy.”

Because of its status as an outlawed publication, it has earned some street reputation, according to him. You can see some of my favorite novels on the list.” We talked to Evison about his time at the epicenter of this phenomenon, the resurgence of interest in his book, and the potential impact on the future of Y.A. publishing that this movement may have.

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Katie Couric Media: What was your first reaction when your novel was criticized for the first time in front of the Texas education board?

Surprise. This is something I’ve always considered part and parcel of being a novelist. And I had high hopes that this book would set off a lot of alarms. That’s why I set out to do this project: to examine the current state of affairs in the United States in terms of wealth and equity while also delving into issues of racism and the doomed American dream. Pornography, on the other hand, was not one of those shackles I wished to break.

Dissatisfied readers claim that your book depicts pedophilia and contains explicit sexual content. What are your thoughts about that?

The claim is utterly false. The narrator, now an adult, recalls a sexual encounter he had with another youth, not an adult, in his adolescence. The action depicted is not gory, but the language used is coarse for a variety of reasons that are made obvious in the tale. One woman at a Leander, Texas school board meeting misread or willfully misrepresented the passage as a sexual encounter between an adult and a child, posted a screed on TikTok that went viral, and from there, a slew of people who never even read the book just started piling on and calling the book pedophilia. It’s clear. The whole thing is a microcosm of our times, a study in deception. I advise that you either read the book or put your feet up.

If parents were concerned about their children getting their hands on this book, what would you say?

There is a good probability that your children have homosexual, black, and Latino classmates. In my opinion, I don’t know what you’re trying to protect kids from. These folks have already lost the cultural battle, in my opinion. No matter how hard they try, culture will continue to advance as a result of their efforts. We’ve arrived at our destination. From a wider cultural perspective, I think they’re fighting a losing war here. “

What has it been like for you to be in the epicenter of this phenomenon?

I had to take a break from social media for the first few weeks. I was the victim of doing. In addition to receiving death threats, I was the subject of a cyberattack. My nine-year-old and four-year-old daughters have both received disturbing texts. The whole thing seems bizarre to me. There has been an outpouring of support from kids, educators, librarians, and several school board members since then. Many of these folks, who I regard to be putting their lives on the line, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting in person.

People, and teenagers, in particular, are suckers for the allure of ill-gotten gain. What has this done for the book’s popularity?

The book’s sales increased in direct proportion to the level of public outrage. People are buying multiple copies of my book and then giving them free. A lot of students are getting it online or going to independent bookstores, and a lot of libraries haven’t taken it off the shelves. If they really want to avoid exposing their children to this literature, these people are doing nothing but shooting themselves in the foot. They’re merely shoving them in the right direction. I’m baffled as to how any parent could fail to notice this.

Do you think this animosity is altering the thinking of Y.A. writers?

It depends on the artist. I’m going to write what I’m going to write for myself. Trying to challenge myself is only a way for me to push myself even further. I don’t think it’s a good idea for people to hold back. There is no room for timidity when it comes to writing a novel. If you don’t have complete faith in your abilities before entering, you run the risk of severing something. I don’t think it’s wise to allow these outside forces to attempt to limit the scope of what writers write about because many already battle with so much self-doubt.

Is the publishing industry reacting in any way? Do you think that publishers are moving away from more inflammatory content?

Probably. Right away, I saw this as an opportunity. Publishers, on the other hand, may have been a little nervous about it. Many people avoided giving me publicity, so I didn’t get any help. The fact that corporate publishers may be reluctant or unwilling to publish content that they see as edgy or troublesome is an interesting topic. Hope not. That would be a dreadful thing.

Legislators have seized on this enthusiasm and are moving quickly to pass legislation that specifically targets fictional works of art.

What are your thoughts on the politicization of this?

I find it appalling that a bunch of conservatives who claim to be patriots is attempting to impose a large censorship campaign on a group of people who are most in need of adult support. An obvious political straw man is being used by conservatives to get support from their misguided constituents by presenting the subject of book banning as an attack on parental freedom, i.e.

“These woke educators are attempting to keep your voice out of the classroom!” — Honestly, it’s a little depressing. They’re fighting a losing battle in the culture war, and they know it. They’re frightened as a result. When it comes to the disenfranchised groups and individuals who have never received a fair shake in American society, they’re scared of being “replaced.” They are to be chastised.