The Read Brave Team just learned that our 2016 book pick, Stick, was recently banned by the Beaverton School District in Oregon. Stick tells the story of fourteen-year-old Stark McClellan (nicknamed Stick because he’s tall and thin), his brother Bosten who is gay and struggling with his identity, and their collective struggle with an abusive father. In addition to being a great read, Stick engages with critical topics like bullying, abuse, and sexuality that are relevant to teens. After a formal review process, the Beaverton Superintendent cited “vulgar language” and banned it from all middle schools.
We believe wholeheartedly in the freedom to seek and express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular. Every year we celebrate the American Library Association’s #BannedBooksWeek and highlight the perils of censorship. But the decision to ban “Stick” is particularly disappointing to us. For many teens in Saint Paul who read “Stick” and had the unique opportunity of meeting Andrew Smith, it was a memorable experience. The book kicked off so many courageous conversations in our community.
What Saint Paul teens said about the characters in Stick from a 2016 survey:
- I related to Stick in some ways. Because he was also an outsider and in the past I had been that kid who just didn't fit the puzzle. Almost as if there was something wrong with me, but I came to realize there is nothing wrong and that what makes me difference is a good thing, because no one wants to be basic.
- It didn't help me relate to anyone I knew personally, it just helped me understand larger problems that happen sometimes.
- Bosten because of how his family and others reacted to him being gay. My extended family hates me for being LGBT so I related to the hurt he must have felt.
- It connected me to Stick because I myself share a great bond with my siblings in which I would do anything for them.
- Stick because I had family members that were abused and it was difficult for me and them.
- I really related with Bosten, always trying to protect his little brother.
While this is a disappointing development, what a great reminder of the importance to #readbrave!