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The Student News Site of Quinnipiac University

The Quinnipiac Chronicle

The Student News Site of Quinnipiac University

The Quinnipiac Chronicle

Children’s writer and illustrator speaks at Quinnipiac about banned books

Mike Curato — a children’s writer and illustrator — spoke on April 2 at Quinnipiac University’s Gender Sexuality Alliance’s GAYPRIL kick-off event “Igniting Conversations” to discuss censorship in written media and the epidemic of banned books.

Gender Sexuality Alliance co-hosted the speaker with the Arnold Bernhard Library. GSA established GAYPRIL to be the university’s pride month, because most students are not on campus in June.

Curato is a Filipino-American children’s writer of the graphic novel “Flamer.” “Flamer” has received many awards and honors, including the Lambda Literary Award for children’s and young adult literature and the Horn Book Magazine’s list of best books of 2020.

The semi-autobiographical novel is about a 14-year-old half-Filipino boy named Aidan Navarro and takes place at a Boy Scout summer camp in 1995. Curato’s inspiration for this novel derives from his own experiences as a closeted gay teenager and delves into central themes of identity, self-acceptance and resilience.

Robert Young, a public services librarian at the Arnold Bernhard Library, introduced Curato and gave opening remarks.

“(The novel) emphasizes suicide prevention,” Young said. “Reinforcing the message that every individual deserves to exist and be seen.”

Curato presented on his journey ranging from childhood drawings and career aspirations, to his eventual entry into the world of children’s literature.

The presentation ended with a question-and-answer session moderated by the GSA co-presidents, Emily Bartlett and Gabrielle Inacio. Attendees submitted their questions in an online forum.

Monica Widman, a sophomore health science studies major, is currently enrolled in a one-credit class about banned books.

“I think it is good to have events like this because I think it opens up people’s minds,” Widman said.

Widman said growing up she did not see books banned as often as today, but recalled a controversy in her fourth grade class around a book that featured two boys kissing.

“I think that it’s interesting that I was in the fourth grade when this started and I didn’t realize until I was older what was actually happening there,” Widman said, adding that the book returned to the library shelves a year later after being initially removed.

In 2023, The American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom documented 4,240 unique book titles targeted for censorship, as well as 1,247 demands to censor library books, materials and resources.

Sam Fournier, a sophomore psychology major, is taking a comics and graphic novel class, and also took the banned books class in a previous semester.

“I don’t have personal experiences with books being banned,” Fournier said. “I heard about Harry Potter being banned because of witchcraft.”

Titles that represented the voices and lived experiences of LGBTQ+ people and people of color comprised 47% of those targeted in censorship attempts.

Widman is from New York and Fournier from Connecticut — both liberal-leaning states that faced attempts at censorship.

Many other books — such as “The Hunger Games,” “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” “A Brave New World,” “Handmaid’s Tale,” “The Color Purple” — are in the 100 most banned and challenged books from 2010-2019. 

Opponents of bans argue that by restricting information and discouraging freedom of thought, censors undermine one of the primary functions of education, teaching students how to think for themselves, according to The Free Speech Center at Middle Tennessee State university.

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Peyton McKenzie
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