with george w.'s inauguration and his early policies demonstrating the far right's influence on American politics, the arrival of Places I Never Meant To Be could not be more timely. Edited by Judy Blume, it's a collection of short stories by authors of young adult fiction who at one point or another in their careers have been banned or censored. The collection includes pieces by Walter Dean Myers, David Klass, Norma Klein and Chris Lynch. Each story is accompanied by a personal essay looking at how being censored has affected their work.
Blume introduces the collection by telling of her first experience with censorship, as a reader: her mother forbade her to read A Rage To Live, by John O'Hara, when she was in the fifth grade. Eventually, she managed to read the novel, but that initial experience stayed with her and has influenced her own work as a writer and as an activist.
Along with the brilliant and beautiful writing in these pages, there is something larger: awareness. The idea that teachers are the front line, striving not only for the introduction of innovative ideas, but against the force of fear is something not often articulated in the censorship debate. Educators put their jobs on the line to stack the shelves of school libraries with books as harmless as Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret and Blubber. For young adults, the ability to choose which literary works shall be inspirational can define freedom.
Beyond it's obvious political message, Places I Never Meant To Be is 12 engaging, informative and influential short stories -- from high school crushes to single parents.
Regardless of age, it's worth the read.
Places I Never Meant to Be edited by Judy Blume (Simon & Schuster), 202 pages, $24.95 cloth. Rating: NNNNN