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Banned book author Crutcher visits Kershaw County

Posted: September 23, 2011 4:35 p.m.
Updated: September 26, 2011 5:00 a.m.
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Author Chris Crutcher, who spoke to a Kershaw County audience Tuesday, said he likes to visit the communities where there has been an attempt to censor his books.

After his book “Angry Management” was removed from, and then returned to, Kershaw County School District (KCSD) libraries, author Chris Crutcher came to the county to speak with local residents and students about book banning and censorship.

During an appearance Tuesday hosted by the Kershaw County Library, Crutcher told an audience at the Fine Arts Center of Kershaw County (FAC) that his experience working at a male alternative school and as a child abuse and neglect therapist heavily influences his books.

His first experience with censorship, he said during a telephone interview Wednesday morning, began when his own high school censored him in the early 1980s.

Most recently, a Camden High School parent expressed concern about the book’s use of profanity and inclusion on the KCSD summer reading list, prompting KCSD officials to remove it from the list and school library shelves.

In August, a special review committee recommended returning “Angry Management” to KCSD libraries, specifically citing Crutcher’s “masterful job of depicting analyzing and analyzing, and bringing to light the many challenges that face our youth in today’s society.”

“When you’re talking about kids with pretty hard lives, you’re talking about pretty hard language,” Crutcher said. “And that sometimes is the reason a book gets challenged. Language and issues make people uneasy.”

Crutcher said that after addressing the FAC audience, he received “a lot of good questions” from residents and students -- including students who were interested in the process of writing, and the emotional impact of hearing stories and then translating them into fiction.

 “What’s funny is that when people start to get together to censor a book, there’s a pretty tight group that is vocal, but not all that big. This is not my first rodeo in South Carolina, and one of the things that I’ve noticed every time is that I’ve always had great support,” he said. “When a censorship situation comes up, I’ve always had a great response to that. South Carolina is a conservative state, but I grew up in Idaho. It doesn’t get much more conservative than Idaho.”

Crutcher said he accepted the Kershaw County Library’s invitation to speak because he likes to visit the communities after there has been an attempt to censor his books. While he had never visited Camden or Kershaw County before, Crutcher said everything was pretty much what he expected.

“I’ve spent a lot of time in the South. I haven’t been in Camden before, but rural America is rural America,” he said. “Accents are different, but I’m pretty used to it. I’m always more comfortable coming to the smaller places.”

One thing Crutcher said he has really been aware of regarding censorship, is that librarians and teachers are often the ones who bear the brunt of the criticism. By coming to speak to the community and students, Crutcher said, he is able to explain what his books are really about.

“I’m not the one who takes the heat. It’s the librarian who brings the book into the school, or the teacher who brings the book into the school. And it gets personal for them, especially in a small town because people know you,” he said. “I’m not taking any heat when I’m sitting down (at) the computer creating this stuff. But I do want to give people the voice of the author saying, ‘This is why I wrote this and this is what it’s all about.’”

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