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Rowell, the book’s author, got teary as she discussed the controversy at a panel about “suppression of young adult literature” at Metropolitan State University in St. Paul on Oct. 29.
Rowell, who also grew up poor, said she set out to explore first love.
“I was thinking about how, when you are 16 and fall in love, you fall in love with every cell of your body,” she said in an earlier interview. “I didn’t plan to write about poverty, bullying, domestic abuse and racism but they’re in the book. It just happens. … Everything I wrote about was something I experienced or I saw happening around me.”
She has spoken at schools across the country. Anoka is the only school where she’s been challenged, she said.
“If this book is too obscene to read, what is it saying to the kids going through that?” Rowell said. “The book is about rising above. It’s about two people who were not defined by this garbage.”
Farley said he plans to continue the voluntary summer reading program. The principal said he’d allow his high school-aged son to read the book.
“I did enjoy the book. I deal with this stuff every day working in the school with students. Did I think the language was rough? Yes,” Farley said. “There is some tough stuff in there, but a lot of the stuff our kids are dealing with is tough.”
Shannon Prather • 612-673-4804