Tag Archives: Into the river

On banning books, and Into the river by Ted Dawe

NZ Herald article

Like every other librarian and bookseller in the country, I’ve had to remove this book from our shelves today. It’s been done and I’m using this as an opportunity to finally getting around to reading it myself. The book is no longer “discoverable” in our school Library catalogue – the record has been hidden and the book can’t be requested, reserved or checked out.

Into the river has only been borrowed 6 times since it was purchased in 2013, it’s been read by 3 senior students and 3 staff (two of those were Librarians and one of those is me). It’s always been marked as senior fiction – meaning a student could only check it out if they were in Year 11 or above and because of the original R14 restriction a student also had to legally be 14 years or older.

Without having ever read the book I’ve grieved about this all day. I resent not being able to go out and buy this for my teenager should they wish to read it. No one is holding a gun to any teenager’s head and forcing them to read this book. What are the moral minority so afraid of? If their values are so so righteous and strong, then how is it they will be immediately eroded by exposure to ideas different and in opposition to their own?

I just want to share some thoughts and opinions of others who can articulate what I believe is so wrong with this kind of censorship and why this book is necessary. Both these articles were written in 2013 when the book first became controversial.

Blog Post from Emma Neale (Emma was one of the original editors of the book before it was published). She’s articulated what I have struggled to put into words today – mainly that it’s through literature that young people empathise and make sense of the world and more importantly our own society (and this isn’t always a pleasant experience).

From Bernard Beckett Beckett was a judge in the 2013 NZ Post Children’s Book Awards. Reading his responses to the comments published below his post makes me want to rush out and read all his books….

I vividly remember the conversation I had with a teenager who had read this over the summer holidays between his 11th and 12th year at school. This was from a mature, thoughtful, articulate and avid reader. While I can’t remember word for word exactly what he said, it went a bit like this….”It was disturbing, and I felt uncomfortable reading it, almost guilty for how privileged and easy my life is…but the whole point of reading fiction is to see life through someone else’s eyes – I mean it would be boring if I just read about things that mirrored my own life“.

There are so many teenagers in our society whose lives are frighteningly different to our own. Different doesn’t make them less real or less valid and everyone’s stories deserve to be told.