Alexandra Duncan

Science Fiction. Fantasy. Feminism.


It's Day 5 of my Banned Books Week Giveaway! For more information about how this giveaway works and why I'm doing it, read this introductory post.

Today I'm going to talk about Eleanor & Park, by Rainbow Rowell. In Books Challenged or Banned 2013-2014.Robert P. Doyle writes that it was “retained, despite a challenge by the chairman of the Anoka-Hennepin, Minn. School Board (2013) because parents of a student objected to the book’s content, citing its use of profanity and its treatment of sexuality. The Anoka County Library had scheduled a visit by the author, but the event was cancelled due to the controversy.”

Pretty sure this is also the outfit I wore for most of middle school.

Pretty sure this is also the outfit I wore for most of middle school.

Some of you may be familiar with the "windows and mirrors" theory of literature. Basically, it states that people need both books that are windows, i.e. those that help them understand an experience or perspective different from their own, and mirrors, i.e. those that help them recognize their own experience and feel seen.

Eleanor & Park was a mirror book for me. It was the first book I read since Paula Danziger's The Cat Ate My Gymsuit that let me see myself as I was as a teenager - the frumpy-looking, unpopular girl with a bad home life who couldn't really talk about it all, except to the boy she was in love with. I cried when I read it - both out of sadness for Eleanor and myself as a teenager, but also from the sheer relief of seeing someone like me on the page. So often, the heroines of the books I read were - and still are - naturally beautiful upper-middle class girls who, while they have legitimate problems, don't have those problems overlaid with financial strain. They don't worry about not having a bra to wear to school or getting in trouble for eating an after-school snack.

My very unfortunate sixth-grade yearbook photo.

My very unfortunate sixth-grade yearbook photo.

When I was in middle school, my mother went back to college and got an advanced nursing degree. After she graduated, she was able to get a higher-paying job, and it changed our lives. I remember going to K-Mart with her in 8th grade and getting new clothes, how amazing it felt to wear something that was new and fit me. She took me to get my hair cut, too. And suddenly, everyone at school began to treat me differently. I was still kind of a socially awkward weirdo, but the intense harassment and disdain from everyone I went to school with dropped off. By 9th grade, I was your garden-variety middle-class nerd.

I write all of this so you'll know what a deeply personal experience reading Eleanor & Park was for me. I needed that book, and I know that if I needed it, there are other people out there who need it, too. When you ban a book, you never know if you're cutting off a person's lifeline.

If you'd like to enter the giveaway for this book, you have until 11:59 p.m. today, Thursday, Sept. 29th. You will get 1) a paperback copy of Eleanor & Park, 2) a copy of Robert P. Doyle's 2015-2016 Books Challenged or Banned, and 3) a paperback copy of my book, Sound, which is coming out this week. Enter below!

Powered by Squarespace. Background image by Stocktrek Images.