I Banned My Own Book
When I received the advance reader’s copy of my novel, Escaping The Tiger, I told my daughter she couldn’t read it—yet. Perhaps in a year or so. She was only 8 ½ and I wasn’t sure she could appreciate or process the gritty realities my characters face, realities that are based, in part, on her father’s childhood escape from Communist Laos. But she sneaked the arc and read it anyway.
Of course she did. It was forbidden fruit.
I caught her about three chapters in and decided if she was willing to read it, I’d be there to guide her. We talked on the way home from school one day. I asked her how the book was going.
“Fine,” she said.
“Is it scaring you at all?”
“Well, do you have any questions?”
I’d have to do better than that. Asking yes-or-no questions is no way to start a conversation. “Daughter, do you know why the Communist soldiers burned Vonlai’s favorite book, the one about American skyscrapers?”
“No,” she said.
My fault. I asked another yes-or-no question. So I went into lecture mode. “Daughter, they didn’t want Vonlai forming his own thoughts about America. They wanted him to think just like they did, without learning anything for himself. That’s how people try to control other people, is to limit the information they get.”
And she was quiet. I checked my rearview mirror. She was staring out the window. Nice one, Mom, I thought. You’re babbling about censorship and your kid probably wants to go get an ice cream or something.
“But Mom,” she said, still watching the trees flash by as we drove home. “Vonlai’s dad told him they can’t burn what’s in your mind.”
The heavens parted. The angels sang. And God sent me his smile right through my sunroof, dressed as a golden ray of sunshine. She got it, I thought. My baby girl, who I thought wasn’t mature enough to appreciate the themes in my novel, got the most important part.
Of course she did. She’s the one who sought out the very book I’d banned.