Archive for Banned Books

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Cast of Wonders 508: The Book That Wasn’t


The Book That Wasn’t

by Sally Sultzman

The school library is as close to a refuge as you get, but the librarian still looks at you like she knows there’s something off about you, and you hate that she might be right.

Then one day, the day, that day, that librarian is gone, replaced by a sub that looks…familiar. But not really, she’s definitely not the kind of person you’ve ever seen in your small town before. And she puts specific books into your hands. Very specific books. The kinds of books you could never ask about out loud, certainly not of the regular librarian because then she’d know she was right about you and tell your parents, and that–you don’t think you’d survive that.

But this librarian sub–old, tall, and imposing with wild white hair and a generous smile–just knows what books other kids also want, but those books are never as…personal as yours are. She gives you kind smiles and says things like, “You’re doing so well, just hold on a little bit longer,” as she gives you another book that you’re not allowed to read, not even allowed to know exists, and it… it helps. (Continue Reading…)

Banned Books Week 2022 – call for submissions


To See Yourself in Pages, Paragraphs, Sentences, and Words: Books, Stories, and Representation

Each year, the American Library Association Office of Intellectual Freedom (OIF) compiles a list of the top 10 most challenged books that are requested for removal from schools and libraries. In 2021, the OIF documented 729 challenges of 1597 books and materials; however, it estimates that 82-97% of challenges go unreported. That means approximately 50,000 challenges to books were made in 2021! While trends in the subject of challenged books may reflect reactionary response to social movements that challenge prevailing authorities – reasons given for many top-10 challenges in 2020 during the peak of the Black Lives Matter movement include “promoting anti-police views” – most books are challenged for centering the lived experiences of marginalized peoples along racial, gender, and social lines. 

In the United States, more than 12 states have recently passed laws that restrict how public-school teachers can talk about race, gender, and sexuality in the classroom, including banning associated materials from school libraries. Some states have even begun debating whether to expand these restrictions to public libraries that serve adult readers. (For a discussion of these trends, see this article.) 

At Cast of Wonders, we welcome stories that portray the full spectrum of human (and non-human) experience. We don’t challenge books; we want books and stories to challenge us! 

For Banned Books Week 2022, send us your stories that show how books and stories serve as a beacon for identity, serving to draw peoples and communities together; books that make the statement: “This is who I am, this is who we are, and we will be heard!” (This phrase need not appear in the story but should be a resonant theme). The book should feature prominently in the story and not serve as a prop or McGuffin; however, we encourage creativity in interpreting what a book is and how it is woven into the story. We like to be surprised! We are especially interested in stories that feature joy and hope, even if the setting is intergalactic war or a zombie apocalypse. 

Cast of Wonders looks for stories that evoke a sense of wonder, have deep emotional resonance, and have something unreal about them. We aim for a 12-17 age range: that means sophisticated, non-condescending stories with wide appeal, and without gratuitous or explicit sex, violence or pervasive obscene language.

Preference for this submission window is under 5,000 words with an absolute limit of 6,000 words. Submissions must adhere to Cast of Wonders guidelines. 

Submissions will be accepted from May 1 to May 14 through our Moksha Portal – we can’t wait to read what you send in!

Joining the editorial team for this call is one of our long-standing Associate Editors, Alicia Caporaso. We’re thrilled to have her and all of her expertise on the team for this event.

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Cast of Wonders 468: On the Tip of Her Tongue


On the Tip of Her Tongue

by Ember Randall

The days when new books arrived were Aquila’s favorite. Watching them rustle as she welcomed them, hearing their excitement and calming their fears. It was the best part of her job as Archivist of the Library of Gaia.

Tonight, she had almost two score new arrivals, all arrayed in a half-circle in front of the pool dominating the atrium. Their pages glowed under the light of the massive crystal light-globe resting in that pool. Mutters written in the smell of ink and the susurration of parchment rose from them, curious and nervous—Aquila, though not fluent in the language of books, could understand that much.

She ran her fingers over her communicator, a fine piece of parchment stretched inside a wooden frame. The copper backing it sparked as library magic filled it with words and symbols for her to choose from, and her fingers danced. “Welcome, all of you,” the communicator declared in a lilting voice. “I’m…”

The parchment went blank. A split second later, the light-globe in the pool flickered out, plunging the room into darkness. Moonlight poured in from the skylight above, turning the shallow pool silver, but its light couldn’t banish the shadows stretching out from the rows of bookshelves lining the walls. (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 467: They Shall Find Home Once More


They Shall Find Home Once More

by Chelsea Obodoechina

The body is hidden beneath the yam plants. I did not see him the first couple of hours I toiled in the field, reaping the potatoes and cassava while watering the rest. I hesitated to draw near the yam plants, knowing they were slowly rotting in the ground, the once fertile soil growing black and knotted and putrid. The other farmers till the fields around this patch of land because to touch it would mean certain death. Many of us have been lost because of it.

I skim the sick land to uproot vegetables whose roots may have been poisoned. That is when I come across the boy. (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 435: Volumes


Volumes

by Laura Duerr

It was a grim and drizzly morning in the Cascade foothills. The windows of the abandoned convenience store Priya called home were boarded up, but she could see the low gray clouds on her security feed screens. Rad counts were low, but even with radiation at relatively safe levels, no one would want to travel in these conditions. In better times, Before, this would be the perfect day for a good book and a cup of tea.

All things considered, Priya thought herself fortunate, because she could have just that. (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 434: The Pop-up Artisan of Drink Me Café


The Pop-up Artisan of Drink Me Café

by Marie Croke

I came to her coffee shop, but never bought anything–things like that the owner’s bound to notice. Figured my days were numbered as soon as she took note, but my mom ran me off and the cold drove me in and there’s only so many stores one can pretend to be shopping at before people start looking at you all suspicious-like.

Took a coffee cup out of the trash and did the mime thing actors did, pretending to sip while I turned pages in my library book. Whenever the owner came near–wiping down a table, picking up dirty napkins, delivering a latte–I got all stiff, shoulders tense, waiting for her tap on them.

“Excuse me.”

Like I said…

“What are you reading?”

“A book,” I muttered, hugging the book awkwardly with my arm. (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 433: The Last Love Letter


The Last Love Letter

by Gretchen Tessmer

They want me to give your letters to the International Museum for safekeeping. They say the letters need to be preserved and the sooner the better. (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 378: Common Grounds and Various Teas (Banned Books Week)


Common Grounds & Various Teas

by Sherin Nicole

Mama’s fingernails are mesmerizing. They’re black and shiny as volcanic glass but not polished. Her skin is a deeper shade than North Carolina red clay, and her hair is pulled up high in two top knots. Long dreadlocks cascade down over both her ears. If she’s older than thirty  no one can tell. Right now, I’m giving her serious side eye. She won’t stop blabbering and babbling and telling her grifter tales.

“I told that man, you cannot sell me this bucket on wheels. It’s beneath me,” she says in an accent as brown as her skin. “He didn’t like that. Now, rather than me convincing him, he’s convincing me to lower the price. ‘Til I have mercy, I take this car from him for $45 and I let him buy the beers.”

I huff and turn away from her. “Can you stop now?” I mumble.

“I could,” Mama says, like she’s sharing secrets, “but I could also be swallowed and spit back out as something flavorless.” (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 377: This Is Not A Ghost Story (Banned Books Week)


This Is Not a Ghost Story

by V. Medina

In the darkness of her bedroom, after her mother has gone to bed and she’s supposed to have done the same, she tells stories to the ghosts. She would do more for them but they never ask for anything else and she doesn’t know what more to do. They listen, gentle whispers all around her, urging her to continue, begging her for a few more words, just a little more of her time. They crave the stories she has to offer them and even when she is young, she feels the pull of narrative against her bones.

The ghosts are kind in their need, not pushing or screaming but quietly pleading, and she was not raised to deny anyone. She is the quiet kid, the good girl, the sweetheart. She knows her role, and it doesn’t matter what she wants because everyone already knows who she is before she ever gets the chance to show them.

People look at her, see the way she moves, the white cane in her hand, the way she holds books so close to her face. They all think they know her story, even before she says a word. (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 376: The Ways of Walls and Words (Banned Books Week)


The Ways of Walls and Words

by Sabrina Vourvoulias

Solitreo

“If it were not for Thee, what would become of me?”

She’s not speaking to me when she says this. Her poetry nests behind a prison’s walls. I am an unknown noise on the other side of her door—the only spot where sound enters or exits her world—a sweep of bristle against wood, some transitory trace of life that has nothing to do with her.

She and her people are in cells lined along a corridor in the deepest reaches of the convent. On occasion the mentally disturbed have been kept here, tended to and made safe by walls so thick they are more than an arm’s length. These people, however, are all one family: a mother; an adult son; four older daughters; and this one, who has spent nearly half her life in here.

That was all the information the Dominican Brothers shared with me the day I started. Except that I must not attempt to speak to the girl or her family through their doors. The Brothers made me swear this before I swept even one stone.

In the language I share with jailer and jailed, my name is Bienvenida, though my Nahuatl name is different. By the Brothers’ reckoning, it has been 1,562 years since the death of God. (Continue Reading…)