In this episode of #VelshiBannedBookClub, Ali Velshi talks with David Levithan, who is both a prolific author — including of Two Boys Kissing (2013) and Boy Meets Boy (2003) — and an editorial director at Scholastic. In these roles, he’s becoming known for both writing about and championing others’ books about young LGBTQ+ characters.
Two Boys Kissing is based on a true story — but Levithan doesn’t think that has anything to do with it being widely banned. “My book hits the [banned books] list because it’s called Two Boys Kissing: It shows two boys kissing on the cover; it contains more than two boys kissing inside.” Nor does it matter that he gave the book a historical, intergenerational framing — “with men who died from AIDS looking down at the current generation,” he says, “None of those subtleties matter. They just object to two boys kissing.”
The title and cover were entirely intentional, says Levithan, meant to attract readers who need to see themselves. “It would be easy to try to hide it away, to call it something else. and let people find it secretly. But I love the power of a kid walks into a library, sees that book on the shelf, and they know they’re represented.”
Levithan no longer considers being part of banned book club a bad thing. “When I started — Boy Meets Boy was published 20 years ago — you had censorship panels. There were basically the same six authors who were always on [banned lists]. Now, so many authors are being challenged. PEN says last year 1,800 authors and illustrators had their books challenged — 1,800,” he says.
“I see that figure, and I’m not afraid of the challenges. What I am is proud of publishing. I’m proud that we have that many authors writing books that people are afraid of, writing about that many identities that people want to try to silence. But 1,800 authors: You’re not going to silence us easily.”
Listen to the interview below:
Velshi and David Levithan on Two Boys Kissing:
Velshi on banned books on MSNBC:
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