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Author to Central Bucks: My book is about “resilience and compassion”


The author of “Girl in Translation” addressed the Central Bucks School Board Tuesday, after her book was placed on a removal list for its “explicit sexual content.” Under a new school district policy, such books are evaluated by a committee for possible removal from school libraries.

Jean Kwok, a New York Times and international bestselling author, who wrote the 2011 book based on her life experience as an immigrant child moving to an impoverished life in Brooklyn from Hong Kong, told the school board she appreciates parental concern.

“I can see you are a community that cares passionately about your kids,” said Kwok. “I have two sons; I graduated from Harvard and Columbia with honors, would I write porn for my kids?” she asked the school directors.

Saying she “understands fear,” Kwok said, “our kids go forth into the world and we equip them as best we can, we teach them our morals.

“Books,” said the writer, “are one of the most powerful tools we can give our children.”

Acknowledging her 300-page book has four “so-called” curse words and includes pot-smoking, kissing and one sexual encounter, as well as a character who considers an abortion but chooses not to have one, Kwok said the novel is about “resilience and compassion.”

Her decision to attend the school board meeting, she said, was to put a face to a writer. “Many think of authors as faceless people, but we are not faceless, we are people.”

She encouraged the board to leave decisions about what books are on library shelves to librarians and teachers. “Please don’t attack them,” said Kwok, to cheers and applause from the audience.

While school board members did not respond to Kwok’s remarks made during the public comment portion of the meeting, board president Dana Hunter spoke about the library policy at the beginning of the meeting.

“The board is not involved with the book selection process,” said Hunter. And, she noted, “Just because a book is challenged, it doesn’t mean it will be removed. A book remains in the library while it’s being challenged.”

Central Bucks parent Tracy Suits told school directors “Girl in Translation” is a valuable novel that helps readers’ “understanding of self.”

The district’s new library policy states that a book that’s removed will be replaced with a similar one. Suits said, “I don’t believe this book has an equal.”

Last July, the school board voted 6-3 to adopt the policy that established a process for parents and other community members to challenge a book felt to be “inappropriate” for students.

Approximately 60 books have been challenged so far, according to published reports.

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