Two Texas parents have challenged 282 books, including one on teenage suicide. Here’s how the author responded.

About two weeks ago, Bill Konigsberg, author of six young adult novels, was at his computer when he read a post on social media from another author whose book had been challenged by two northern parents. Texas.

He clicked on a link in the post and found copies of 282 forms disputing 282 pounds at McKinney ISD in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. While reading the challenges, he noticed that the language of each challenge was the same in response to a question asking what the complainant objected to in the book: “Contains 1 or more of the following: Marxism, incest, explicit sexual material – in writing form and/or visual images, pornography, CRT, immoral, rebellious activities against parents, and material contradicts the ISD student manual.

It turned out that the list included several Königsberg books. One, however, didn’t make sense to the Phoenix-based author: his latest, “The Bridge.”

The novel, about suicide and depression, seemed like the “least reasonable choice” to challenge, he said. His first five books had LGBTQ protagonists, and almost all of them have already been familiar with objections.

This one, however, was not about LGBTQ issues. He began writing it around 2017, following a series of teenage suicides in Arizona, he said, digging deep into his own feelings to create a piece of literature that will hopefully he, could convince a young person that he is not alone, that he has the choice not to die.

Where his other books took him about a year to write, he says, this one took two years.

“It’s written very, very carefully to be a book of hope,” Konigsberg said. “But also to help young people who have suffered from depression to understand that they are not alone. It is terribly important. I know I’ve suffered from depression – as a teenager and in my adult life too – and the worst part is the isolation.

Since “The Bridge” was released in 2020, Konigsberg has received “so many” emails from young people who say his lyrics have made them feel less alone and convinced them to live another day.

Yet there he was, one day in February, reading a protest against the same book for allegedly mingling with Marxism, sexually explicit material and other burning wrongs popular among Republican politicians and adults who often insist on the fact that they are concerned as parents, not activists. He’d seen other authors whose books had been challenged or removed from school libraries receive kudos from people on social media, but he didn’t see his situation as a cause worth celebrating.

“I had a little stomach ache,” Konigsberg said. “It’s a book I wholeheartedly believe in, and I believe it saves lives.”

As he read the reasoning for the challenges, his brain began to concoct an argument. So he decided to do what usually helps him organize his thoughts. He started to write.

The result was a 2,290-word open letter to McKinney ISD’s two parents who challenged his book, addressing each of their concerns – from Marxism (“its author is a capitalist”) to critical race theory (” My book doesn’t address that”) to alleged immoral activities (“Wow, that’s quite an umbrella over there”).

“I want to say up front that I believe your intention here is to protect your children. I echo your concern; I also want child safety,” Konigsberg wrote at the start. “It’s one of the main reasons I write books for young adults.”

Konigsberg thought maybe his fans would read the letter. Instead, the letter received almost 500 likes on Twitter and, according to Konigsberg, some 100,000 visits to its website.

“It’s a very serious problem,” he said. “But the people on the other side of this issue are people. I have tried in the letter to reason with them and treat them as people.

The two people on the other side of that specific question, Paul and Rachel Elliott, parents of an elementary school student, had not responded to his letter on Wednesday, he said.

In an email responding to an interview request from The Chronicle, the couple wrote: “Thank you for the inquiry. At this time, we politely decline to comment.

They told WFAA, a news station in Dallas, that they had read all the books, which is required by the form asking for learning materials to be reviewed.

“It took a while,” Rachel told the station, “but I love my daughter and I love the other 23,000 students in this district. I believe they are all worth it.

The district did not respond to inquiries from the Chronicle regarding the Elliots’ challenges. The couple had not won any of the challenges and the district had not removed any of the books two weeks ago, according to the WFAA.

Meanwhile, Konigsberg, in an interview, struggled for a few seconds to describe his feelings about including “The Bridge” in such an effort, along with the list of around 850 tracks, the rep. State Matt Krause, R-Fort Worth, asked the districts if they owned. Krause’s list included some of Konigsberg’s books.

“Have you ever been wronged?” He asked. “It’s like, I know I’ve done something good for the world and someone tells me it’s wrong, and it’s like someone tells me the sky is yellow rather than blue ; it is very confusing and infuriating.

Still, he would like to start a “reasonable but firm” conversation, he said – an exchange of ideas about what everyone believes in but perhaps without shouting too much.

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