“We’re Supposed to Be Opening Up Worlds”: Professor Kal Alston Discusses Book Bans with WRVO

Syracuse author speaks out about book banning

(WRVO | June 2, 2022) Syracuse native and author Seamus Kirst is speaking out against a decision to ban one of his books.

Kal AlstonKirst’s book “Papa, Daddy, and Riley” was on the American Library Association’s list of banned and challenged books just months after it was published in 2020.

The book is about a little girl named Riley who comes home from school upset after a classmate questions her about having two fathers.

Her fathers’ response addresses the question of what makes a family a family:

“’Neither of us gave birth to you Riley,’ said Papa, ‘But we carried you in our hearts.’ ‘We belong together,’ said Daddy.”

Kirst said when he found out his book was under fire, he wasn’t surprised because of how polarized the country has become …

Kal Alston, Associate Dean and Professor in the School of Education at Syracuse University, said the decision to ban certain books is a way of politicizing art and literature in a way that needs to be continuously challenged.

“We’re supposed to be opening up worlds and not closing them down.”

“One of the goals of education is to propel students into thinking, ‘I’m a part of the world because I understand this argument or this is really intriguing, or maybe this is what I want to study when I get out of middle school,’” said Alston. “We’re supposed to be opening up worlds and not closing them down.”

Alston said she believes there’s a concerted effort to use tactics like book banning to whip up cultural anxiety. But she said she feels hopeful when she sees that people are pushing back, from parents and librarians to the students themselves.

“(Students) want the choice to read,” Alston said. “They want the opportunity to experience the world beyond the restrictions of a curriculum.”

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