BONUS: Author Ashley Hope Pérez on YA Lit, Book Banning and (Of Course) Anal Sex
That Kara Bell video may play for laughs on Jimmy Kimmel, but she's a hero in conservative media.
Author and professor Ashley Hope Pérez gained prominence for her novel Out of Darkness, which explores themes of segregation, love and family against the backdrop of the 1937 New London School explosion. In last week’s episode, host Amna Khalid spoke with Pérez about the firestorm surrounding her book, and the rise in concerted efforts from a certain part of the political spectrum to censor literature that might highlight the troubling history of gender and race relations in the United States. Today, in this bonus episode for paying subscribers, Pérez goes into more detail on what the whole ordeal has meant for her personally — and how it feels to have her book dismissed out of hand because of one line taken out of context.
KHALID: From Booksmart Studios, this is Banished, and I'm Amna Khalid. On today's show, which is for paid subscribers only, I continue my conversation with Ashley Hope Pérez. She's the author of the young adult historical novel Out of Darkness, which has been banned from a number of school libraries in her home state of Texas and in other communities around the country. The book is set in 1937, in the months leading up to the real life explosion from a natural gas leak that killed nearly 300 students and teachers at an all-white high school. The central characters, however, are Mexican and African-American, and the story is a nuanced portrayal of both race and racism in early 20th century Texas.
Ashley, first, it's such a pleasure to be talking to you. To my mind, your story is particularly interesting because I'm like — OK, when I first heard about it — I was like, “Oh, OK, she's a white woman representing experiences, and this is cultural appropriation.” We've heard that so much, but that is not what the book is being banned for. It is this idea that somehow it is sexually inappropriate, and one specific phrase has become the bane of your existence.
PÉREZ: But that's only because they only got that far in the book. If we’re just — the thing is, the way this works is these folks just flip until they find something that seems objectionable.
KHALID: So the phrase — I just want to go into it — it's this conversation amongst white young men and this new Mexican girl has come to their school, and they're all kind of imagining having a sexual encounter with her. And it's part of that conversation amongst these boys where they refer to cornhole. Can you please tell us what are the express allegations about the use of that term that have been thrown your way?
PÉREZ (laughs): Yeah. No. I'm so glad I get to talk about this. You know, as an author, make sure I get to talk about cornhole and anal sex on a podcast. Please make it happen. You're fulfilling my dreams.