The author says a book from Utah’s schools was written to prevent sex abuse

The author of one of nine books recently picked up from the shelves of four Canyons School District high schools says the book is based on her sister’s experiences and was written to help prevent sexual abuse. (Shutterstock)

Estimated reading time: 5-6 minutes

SALT LAKE CITY – Sonya Sones, author of “The Opposite of Innocent,” said she was “upset and upset” when she learned this week that a book she was writing was removed from four high school libraries in Salt. Lake County.

Although the book has sexual content, it is written in response to Sones’ experiences, and she hoped it would have a positive effect on teens who are in abusive situations.

As first reported, “The Opposite of Innocent” is one of nine books removed by Canyons School District officials from high school libraries after a Sandy woman sent an email expressing concern about the content of the books.

The main character in Sones’ book is a 14-year-old who thinks she’s in love with an older man who is a friend of her parents. Later in the book, the character is able to realize that she is being sexually abused and get out of the situation. Sones said she felt a need to write this book because her older sister was going through similar experiences.

The hope, Sones said, is that the book will help young people realize when they might be cared for by a predator so they could escape the situation before an actual abuse took place, and have an example of a character who was able to get out of such a situation. She said she also wrote the book to teach readers to be careful.

Sones said writing the book was a “painful experience.” But she has had several people contact her and let her know that her book helped them in situations of sexual abuse because they were able to see how the character in the book put an end to the abuse, and find out, how they should take action themselves.

“Even an answer like that was enough to make the work worthwhile, honestly,” she said.

Although she believes her book is useful for young people, Sones said she respects a parent’s right to say their child should not read the book. What she does not agree with is a parent trying to prevent other people’s children in the community from accessing a book.

“I can well understand the desire that a parent wants to protect their child, but it would be best if the parent and the child both read the book and read it together and then had a discussion about how they felt when they read it. and how they could work together to ensure that such a thing does not happen to the child, “she said.

Although Sones does not know if “The Opposite of Innocent” has been withdrawn or banned from other libraries, she is not new to conversations about book bans. A book she wrote in 2001 entitled “What My Mother Does Not Know” was on the list of the 10 most banned books in 2004, 2005, 2010 and 2011. Its presence in libraries was also challenged due to sexual content.

Because of that book, Sones was on the list of the most challenged writers of the 21st century.

“I really love that distinction, mostly because it gives me a chance to talk about why people should not ban books in schools,” she said.

When there are more conversations about whether a book should be banned, there is greater interest in the book and more people can find the book and possibly benefit from it, she added.

One of the problems Sones and others have with removing the books from Alta, Brighton, Corner Canyon, and Jordan colleges was the process that some say did not match the district’s policies to address library book concerns. Sones said that when a book is typically questioned, it starts a process that involves a lot of discussions between the administration of the school, the community, and students and people are able to learn.

“It’s going to be a big discussion that the whole community benefits from because it makes them think about this,” Sones said.

Utah library groups respond

Three library groups in Utah – the Utah Educational Library Media Association, the Utah Library Association and the Utah Library Media Supervisors – issued a statement on Friday stating that they strongly believe in the protection of freedom of expression in the first amendment and that this includes the freedom to read and listen to the perspectives of others through books.

“We are committed to challenging censorship in any form that is protected by these rights,” the statement said.

The groups cited the Library Bill of Rights, passed by the American Library Association, which states that even minors should have access to a diverse collection of books. The statement said library collections should be inclusive and should include books relevant to each member of a school.

Educated librarians and educators have policies and processes to deal with challenging materials, said the groups, which protect the interests of children and provide legal protection to school districts.

“A parent has the right to decide what is best for their child, but they do not have the right to decide what is best for any other child. As a result, when a book is challenged, it has a right to a fair notification process, by an objective body that assesses its merits in their entirety, ‘the group’s statement said.

The Salt Lake Branch of the NAACP also issued a statement on the book removals in the Canyons District, saying it supports the position of library associations.

President Jeanetta Williams said the NAACP supports the process of reviewing books when concerns about appropriate age are raised, but said it is “extremely difficult to reconcile” that books being discussed are disproportionately “black, brown and LGBTQ-” books and authors. “

“We are aware that each district is responsible for reviewing all books in the classroom and library through the professionalism of the library specialists and their curriculum department, but we demand that the reviews be conducted fairly, in accordance with the district’s policy, and with a commitment to different opinions and voices, “she said in a statement.

Governor Spencer Cox also spoke out about the removal of the book this week, saying history students should be careful about banning books.

“I’m not saying every book should be in every classroom,” the governor said. “There are probably some books that should not be in our schools. But let’s be thoughtful about it. Let’s take a step back, take a deep breath, and make sure we do not do anything we will regret.”

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