Kids’ Right To Read’s Jaime Chosak interviewed Brent Hartinger, author of the young adult novel Geography Club. Parents recently asked for the removal of the book from shelves in the West Bend Public Library in Wisconsin.
Kids Right to Read Project: What was your motivation for writing Geography Club?
Brent Hartinger: You know, it’s partly because the story is semi-autobiographical – I was a gay teen – and I figured if I told this story, it might make things a little bit easier for the gay teens who come after me.
But honestly, it was mostly because I’m a storyteller, and it just seemed like a really good story. I like to say there is no greater underdog in the world than a gay or lesbian teenager. Depending on where they live, the whole world might be against: their families, their religion, their teachers, even their friends sometimes! And then there was the fact that, especially at the time I first wrote the first draft of the story, in 1990, there were very, very few stories like this.
KRRP: What was your reaction when you heard that your book was removed from the shelves of a public library because it was deemed pornographic? Were you surprised by the controversy surrounding your book and the issues it raises for youth?
BH: Nothing surprises me anymore, because I’ve pretty much heard it all. Pornography? Sure, why not? I mean, if you think any mention of gay people is the same as talking about sex, well, I guess you might see it as pornographic.
But I think it’s worth nothing that anyone who thinks my book is pornographic is experiencing a pretty different reality than most of the rest of us.