Syracuse author speaks out against book ban

Author and Syracuse native Seamus Kirst is opposing the decision to ban one of his books.

Kirst’s book “Daddy, Daddy and Riley” was part of the American Library Association listing of banned and contested books just months after its publication in 2020.

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

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

“’None of us gave birth to you Riley,’ Dad said, ‘But we carried you in our hearts.’ “We go together,” Dad said. »

Kirst said when he found out his book was being criticized, he wasn’t surprised at how polarized the country became.

“We should all want our kids to be inclusive and empathetic and kind, and it makes me sad that right now there are so many adults who are engaging in behavior that’s the exact opposite of that,” Kirst said.

“Dad, Daddy and Riley” appears on the list alongside well-known tracks like “To Kill a Mockingbird”, “Of Mice and Men” and “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings”.

Kal Alstonassociate dean and professor in the School of Education at Syracuse University, said the decision to ban certain books is a way to politicize art and literature in a way that needs to be constantly challenged.

“One of the goals of education is to get students to think, ‘I’m part of the world because I understand this argument, or it’s really intriguing, or maybe that’s what I want to study. right out of college.'” Alston said. “We are meant to open worlds, not close them.”

Alston said she believes there is a concerted effort to use tactics like book bans to stoke cultural anxiety. But she said she had hope when she saw people backing down, from parents and librarians to students themselves.

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

As for Kirst, he said he has four more books coming out over the next two years and plans to continue spreading his message of kindness and acceptance, despite efforts to have his work banned.

“You can have this representation specifically for the LGBTQ community, but also have a book that’s inclusive for everyone and have a message that’s ultimately about love, inclusion, and empathy,” Kirst said.

Kirst said the ‘Dad, Daddy and Riley’ book can be found in local bookstores, including Golden Bee Bookshop in Liverpool, or at online retailers.

Lola R. McClure