Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Books for teenagers should reflect real life - and that includes sex and swearing

Ted Dawe, whose novel Into The River has been banned in New Zealand due to swearing and sexual content, explains why censoring teen books doesn’t make any sense

Ted Dawe’s book Into The River has been banned in New Zealand because it has swearing in it, particularly a certain word beginning with C. Photograph: Alamy

When I was about nine or 10 years old I was playing scrabble with my parents and my grandmother when I made this word. It made the other three catch their breath and a tense silence settled over them. I waited for my grandmother to add the score (it was a pretty modest one) to my total, and then move on. But they didn’t.

My grandmother looked at me with a fierce look on her face.

“What does that word mean, Ted?”

“Oh that? It means silly person. I get called it all the time at school.”

The other three exchanged looks; it was as though they didn’t believe me.
“You can take back the C, the U and N and build something else.:
So I put them on my rack and began to move the letters around, slightly annoyed at this adult ruling. 

It wasn’t easy making words for me at that stage, especially with all these darned U letters dominating the rack. Mind you, I did have an F. I had just lined two of my previous letters next to it when my grandmother peered over the rack and spotted the nascent word under construction.

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