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What does the ‘Into the River’ ban mean for you?

September 16, 2015

International attention focused on New Zealand recently because of our first book banning in twenty-two years.

dawesTed Dawes young adult book “Into the River”  won the New Zealand Post Children’s Book award in 2013 and is aimed at a teenage, largely male audience.  Dawes’ said “I have taught in secondary schools for the past forty years. Much of this time has been spent encouraging boys to read. Part of the challenge was to find books that ‘spoke’ to them. This meant books about issues that were relevant to them and written in a style that was authentic,” he said. “There are many issues that young adults can not take to other people. They want to do their own thinking about them. There is no better, no more private medium for this than the novel. In this relatively safe context the teenager can navigate through issues such as race, sexual orientation, body issues, class discrimination and bullying and harassment. They can test their responses against the main characters and calibrate the differences without the need to discuss.”

“Into the River” first had complaints in 2013, due to bullying content, and was given an R14 rating from the Film and Classification Review Board.  Earlier this year, after efforts from Auckland Libraries, that restriction was removed.  Now, a further complaint has resulted in the book receiving an ‘interim restriction order’ while the Film and Literature Board of Review (which is a different board) consider it.

The current complaint was laid by Family First group, based on sexually explicit content, drug use and strong swearing. Some social media comments I’ve seen feel that censorship to this degree is a slippery slope and parents should monitor their child’s reading, or discuss topics with them, if concerned, while others agree with Family First.  If you have an opinion about the matter, you can email Julie Wall at the Board :

Tararua District Library agrees with the LIANZA statement on intellectual freedom “No library materials should be censored, restricted, removed from libraries, or have access denied to them because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval or pressure.” We believe that equal access to information is a fundamental philosophy of New Zealand’s libraries. The Library and Information Association of NZ sentiments are also supported by APLM (the Association of Public Library Managers) and SLANZA (The School Librarians Association of New Zealand Aotearoa).

Read the LIANZA letter to the Review Board.

So what does all this mean?  Our library does have this book, however, you cannot get it out or see it right now.  It is illegal for us to supply it.   You can, however, place a reserve on it in the hopes that the ban will be lifted and you can read it then. What if you already have the book?  You can read it yourself but you cannot legally share it.

And the upside?  ‘Into the River’ is now internationally famous, and the author has had approaches from various sources to expand it’s reach. “I’ve had an approach from a Hollywood film company, from two people wanting the translation rights, from an audio books company . . .” says Dawes.   Not bad for an initially self-published book.



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