COLUMBUS, Ohio – As Congress digs into the issue of book challenges and removals, Ohio author Ashley Perez is working to find other ways to make sure people have access to her book, Out of Darkness.
Before Ashley Perez became a professor at Ohio State University and a mom, she used to teach at the K-12 level. Teaching since 2004, she always had a love for literature and wanted to write, but was not sure at what point she’d be able to do it.
Now as an author of three books, Perez said when the opportunity came, she knew it would be a challenging book because Out of Darkness addresses her personal stories of abuse at a young age, and the need for representation of Black and Latino people.
She also said, it “confronts our racist history, and that’s uncomfortable.”
The Texas native said while most people welcomed the book, some felt it gave the community a bad name as she delved into the realities of the times.
Perez said she found positive ways to help her deal with the backlash – what she called “verbal vandalism” – that she faced most recently. That included turning her hate mail into fan mail, so she does not focus on the negative aspects of responses. Plus, she’s connected with outside bookstores who helped her and other authors get their books into the hands of those who want them.
While there are those who do not support her work and have accused her of “writing trash” as problems with her work typically revolve around “sexual content or representations of abuse and harm,” Perez said that her stand “is for kids and their right to read about themselves, about their history, about their friends and their experiences and their grandparents’ experiences. ”
Although she stopped counting at this point how many school districts have challenged or removed her books from their shelves, Perez said there’s been at least one district in North Carolina where the school board voted to put her book back on the shelves of its schools, after the community spoke up.
Perez talks with groups of students who have formed book ban clubs at schools who seek books that are no longer at their school libraries. The idea is to continue encouraging students and to create avenues for conversations that address hard topics.
“Book banning on the part of adults, super concerning, alarming, no good. Young people are hungry to read books that challenge them and expand their world. So, when I interact with the kids who, in spite of book bans in their district, are going the extra mile to find books to find other people in reading, I feel encouraged. ”