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Now you’re telling us?

While Gary Soto seems a bit of a fragile flower in this essay about why he’s been scared off writing for children, I have sympathy for him. If your book is sexy or foul-mouthed or anti-authority, you have no better friends than the American Library Association and its adjacent professions. They will–and they should–stick up for you. But get accused of racism (or, more euphemistically, “cultural insensitivity”) and you’re on your own. The circles I run in tend to talk about censorship, racism, and sexism as evils of the same class, but abhorrence of the first means you have to develop some tolerance for the second and third. AND, we have to stop being so quick to label as “inauthentic” any character who doesn’t behave the way we want them to. Marisol’s mother’s decision to move the family to the suburbs does not make her a race traitor.

Still, you need to stick up for yourself, too, and rather than refusing to answer phone calls from his critics in 2005 when his book was published, Soto waits seven years (when the book is out of print and the doll discontinued) to pick up his marbles and go home? I feel like I’m missing a part of the story.


Roger Sutton About Roger Sutton

Roger Sutton has been the editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc, since 1996. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his M.A. in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a B.A. from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.



  1. I had a similar reaction. It’s a sad story, but there were ways he could have responded that would have stopped much of the whipped-up outrage cold. By not responding, he allowed it to continue–and to those on the sidelines, made the complaints appear to be valid.

    As anti-censorship stalwarts like Laurie Halse Anderson (and many others!) are always reminding us, we have to speak out in response to bullying, banning, and censorship.

  2. Ehhh. I’ve read plenty of Gary Soto. I haven’t missed him.

  3. My daughter Marisol owns that doll & book. We live in suburban Chicago ourselves. I remember the controversy well, and I thought at the time it was pretty ridiculous. People move their children out of urban neighborhoods all the time to provide a safer life. However, Gary Soto seems to be taking advantage of the bad news out of Chicago in the past few years to deliver a belated “I told you so!” The gun violence was not as bad back when his story was written, and even now, Pilsen isn’t the neighborhood you hear about every night on the news. Bringing up tragedies that happened 8 years post-publishing his book is weak.

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