Not many books bring on peals of laughter and move me to cry big, fat tears. But recently, Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell did just that. It is now a book I recommend that everyone read. Much to my dismay, I recently discovered that Eleanor & Park is being challenged and banned. The story, set in 1986, follows an unlikely pair of teenagers who are falling in love for the first time. Park and Eleanor are forced to sit next to each other on the school bus and slowly, silently form a friendship that develops into more over the course of a few months. Park comes from a stable, loving household. Eleanor’s family, on the other hand, is poor and she has a scary, abusive step-father. The story addresses bullying at school and home in a heart wrenching way.
In the Anoka-Hennepin school district in Minnesota, Eleanor & Park was on the optional summer reading list for high school students. Parents of a freshmen student did not agree with having the book in the library or on the suggested reading list. The parents brought it to the attention of the Parents Action League for the school district and asked for it to be removed from schools because they thought it was an obscene book because of the foul language and discussion about sex (BTW: they decided to wait).
As part of the celebration for the summer reading program the school district and the Anoka County Library arranged to have a visit from Rainbow Rowell. The Parents Action League did not want Rowell to visit with their children in any school sponsored event. The book was removed from the shelves of the school library and the author’s visit was cancelled.
The Parents Action League also asked that “appropriate disciplinary action be taken against the Media Center Specialists who reviewed and knowingly approved and promoted this book for use with our minor children. ”1
After reading this book, I felt it had powerful messages for everyone. For those being bullied at school, it shows a way to deal with it. For those debating having sex, it shows that it is okay to wait. For every girl who doesn’t have the perfect body, it shows that they are attractive. For those dealing with abuse at home, it shows teens that they aren’t alone. For those who come from safe homes, it educates them about what it is like for people to be afraid in their own home. For me, this was one of the most powerful messages of Eleanor & Park. At night, I pray for children to feel safe – to have at least one night when they can feel safe. All of these are important lessons for everyone, no matter an individual’s background.
When I feel myself becoming upset about people removing this book (or any book) from libraries and schools, I just remind myself that, the more a book is challenged and banned, the more people hear about it and want to read it!
“Review of Rainbow Rowell Book “Eleanor & Park”,” Parents Action League, Aug. 7, 2013,