Amazing Mazers

It’s National Banned Books Week this week. So I was going to write this whole piece on why I believe it’s dangerous to ban, challenge, or censor any book, ever. But then this thought occurred to me that these are the kinds of words we all (I hope!) already know. Censorship is bad. Banning books makes my heart hurt. There, I said it.

Instead, I’d like to celebrate a family of beautiful writers, two of whom have faced censorship at several points in their writing careers: The Mazers. That is, Norma Fox Mazer, Harry Mazer, and Anne Mazer.

The first book I ever read by Norma Fox Mazer was After the Rain, published in 1987. I was twelve when I read it, and hadn’t had much personal experience with “big issues” such as death or disease. But by page twenty, I swear to god, I slept with this book under my pillow. When I felt down, it made me laugh. When I felt cold, it kept me warm. And when I was finished, I sought out every other book that Ms. Mazer had ever written. I devoured Taking Terri Mueler like it was the last book I’d ever read. I ate up B, My Name is Bunny like it was the funniest thing I’d ever hear.  And when Ms. Mazer died in October 2009, I vowed that I’d read every book she’d ever written before I died, too. And while  I’m still (relatively) young, I’m still making my way through Ms. Mazers books. But I will read them all one day—because they’re that beautiful, and deserve to be read. Every single one of them.

I encountered the books written by Ms. Mazer’s husband, Harry Mazer, at a much later date. To be honest, I didn’t even know he wrote children’s books until I stumbled upon a book co-authored by both Henry Mazer and his wife, The Solid Gold Kid. When I read The Solid Gold Kid, I was twenty-seven. The book had been published the year I was born, so my skeptical self disregarded it. I thought it’d be outdated. I thought it’d be irrelevant to what teens of today faced. But I promise you, this book was anything but extraneous. Naturally, I went on to read more and then most of Harry Mazer’s books .But I was always most moved by his short stories, which eventually led me to study children’s short stories at great length. Harry Mazer’s You Come, too, A-Ron totally crushed me. And his Furlough—1944 taught me the kinds of things about the world I never knew happened.

Aside from being amazing storytellers, what husband-and-wife Harry and Norma Fox Mazer had in common is that many of their books and short stories written by them were censored or challenged by groups or individuals determined to silence their songs. Norma Fox Mazer’s books were restricted for things like her use of the words piss, penis and snot. Harry Mazer’s books, too, were pulled from library shelves and bookstores, deemed “morally inappropriate” for teenagers.

Although Harry and Norma’s daughter and fellow writer, Anne Mazer, (author of the well-received Abby Hays series, as well as several other delightful children’s titles,) says her books have never been challenged, I have no doubt that censorship will affect her, if only through her parent’s legacy, at some time in the future. In the wise words of Judy Blume, whose books have been disputed for most of her carreer, “censorship happens, often when you least expect it.” Still, I hope that one day every child can have the Mazers, as well as all challenged or banned books at their fingertips. Because, after all, as Harry Mazer himself once said, “Books are our windows of the world.”

Post by: Jill MacKenzie

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