Oh man. If you don’t already know this, my favourite news junket is Vice. Created by a once-Canadian (I don’t want to get into it), the publication, as well as its HBO series counterpart, is smart and sassy and often riddled with cursing, so, obviously, it was created specifically for me. A few weeks ago, I was minding my own business, scrolling through the stories via the mobile app, when I caught a phrase that sent a chill down my spine: BANNED BOOKS. Now, I’ll admit that my immediate reaction was that this story was either coming from America’s Heartland, or ISIL-occupied Iraq; but no, dear reader, it was coming from New Zealand.
That’s right! For the first time in 22 years, New Zealand has banned a book. Being caught buying, selling, or lending said book will cost you close to $4000 USD in fines. What, you may ask, could possibly warrant such an extreme penalty? Is it white supremist propaganda? Is it DIY nuclear weaponry? Is it borderline child pornography? NOPE. It’s just your run-of-the-mill award winning young adult fiction.
Ted Dawe’s Into the River was the 2013 winner of New Zealand Post Children’s Book Award, and it includes (GASP!) realistic depictions of drugs and sex, as well as (MY WORD!) swearing. Furthermore, much like the list of most wanted banned books in the US, this one too features a minority teenager, a Maori boy. Dawe worries that the censorship of his novel is indicative of New Zealand’s increasingly conservative leanings. I’m not sure what I find more disturbing: the fact that the last book to have been banned in New Zealand included instructions on how to build a bazooka, or the fact that poor Dawe only learned of the banning of his book by reading about it in a newspaper. You can read the entire interview here.