Photo Credit: @wcupancte
Last weekend, the National Council of Teachers of English and the West Chester Writing Project invited author Amy Sarig King — also known as A.S. King — to West Chester University. King has written multiple popular Young Adult and Middle Grade novels including but not limited to “Please Ignore Vera Dietz,” “Ask the Passengers” and “Everybody Sees the Ants.”
During her visit to WCU, she held a free talk and book signing event for her new novel “Attack of the Black Rectangles” followed by a day-long writing conference for English Education majors. The novel explores censorship and book bannings in schools by following Mac, a student who finds sentences in his assigned novel blacked out and decides to speak out.
The majority of her talk consisted of a speech against book banning which she has given to countless English educators and librarians. She started off by noting her Pennsylvanian roots and addressing her horror at the recent book bannings at Central York High School. The school board pulled many books about Black history and experience including but not limited to biographies of Martin Luther King Jr and Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Fortunately, student protests were able to get most of the books unbanned in the school, but PA still remains third out of all the U.S. states in the amount of books banned.
“Never was there a more important time to fight for the truth and model critical thinking for young people,” King states. Then she inserts her signature dry sense of humor, saying “This is obviously where I tell you a story about my mom.”
King went on to describe her experience with reading the news as a child, where she was encouraged to do so and then asked by her mom, “what do you think about that?” King admires that her mom pushed her to engage in critical thinking at such a young age.
“I believe this is how we heal our country,” King states of encouraging kids to engage in critical thinking. “I believe in writing the truth and reading the truth and calmly speaking the truth until people can’t pretend anymore.”
King also spoke of the importance of children having access to books where character’s experiences and identities resembled their own. She remembers her school librarian in Junior High who knew she stole Paul Zindel’s books and continued to give her more books anyway instead of reporting her to the principal’s office. She even suggested that King write some stories of her own.
“And I wrote out my trauma. And now I get to help students write theirs out, too.”
When speaking to school students, King asks them to treat others kindly, as in doing so they are also being kind to themselves. She states, “I am on a mission to reduce the number of abusers in the world. It seems only fair that abusers would fight hard for me to not talk to their children about the beauty of compassion, empathy and acceptance.”
Adam Craig, a Secondary English Education major who attended both the book talk and the writer’s conference, stated of his experience with King, “she’s the kind of person that I’ve always wanted to be: an educator, a writer, an activist, a volunteer. Just a genuine person who does a lot of good for the world and for herself.”
Emma Hogan is a third-year English major with a minor in Journalism. EH954390@wcupa.edu