HAMILTON COUNTY, Ind. — Famed Indianapolis author John Green took to social media to call Hamilton East Public Library’s decision to move his books — including best-seller “The Fault in Our Stars” — from the Young Adult section to the Adult section “an embarrassment.”
“This is ludicrous,” Green said on Twitter after learning of the decision. “It is about teenagers and I wrote it for teenagers. Teenagers are not harmed by reading TFIOS. This is such an embarrassment…”
The decision to move “The Fault in Our Stars” from the Young Adult section to the general, Adult section came as part of Hamilton East Public Library’s new policy to review materials available in their children and teen sections in order to ensure the books are “age appropriate.” Green’s book was but one of hundreds to have been recently relocated, noted here in the latest board meeting agenda.
According to our previous reports, “age-appropriate” materials cannot contain sexual content or descriptions of sexual content. In “The Fault in Our Stars,” a teenage girl who is a cancer patient meets a teenage cancer survivor and the pair fall in love, eventually losing their virginity to one another.
Many took to Twitter to criticize the library’s decision, calling the best-selling story that spawned a 2014 film adaptation “beautiful” and “inspiring.”
One Twitter user even said she read “The Fault in Ours Stars” with her teenager.
“It was absolutely beautiful and not something to hide from,” Twitter user @amalranthony wrote. “HEPL is a disgrace.”
Green followed up his statement about the decision being “an embarrassment” by saying, “you won’t catch me alive or dead in Fishers, Indiana until these ridiculous policies are revoked.”
Late Wednesday, the author released a lengthy letter about the situation intended for board members in Fishers and Noblesville:
I’m John Green, resident of Indianapolis and author of “The Fault in Our Stars,” “Turtles All the Way Down,” and other novels for teenagers. A community member gave me your emails; I hope you won’t mind my reaching out. Feel free to email me here or call me at [redacted].
I know that some of you are very business-focused, so here’s some business: I’ve sold more than 40,000,000 books as a resident of Central Indiana, which has been very good news for the tax revenue of this state and the local economy more generally. (We are, after all, home to the world’s largest book warehousing operation.) “The Fault in Our Stars” is the best selling book ever to be set in Indiana, and has driven considerable tourism to our shared community. I’m also the cofounder and CEO of an e-commerce company and the educational media company Complexly, which between them employ over 115 people, several of whom live in Fishers or Noblesville.
I am your neighbor. And I am absolutely horrified by the decision of some members of your board to override a huge body of expertise and deem hundreds of books–including mine–inappropriate to be shelved as Young Adult Literature. One of the novels you’ve pulled off the shelves won the Michael L. Printz Award as the best Young Adult novel according to the leading librarians in the U.S. Another was awarded the Corinne Book Prize, the highest award for young adult literature in Germany. Other books on the list, including Judy Blume’s “Forever” and Laurie Halse Anderson’s “Speak,” are widely viewed as classics of Young Adult literature. And more to that point, librarians and teachers in our community–the highly-trained experts Fishers and Noblesville pay with public money–agree that these books should be shelved as Young Adult literature, which is precisely why they were until your shameful intervention.
It’s political theater of the lowest and most embarrassing order, and it’s an awful way to have Fishers and Noblesville make national news.
As a business owner, I’m infuriated by your third-rate vice signalling that complicates efforts to bring business and talent here. As a parent, I’m disgusted by your disregard for the professionalism and expertise of teachers and librarians. As a Hoosier author, I am deeply offended by your inaccurate and harmful portrayal of my work. And as a citizen, I am so disappointed that you would use public time and public resources to engage in work that actively harms the public through censorship, defacto and otherwise.
I implore you to walk this awful policy back and allow the real experts to decide where to shelve my books and those of my colleagues.
Thank you for your time,
According to previous reports, the Hamilton East Public Library anticipates that roughly half the books currently housed in the Young Adult section will be moved to the general, Adult section once the entire review process is completed.
“The Fault in Our Stars by John Green was relocated based on criteria included in the Board-approved Hamilton East Public Library Collection Development Policy,” read a statement released by the director of communications at HEPL. “The title remains identified in the library online catalog as for a Young Adult audience and is available to check out in print, audio, and electronic formats.”
The board-approved HEPL Collection Development Policy can be found online here.
Additionally, HEPL visitors can express concerns about the placement of any materials within the library. To begin this process, patrons are asked to submit a “Request for Reconsideration” form. That can be found here.
“Moving books to a section that is not for that intended audience is a form of censorship and we’re against censorship,” said Chad Heck, who serves as the advocacy co-chair at Indiana Library Federation. “I hope that the library board reconsiders this policy and keeps those books together and really encourages parents to be involved in the reading lives of their kids.”
The library said the review process comes with a cost of upwards of $300,000 due to the library needing to hire more staff to read the books for any mention of sexual content.
“I think the money could definitely be better spent elsewhere,” library patron Jacob Shillings previously remarked.
Library’s decisions to move books to other sections or ban them outright for the inclusion of sexual, gender identity or LGBTQ+ content has been met with frequent criticism and heated debates across the United States from both supporters and opponents of such decisions.
Critics often point out that sexual content isn’t seen as “age appropriate” for teenagers as studies show that most Americans have intercourse for the first time as a teenager. Green argued that his books are about teens and deal with things teenagers experience and therefore deserve to be in the Young Adult section.
Hamilton East Public Library board member Micah Beckwith, who supports the policy, previously said he believes it’s the board’s duty to set standards. He noted that while the books are being moved, they aren’t being banned and will still be in the library.
The library did not clarify if religious books, such as the Bible, would be included in the review for containing sexual content.
To date, Hamilton East Public Library has relocated 1,385 titles to the Adult section but still has nearly 75% of the library’s content to be vetted.