2022 champion of free expression
February 24th, 2022
Canada’s Book and Periodical Council has named Victoria-based Robin Stevenson (at right) as the 2022 champion of free expression.
Stevenson is a member of the LGBTQ+ community and author of more than 25 books for kids and teens, both fiction and non-fiction. Her writing has been translated into a number of languages and published in more than ten countries. Her title, My Body My Choice: The Fight for Abortion Rights (Orca, 2019) won the Sheila A. Egoff Children’s Literature Prize in 2020.
Much of Stevenson’s writing focuses on the queer community. As one of the contributors to the anthology Breaking Boundaries: LGBTQ2 Writers on Coming Out and Into Canada (Rebel Mountain Press, 2018), Stevenson wrote in her foreword of the other contributors: “They are teenagers and seniors; single and married; coming out to parents and becoming parents themselves. Woven together, these voices leave me with a sense of hopefulness: a belief that the creativity and fierce commitment of our community will carry us forward as we work to create a Canada that lives up to the dream of freedom and safety it represents to so many people around the world.”
Recently, Stevenson says there has been a widespread and organized backlash against her work ( along with the work of many other LGBTQ+ authors) particularly after her title Pride: Celebrating Diversity and Community (Orca) was published in 2016.
The following are quotes from Robin Stevenson from the Freedom to Read website:
“I’m an adult who has been out as queer for decades, and I have lots of privilege, safety and support. Still, it’s upsetting when my books are challenged, and it’s personal because the message is essentially that people don’t want their kids to learn that people like me, and families like mine, exist. I don’t want fears about challenges to affect my writing. And in the end, I think push back just makes me more determined to write the books I want to write and the books I believe kids need.”
“People who challenge or try to ban books are wildly underestimating children. Kids and teens are people—not the property of adults—and they are generally far more capable and thoughtful than they are given credit for.”
“I think it is really important for people to know that while those who challenge books are very vocal, they do not speak for the majority. It is really important not to censor ourselves—as writers, as librarians and as educators—out of fear of these challenges.”
“I write because I believe books matter and words matter, and they matter precisely because they are powerful, and they have consequences. So, while I speak up against censorship, I will also speak up when people use arguments about freedom of expression to justify spreading misinformation, to vilify marginalized groups, or to perpetuate discrimination or hatred. I’ll use my own words to speak up and explain exactly why their words are harmful. Supporting freedom of expression, for me, does not mean ignoring the very real harm that results from hateful rhetoric. We all get to choose whose voices we boost, which ideas we elevate, and which words we provide space for.”
Freedom to Read Week, organized by the Book and Periodical Council, is an annual event that encourages Canadians to think about and reaffirm their commitment to intellectual freedom.
For more information, visit: https://www.freedomtoread.ca/