Fiction Outtake: Banned Books (The Early Years)


Trevor stifled his smile and handed the list to Mr. Bautista. The English teacher gave it a quick glance and handed it back. “I know you hate me, but trying to get me fired is pushing it. Even for you.”

“No one’s gonna fire your ass. These are just books.”

“Books which I’m forbidden to teach to my students.”

“You said the whole point of this was for us to teach you something. So I’m gonna teach you why it’s stupid to want to ban all these books.”

Mr. Bautista stood up, looking down at his desk. He pursed his lips.

Trevor waited, curious. He’d either wind up in detention again or else he’d be doing a book report on Huck Finn. Either option was fine with him.

“I hate it when you put me in these positions,” the English teacher said heavily. He looked up, and for a second there, Trevor identified with the look on the guy’s face. “But I have to uphold the school’s ban. Why not Tom Sawyer? It and Huck go together like best friends.”

Tom Sawyer doesn’t put people’s panties in a bunch.”

Mr. Bautista held up a hand. “Language, Trevor. Restate that, please.”

“It doesn’t piss people off?”

He got one of those looks that told him he was trying to kid a kidder and it wasn’t welcome.

“People don’t object to it,” he said in his most dramatic, sullen way. He even scuffed at the floor. No one seemed to care. Times like this, he really hated the English teacher. The guy almost never played along the way he was supposed to.

“Look, I know what you’re trying to do,” Mr. Bautista said. “You want to stir your classmates up and try to rally them to make a stand. You’re right to want to do so. In some parts of the country, you’d be brave to be trying this because some parents would call to have you expelled for even showing me this list.”

“This isn’t some parts of the country,” Trevor said. “This is Riverview, the city that tolerates everything and everyone. So what’s so wrong with a stupid book?”

“Some people feel that books give students the wrong ideas.”

“I’m not some people,” Trevor said.

“Then you need to stand up and be heard. All of you,” Mr. Bautista said, leaning to the side so he could see the class lined up behind Trevor. “Why are you letting nameless, faceless people dictate what you can and can’t read? Who said those people are the morality police? Why are you willing to let them define which ideas are right and which are wrong?”

Trevor’s classmates squirmed uncomfortably. It was up to Trevor, of course, to answer.

“You know, we all show up for the Gay Parade and love it. But we can’t read a book with a guy named Nigger Jim in it? That’s his name. What’s the big deal?”

“I don’t make the rules, Trevor. In this case, I don’t even agree with them, but if I want to pay off my car, I’ve got to follow them.”

“Don’t you ever get tired of being a sheep?”

“Of course I do. When I was your age,” Mr. Bautista gestured again at the class, “I wanted to read every banned book, too. So I did — outside of the classroom, where no one could stop me. And you’re right, Trevor. Once I read them, I realized they were no big deal. Except for one thing.”

He held up a finger and every kid in the classroom, including Trevor, leaned forward to hear what their teacher had to say. “Those books were what made me fall in love with literature. They’re what made me want to be a teacher. If you want to read these books outside of school and put together a discussion group at someone’s house, please do! Expand your worlds, your brains. Read the books that were banned and the ones that weren’t. Learn all you can about literature and then come back and tell me if you’ve learned to agree about the pointlessness of banning books. All it does is make every single last one of you want to read them!”

Trevor squirmed. No wonder he didn’t like this guy; he got to all Trevor’s great rants before he could do it himself.

“Look,” Mr. Bautista said, “I’ll make you a deal, Trevor. You do the report on Tom Sawyer. Focus on Tom and Becky and their relationship–”

“I’m not reading some sappy love story!”

“Read the book and see for yourself what I’m talking about.” Mr. Bautista leaned forward and dropped his voice so no one else in line behind Trevor could hear. “If you do that, I’ll share a book of my own with you. It’s one I could get fired for even telling you the title of, the school board is that uptight about it.”

Trevor’s eyes sparkled. If it was that forbidden, it was for him, all right.

“Deal?” Mr. Bautista said, leaning back and nodding at the next few kids in line.

“Deal,” Trevor said, nodding firmly.

Mr. Bautista pointed at the door. Trevor gave him a wild look. “What’d I do now?”

“It’s not what you did, Trevor. It’s what you’re about to do. Go down to the library and get yourself a copy of Tom Sawyer while I okay everyone else’s picks.”

He hoped the nerdy kids all wanted Tom Sawyer. He couldn’t wait to see their faces when he got up and made his report. That meant he had to put them to shame.

Those losers? It shouldn’t be hard, he decided and headed off to the library, letting short little Carolyn take that final step up to Mr. Bautista’s desk, her list trembling.

Trevor wondered if that was because she wanted to read Lady Chatterly’s Lover. The quiet girls like Carolyn, they liked that racy stuff. She’d probably get to do it, too. That one hadn’t been banned.

Trevor knew that. Trevor knew every last book that had been banned; he’d memorized the lists.

He could hardly wait to see which one Mr. Bautista was going to slip him. It better be good.

I know you want to know more about the mystery book. While I don’t answer the question directly, here’s a response that ought to satisfy anyway.



  1. Robin

    October 4, 2008 10:28 am

    Trevor is a whole lot smarter than he lets on.BR/BR/Nu, so what book was it?

  2. gautami tripathy

    October 4, 2008 10:48 am

    The Satanic Verses by Salman Rishdie is banned in India. After reading it I couldn’t think of the reason why. BR/BR/Maybe Trevor ought to read it too.

  3. Lex Valentine

    October 4, 2008 11:54 am

    Well, at least he likes to read. LOL

  4. Thomma Lyn

    October 4, 2008 12:22 pm

    *GIGGLE!* Great job, my friend! And gogogo Trevor!BR/BR/I liked the English teacher, too. And I’m itching to know what book he passes Trevor!

  5. Bridget

    October 4, 2008 2:40 pm

    I loved this! What a great commentary on banned books in this day and age.

  6. bunnygirl

    October 4, 2008 3:27 pm

    Very nice–a lot of cool things are going on in this story and it’s a great tribute to the Banned Books!

  7. Jennifer

    October 4, 2008 4:01 pm

    Nicely done, as always. I envy your gift for dialog.

  8. Tilly Greene

    October 4, 2008 7:57 pm

    Okay, give over, what’s the book! Cruel woman :-)BR/BR/I knew Trevor would do the subject justice.

  9. anno

    October 4, 2008 8:25 pm

    As a former teacher, I’ve got to say: “Go, Trevor!”BR/BR/Great dialog! And like the others, I’m wondering what book Mr. Bautista is going to pass on to him.

  10. Denver Cereal

    October 4, 2008 9:05 pm

    Very nice! It’s fun to see some of these early years!BR/BR/Claudia from Denver Cereal

  11. Breeni Books

    October 5, 2008 12:36 am

    I didn’t even know Trevor could read!BR/BR/Seriously, this is good stuff. The perfect Banned Books tribute. But now I REALLY want to know what book the teacher is going to share with him. Mayhaps that will be in another outtake???? Please????

  12. Amber Barth

    October 5, 2008 1:17 am

    I read through this years list and just started laughing. The books that where band and the reasons for them where just to ridiculous. One book was being banned for foul language that, to my opinion, was much cleaner than what you see on TV shows (cough-Family Guy-cough).BR/BR/All I can say is “Go Trevor!”

  13. Theresa

    October 5, 2008 1:19 am

    OK, give it up! What’s the book??? I gotta know now! There’s no page to turn and that’s the one thing I want to do.BR/BR/I like how you painted the characters through their dialog. Without describing them, you can still imagine how they might appear. BR/BR/What did you say the book was?

  14. Shelley Munro

    October 5, 2008 4:48 am

    “No wonder he didn’t like this guy; he got to all Trevor’s great rants before he could do it himself.”BR/BR/This line cracked me up. Trevor is very smart. 🙂

  15. anthonynorth

    October 5, 2008 6:12 am

    This one of your best. And to leave it on a cliffhanger …

  16. Linda Jacobs

    October 5, 2008 8:53 am

    I have quite a few Trevors in my classes and I love them all! BR/BR/This was fantastic!

  17. Rambler

    October 5, 2008 10:30 am

    hey clever take

  18. Granny Smith

    October 5, 2008 10:55 am

    Trevor’s character is delineated here by action, dialogue and his inner thoughts. It is much more effective than any third-person description would have been. I am continually intrigued by your cast of characters.BR/BR/And, yes, I was curious about the book you had in mind and followed your link, where I left a further comment.

  19. Marty E.

    October 5, 2008 12:55 pm

    this is a great piece, Susan…the dialogue so real and true

  20. Stan Ski

    October 5, 2008 9:38 pm

    Lift off the bans – let us read.

  21. Alice Audrey

    October 6, 2008 12:10 am

    Lady Chatterly’s Lover is actually very dull. I spent the entire book waiting for it to come up with something worth being banned for. Mostly it was just misogynistic and pedantic.BR/BR/So, which book did the teacher offer?

  22. SweetTalkingGuy

    October 6, 2008 5:47 am

    Nicely written and so true!

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