What comes after school boards ban your book

Columbus author Ashley Hope Perez braced for blowback prior to the 2015 publication of her novel Out of Darkness, well aware of the mature themes addressed within and the potential for the text to cause an uproar. At the same time, Perez said the book benefited from landing amid a newly established Black lives matter movement, which she said helped foster an environment more conducive to difficult conversations.

Set in an East Texas oil town and unfolding against the backdrop of a real-life tragedy — the 1937 New London school explosion, which killed 294 people — Out of Darkness is a harrowing family drama that never flinches while exploring issues of racism and its ongoing stranglehold on power dynamics, centered on the experiences of Naomi, a young, bilingual Mexican girl who develops a relationship with a Black boy named Wash. In one targeted passage, Naomi is subjected to the racially motivated, sexually objectifying taunts of white classmates, with Perez employing harsh language that effectively captures the ugliness of the exchange.

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