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UBC Theses and Dissertations

An exploration of pre-censorship of children's books : perceptions and experiences of canadian authors and illustrators Givens, Cherie Lynn


There is little documentation of pre-censorship of children’s literature. The discussion of pre-censorship is often submerged within more general censorship discussions and not specifically identified. It is addressed in snippets of information revealed in interviews and responses to questionnaires concerning censorship. This study was designed to examine in detail the phenomenon of pre-censorship as experienced by Canadian children’s and young adult authors and illustrators. A qualitative, naturalistic methodology was selected to explore participants’ experiences through in-depth interviews with open-ended questions designed to encourage participants to speak at length and share thoughts, feelings, and insights. Seventeen Canadian authors and illustrators, who self-identified as having experienced pre-censorship, participated in this study. Face-to-face interviews were conducted with all but one of the participants, whose interview was conducted by telephone and a follow-up in-person meeting. Most participants requested confidentiality, wishing to keep their names and the titles of the books undisclosed. Participants provided concrete examples of they experienced pre-censorship. Types of pre-censorship were identified. Reasons given for pre-censorship make clear that marketing and sales concerns as well as a fear of censorship after publication are dominant motivating factors. The incidents of pre-censorship discussed can be distilled down to several common threads that help to identify the essence of the experience. The main criterion that separates participants’ pre-censorship experiences from normal or acceptable editing is the feeling of loss of intellectual freedom or freedom of expression in having to make the changes. Almost all of the participants now self-censor in anticipation of censorship. When participants’ experiences are compared to documented instances of pre-censorship of children’s and young adult authors in the U.K. and U.S., similarities can be seen in certain types of pre-censorship and self-censorship. Further investigation is needed to determine if there are certain types of pre-censorship that are common to countries such as Canada and the U.S. that share a similar culture and language, and if so where do they originate. Further investigation is also needed to determine whether Canadian children’s and young adult books are being Americanized at the cost of Canadian culture or simply evolving into a more global literature.

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