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When Kissing Scares People

This week is Banned Books Week, which, according to the American Library Association, “is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read. It brings together the entire book community; librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers and readers of all types, in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular.” Here on Eleventh Stack, we are highlighting some books on the Top Ten Frequently Challenged Books of 2015 list and books that have been challenged in the past.


When I read Two Boys Kissing three years ago, I knew I was holding a banned book.

A reader gets an immediate sense of what acclaimed young adult author David Levithan’s novel is about; however, as with so many great books, Two Boys Kissing is much more than its title and cover.

One expects Two Boys Kissing to be about two teenage boys (Craig and Harry) and their relationship. One doesn’t expect a chorus of anonymous, once-closeted voices from an era defined by the AIDS epidemic.  A plague that once turned thousands of young men like Craig and Harry into ghosts, who are now speaking to them with recognition.

“There is a nearly perfect balance between the past and the future. As we become the distant past, you become a future few of us would have imagined.”

With powerful and heartfelt writing on every single page, Two Boys Kissing speaks to the very truth about what it means to be human, vulnerable and authentic. It’s groundbreaking. It bridges generations and decades of LGBTQ history in a way that hasn’t been done before.

If you put enough closets together, you have enough space for a room. If you put enough rooms together, you have space for a house. If you put enough houses together, you have space for a town, then a city, then a nation, then a world.

“Two boys kissing. You know what this means. 

“For us, it was such a secret gesture. Secret because we were afraid. Secret because we were ashamed. Secret because it was a story that nobody was telling. 

“But what power it had… Whether we cloaked it in the guise of You be the boy and I’ll be the girl, or whether we defiantly called it by its name, when we kissed, we knew how powerful it was. Our kisses were seismic. When seen by the wrong person, they could destroy us. When shared with the right person, they had the power of confirmation, the force of destiny.”

For all this, Two Boys Kissing is #10 on the Top Ten Frequently Challenged Books of 2015 list. That means many people who need to read this—especially young adults identifying as LGBTQ who may feel alone and closeted in communities throughout our country and our world—may not have that opportunity, keeping silent the conversations that have the potential to open doors and change lives.

-Melissa F.

Make Space for a World

Read Two Boys Kissing

Melissa F. loves short stories (especially ones that are interconnected), literary fiction, memoirs, poetry and creative nonfiction. A native of Philadelphia, Melissa loves everything about Pittsburgh, especially working for the Library as Manager of Grants and Research.

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