A young adult novel that has come under fire in its author's native country will be making its way to the U.S. Ted Dawe's Into the River, which earlier this month became the first book in more than two decades to be banned in New Zealand, has been acquired by Jason Pinter at Polis Books.
The award-winning coming-of-age novel, published by Random House New Zealand in 2013, recently became a target of the conservative group Family First. According to CNN, a representative from Family First said the book's "strong offensive language" and "strong sexual descriptions" drove the organization's complaint. The group said it also took issue with the fact that book "covers serious things like pedophilia and sexual abuse."
Family First asked that the country's Office of Film and Literature Classification—which generally deals with ratings on things like movies and video games—look into the title, which won the New Zealand Post Margaret Mahy Award in 2013. The result has led to the book being pulled from retailers, schools and libraries.
Targeted at boys 15 and older, the novel follows a Maori boy whose life is upended after he wins a scholarship to an elite prep school in Auckland. Te Arepa Santos's struggles to fit in, as he deals with issues of assimilation, are at the heart of the novel. This process, Pinter explained, forces the character to "turn his back on the culture and history that helped shape him and his ancestors."
The banning of Into the River has stirred a number of authors to speak out, with many criticizing the government for what they perceive as a blatant act of censorship. Among those taking up the issue are Man Booker winner and The Luminaries author Eleanor Catton; she called the ban "appalling and shameful," adding that the move "says nothing about the pretext and everything about those who are enforcing the ban."
Pinter acquired North American rights to Into the River, as well as Dawe's earlier novel Thunder Road (the sequel to Into the River), directly from Random House New Zealand. Polis is aiming to publish Into the River, in both hardcover and e-book, in June 2016.