New Zealand Just Banned a Book: A Rumpus Roundup

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New Zealand, an otherwise seemingly modern nation, has just banned a book. Ted Dawe’s Into the River was banned this week in the island nation where it is now a crime to supply, display, or distribute the book with fines starting at $3,000.

In 2013, the New Zealand Post named Into the River the Book of the Year, the top prize in the Children’s Book Awards.

Not everyone was happy about the book winning the prize.

As recently as August, the book was reclassified from restricted to age 14 and older to unclassified, meaning it did not need to have any kind of warning label.

Christian lobbyist group Family First filed a formal complaint with the Film and Literature Board of Review responsible for labels.

Protests are planned across the tiny nation including silent readings of the book.

Even the leader of the Christian lobbyist group says he never intended for the book to receive a ban, only to carry warning labels.

The last book banned by the nation more than two decades ago was Bazooka: How to Build Your Own and true to its title, it provided instructions on how to build a bazooka.

VICE spoke to the author of Into the River:

My books are very Kiwi books, they speak to New Zealand youth and issues. That’s why I’m so offended that it’s been blocked. It’s my job is to go out there and win over the readership of boys who don’t read. It’s written in the style, and about the issues, that boys are interested in. They’re interested in fighting, drugs, and there is sex in there of course—because there’s sex in life. And when the sex happens I describe it, I don’t set out to write anything erotic. I’m quite dispassionate about those things really. The central theme of the book is about bullying and how bullying damages kids long-term.


Ian MacAllen's fiction has appeared in 45th Parallel Magazine, Little Fiction, Vol 1. Brooklyn, Joyland Magazine, and elsewhere and nonfiction has appeared in Chicago Review of Books, The Negatives, Electric Literature, Fiction Advocate, and elsewhere. He is the Deputy Editor of The Rumpus, holds an MA in English from Rutgers University, tweets @IanMacAllen and is online at IanMacAllen.com. More from this author →