International writers share perspectives on controversial books

23 February 2015

Public talk: “What Children Shouldn’t Read: A Global Controversy” hosted by the Yale-NUS College Writers’ Centre

The Yale-NUS College Writers’ Centre will host a symposium on challenges faced by children’s and young adult literature around the world today. Held from 3 to 4 March 2015, the symposium will feature local and international authors who will share their perspectives through writing workshops with students, academic discussions and a public talk. Yale-NUS students will have the opportunity to hone their creative writing skills by learning from and engaging with these published authors. Such events foster not only a curiosity for knowledge but also an appreciation of the diversity and free exchange of ideas, building the foundations for Yale-NUS students to become leaders in tomorrow’s world.

On 3 March 2015, authors Susannah Bright, Suchen Lim, Jean Davies Okimoto and Mark West will participate in a panel discussion titled “What Children Shouldn’t Read: A Global Controversy”. Moderated by Alvin Pang, a Singaporean writer and winner of the Singapore Youth Award for Arts and Culture in 2007, the public talk aims to facilitate an open discussion on the contemporary issues and challenges facing young adult literature internationally. These include issues of censorship, the idealisation of childhood and the examination of sexuality within children’s literature. Mr Pang said, “Sweeping difficult conversations under the collective carpet will not help our children deal with an increasingly uncertain, complex future. We need to find a way to speak of what’s unmentionable today, before it becomes unfathomable tomorrow.”

The panel discussion will be held at the Ngee Ann Kongsi Auditorium at University Town at 7pm on 3 March 2015. The biographies of the panel participants can be found in Annex A. Registration will be accepted on a first-come-first-served basis online at

The Yale-NUS College Writers’ Centre conducts a variety of activities for Yale-NUS students, including consultations, events and workshops. The centre also hosts the Yale-NUS College Literary Series, which is open to Yale-NUS students and the larger community. The series features writers and speakers of different genres from all over the world. Some notable speakers include Singaporean playwright Alfian Sa’at, Filipino fictionist and editor Sarge Lacuesta, British novelists Pico Iyer and Geoff Dyer, as well as American poet Jane Hirshfield. The Writers’ Centre is a co-host of the annual American Writers Festival, alongside the Singapore Management University, with generous help from the US Embassy in Singapore. The next edition of the American Writers Festival, which featured the likes of Chinelo Okparanta, Inara Verzemnieks, Jeff Sharlet, and Nathalie Handal in 2014, will take place in September 2015.


Annex A


Susannah “Susie” Bright is an American author, editor, and journalist known for her original and pioneering work in sexual politics and erotic expression. When she was in high school, high school underground newspaper – The Red Tide – was shut down. She served as plantiff suing the Los Angeles Board of Education for the right of minors to distribute their own publications without prior censorship or approval. An award-winning author, she has edited and published hundreds of the finest writers and journalists working in American literature and progressive activism today.

Suchen Christine Lim’s latest novel The River’s Song was launched in Singapore, Manila & London 2014.  She has written five novels, a short-story collection, a co-written play, a non-fiction work and fourteen children’s picture books. Her novel Fistful of Colours won the inaugural Singapore Literature Prize. In 2012 she received the Southeast Asia Write Award. Other novels are Rice Bowl, Gift From The Gods, and A Bit of Earth. Other works include The Amah: A Portrait in Black & White, The Lies That Build a Marriage, Hua Song: Stories of the Chinese Diaspora. Awarded a Fulbright fellowship, she was an International Writing Fellow and writer in residence at the University of Iowa, and a Visiting Fellow in Creative Writing in NTU, Singapore. She has also been awarded writing residencies in UK, Australia, S. Korea and the Philippines.

Jean Davies Okimoto is an author and playwright whose work has received numerous awards and been translated into many languages. Winston of Churchill: One Bear’s Battle Against Global Warming, winner of the Green Earth Book award, has been published both in Taiwan and the People’s Republic of China. Known for cross-cultural themes, her picture book White Swan Express features cross-cultural adoption and Talent Night, a young adult novel featuring a bi-racial character won the Parent’s Choice Award. Among the awards for her novels for adults are the Eric Hoffer Award and the Indie Next Generation Award for fiction. She is also the recipient of the American Library Best Book for Young Adults, Smithsonian Notable Book, International Reading Association Reader’s Choice Award and the Washington Governor’s Award.

Mark I. West is a Professor of English at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, where he also serves as the Chair of the English Department.  He has written or edited fifteen books, most of which deal with children’s literature and culture.  A past president of the Children’s Literature Association, Dr. West is internationally recognized as an expert on children’s literature. He has written extensively on the relationship between children’s literature and the freedom of expression.  Two of his books – Children, Culture and Controversy and Trust Your Children:  Voices Against Censorship in Children’s Literature – address this theme.


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