My Shadow is Purple author Scott Stuart on book bans extremism

My Shadow is Purple author Scott Stuart on book bans extremism

Scott Stuart's quest for inclusion in a divisive world

by Suswati Basu

In a world where diversity and representation are valued more than ever, stories that empower and embrace differences have become crucial. Scott Stuart, a father and author, has experienced both the triumphs and challenges of promoting inclusion through his children’s books. As we celebrate Banned Books Week, Stuart shared his journey with us at How To Be Books, as well as how it has impacted his work, and the growing challenges he faces.

Scott Stuart talks about book bans extremism

A voice for inclusion

Scott Stuart’s mission to create stories of empowerment for children was born from his experiences working at The Royal Children’s Hospital. He witnessed firsthand how important it is for children to feel represented, understood, and loved. This commitment led to the creation of his bestselling books, “My Shadow Is Pink” and “My Shadow is Purple.” These books aim to help kids feel included and convey the message that it’s okay to be themselves.

Both works have received widespread attention, with Stuart making appearances on shows like The Today Show and being featured in publications such as People Magazine, Buzzfeed, Huffington Post, and more. However, along with this success came a wave of challenges, with the books being challenged and banned in several states across the United States.

What is the meaning of the book My Shadow is Purple?

My Shadow is Purple tells the story of a young boy who discovers that his shadow is purple. He is initially confused and embarrassed, but he eventually learns to embrace his unique shadow.

The book is a celebration of individuality and self-acceptance, and moving beyond the gender binary. It teaches children that it is okay to be different, and that they should be proud of who they are.

A troubling trend

Stuart shared his concerns about the alarming frequency with which his books face challenges. He stated, “Almost every couple of weeks, I receive an email or an alert that my book is being challenged in some way, by a really conservative faction in the USA.” This trend has even extended to Australia, where a planned reading at a library was cancelled due to a right-wing protest. However, this incident ultimately led to his books receiving national attention.

Read: Georgia’s limited book challenge uptake as teacher fired

“I can’t imagine why they would want to get rid of a stable part of their children’s lives in a great teacher just because they don’t believe in something that was read. I mean, things in my son’s classes, there’s lots of things that I don’t necessarily agree with, but I’d never try and get the teacher fired because of it. It’s so upsetting and as I said, it’s just so hard to wrap my head around that this is reality.”

Scott Stuart, “My Shadow is Purple” Author

A particularly distressing case involved a teacher named Katie Rinderle, who was fired for reading “My Shadow is Purple” to her class in the state of Georgia, US. Stuart expressed his frustration at the situation, saying, “I can’t imagine why they would want to get rid of a stable part of their children’s lives in a great teacher just because they don’t believe in something that was read.”

Scott Stuart has faced a number of book bans including for My Shadow is Pink

The political landscape

Stuart believes that these challenges are escalating as the 2024 US election approaches. He sees them as a result of the ongoing moral panic surrounding issues related to the LGBTQ+ community and gender identity. He stated, “We went through years of, in America, Roe v. Wade, abortion being a hot-button issue, and that then got removed as an issue. And so now there’s an entire side of the political spectrum who doesn’t have a talking point anymore. And so they need a villain, so that they can run on that issue, and so they have basically chosen the trans community, the LGBTQ+ community.”

Furthermore, he noted the profit motive behind extremism and misinformation. Stuart emphasised, “I understand very well just how much profit there is in online extremism.” Generating controversy and extreme views can lead to substantial online engagement and financial gains, further fuelling the challenges faced by authors like him.

Facing hate and extremism

Stuart then shared his experiences dealing with hate and extremism. He mentioned that some individuals who leave negative comments are not even thinking for themselves but merely parroting what they’ve heard. He expressed empathy towards them, recognising the struggles they might be facing.

“They’ve heard stuff and now they don’t even feel comfortable enough to add their own thoughts to this discussion. They’re just going to parrot something that they’ve heard and add that into my world. And so it’s kind of like I almost feel just pity for them.”

Scott Stuart, “My Shadow is Purple” Author

However, when it comes to media reports and challenges that need addressing on a broader scale, Stuart believes it’s essential to counter misinformation with the truth. He mentioned the importance of creating videos and content to provide correct information and clarity, particularly for those on the fence about the issues. This is something he did himself in light of what happened to Rinderle.


And the book was purchased AT THE SCHOOL at a book fair.

♬ original sound – Scott Stuart

The role of books in society

The author firmly believes in the power of books to shape values and promote empathy. He expressed his desire for readers to see themselves and others in his books and emphasised the importance of open, accepting conversations, especially when reading with a parent or caregiver.

Read: Book bans: Uncle Bobby’s Wedding sequel to be released by Sarah Brannen

Regarding book bans, he stated, “I am not a fan of censorship, but I also believe that certain platforms have a responsibility to not promote hate and not promote misinformation.” However, he drew a distinction between art that explores uncomfortable topics and content designed to spread hate and division.

Looking ahead

As the challenges and bans continue, Scott Stuart remains committed to creating books that challenge norms and promote inclusion. He encourages fellow authors not to be discouraged by the fear of backlash but to continue writing and challenging the status quo.

In a world where representation and diversity matter, authors like him play a vital role in shaping the future generation’s values and beliefs. Despite the challenges, their stories of empowerment and inclusion continue to inspire and make a difference in the lives of young readers.

Want to watch special bonus material from this interview with Laura Gao? Join the How To Be Books membership for only £4 per month!

Resources to check out to fight against Messy Roots book ban:

Like Stuart, Uncle Bobby’s Wedding author Sarah Brannen has had her book banned and is a plaintiff alongside PEN America and Penguin Random House in Florida. I had the pleasure of also exclusively interviewing the writer as well.

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Molly | Transatlantic Notes October 6, 2023 - 1:54 pm

This sounds like a wonderful book, and one that is so important to help children embrace differences (their own, and each others). I am glad that banned books or subjects that are often being banned are being brought to the light and discussed/shared.

Suswati Basu October 6, 2023 - 1:56 pm

Thanks Molly, I completely agree, these wonderful authors have become activists by proxy. And they’re doing a wonderful job highlighting this issue!

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