This month marks the 5th anniversary of us building our pink Little Free Library, the first one in our low income neighborhood on the Boise Bench. It was a pink doghouse I purchased off Craigslist for $20 and turned into a little library or free bookshelf, as the idea is you take a book and leave a book, old ones that you have no need for, and grab a new-to-you read. There is a whole shelf dedicated to children's books and another for adult reads. We live two blocks from our elementary school and on a busy corner that sees lots of foot and bike traffic. From the get-go we've been a popular stop and quickly became a neighborhood icon and so overwhelmed with books that we have entire shelves in our garage housing extra books to replenish it. We've scored some amazing reads from it and know others have, too. We carefully curate this space to make sure that appropriate reading material is inside (nothing too raunchy, political, or religious for example - like the Books of Mormon the missionaries repeatedly drop inside) and that the books are in readable condition (often they're ripped up). The most popular items are fiction, so most of the nonfiction gets taken out by our family and sent to the thrift store, and I also dispose of other books I think are harmful propaganda, like:
Diet books, in particular, have been removed and recycled (you're welcome, Earth and people of the Earth) or reused in my art projects. As a writer, academic and body image activist I think a lot about words and they often play a big part in my art. Their history, meanings, double entendres, spellings. How we fling them, mean them, change them, reclaim them. They often show up as important parts of my artwork and I reuse these books and the pages in them in often radical and subversive ways.
Last year on the eve of the one year anniversary of my stand for self-love in the market I visited the sacred spot on 8th Street downtown Boise that I refer to as hallowed ground and sprinkled hearts I cut from this diet book on the spot where I was standing and all around Freak Alley Gallery. It was cathartic and personal and political and powerful. I came home and posted about it on Facebook only to be called a censorer by a fellow female Boise artist who, surprisingly, also uses upcycled materials in her own work on a regular basis, but also (not suprisingly) buys into diet culture. She claimed that removing this material from a library was unethical (she later claimed to not understand that a Little Free Library wasn't like a public library) and that by doing so I was not only promoting censorship but also body shaming those who chose to restrict their eating in desire for a smaller body. I responded that I called it critical thinking, not censorship, and that I also removed other nonfiction content that I didn't agree with promoting.
The thing is, people are inundated with body shaming propaganda in every written form and in the media and at their schools and from their parents and on the TV all day every day. If I can make one little space in my world more radical and positive then you bet I'll censor the hell out of it. Kind of like I do with my own media feed and information intake - one of my very first (and favorite) steps to cultivating better body image is to get rid of groups and people and businesses that propagate body shame in my news feeds and social media pages and replace them with radical feminists celebrating living their best lives in their bodies at any size and academic sources and thoughtful think pieces challenging hate.
We used one of the diet books from my Little Free Library to make black out poetry and cut word poetry at my RADCAMP: A Body Positive Boot Camp For Feminists this summer in McCall, Idaho. I refuse to use my money to purchase diet books at the thrift store but often snap photos of them and use write-over apps on my iPhone to reimagine their titles to be more body positive and post them on Instagram. And I continue to proudly censor my books and my Little Free Library and my media in the name of feminism and body liberation and cultural progress. And I'll keep trashing these books and turning something ugly and harmful into something beautiful.