Acclaimed author Ellen Hopkins visits Brandywine High School

Published 3:09 pm Tuesday, October 17, 2023

NILES CHARTER TOWNSHIP — Brandywine students and staff were able to visit with a New York Times bestselling author Tuesday morning.

Ellen Hopkins, author of more than a dozen young adult novels, shared her experience in writing to more than 30 juniors and seniors at Brandywine High School. Students were given permission slips for parents to fill out, opting them into the assembly. Only students with permission from parents will be allowed to attend the event.

Hopkins also attended the school board meeting Monday and decided to visit the district after Brandywine parents Jen and Lyle Unger reached out to share some of the challenges the district has been facing relating to book regulation.

Hopkins, who is often referred to in national media as “the most banned author in America,” has often spoken out about censorship and content regulation. Though school districts have banned as many as 13 of the author’s books, her most frequently restricted was her first book, “Crank,” which delves into issues relating to drugs, teenage parenting, prostitution. “Tricks” and “Traffic” shine a light on human trafficking. 

According to Hopkins, many of her books are inspired by her life experiences. “Crank” is based loosely on the real life addictions of her daughter to crystal meth.

“Almost all of the characters in my books are inspired by real people,” she said. “Maybe not my family but somebody I know, somebody I met. Readers share their stories with me, now. Sometimes those stories make it into books. Not their exact stories because I want them to write their own stories, but they may inspire a character or a situation… Kids tell me their stories, parents tell me their stories. Stories are there just waiting for someone to grab onto them and write them down.”

Hopkins also talked about her upcoming young adult novel “Sink.” Set to debut in Summer 2024, “Sink” is about twins separated by the foster care system.

“I worked with foster kids for a number of years so I know the issues that happen within that system,” she said. “I hope you look out for that book.”

In addition, Hopkins said she is working on a middle-grade novel about adoption.

“Kids in that age group have a lot of questions. I know because I was adopted and I adopted kids, so trying to answer some of those questions and the journey it takes her on.”

As her books have been challenged in school districts nationwide, Hopkins has often visited schools like Brandywine to share her experience and open dialogue with community members about why access to these stories is so important.

“I’ve had challenges on my books before but it was one parent who would find their kid with my book and then I could have a conversation with that parent. Now it’s not like that,” she said. “Now there’s a list of books that they’re asking to be removed from school libraries… A lot of them have LGBTQ content, a lot of them are about race, a lot of them are about issues that scare some people. I don’t think it’s right that a small group of people can decide what everybody reads. You can decide what your kids read; you can’t decide what my kids read.”