I love underdogs.

I like to read about them, and I like to write about them. I rooted for David and not Goliath (please no hate mail from giant lovers), cheered on Buffy the Vampire Slayer when she took on each week’s Big Bad, and now there is a Catholic school kid who identifies herself by the avatar name “Nekocha” who has started an unofficial library of banned books that she runs out of her school locker.

When her school put several classics such as Catcher in the Rye, Animal Farm, and Paradise Lost on the banned list, she decided to bring her personal copy of Catcher to school. She was surprised when another student asked to borrow it. And thus, Nekocha’s secret library was born. Soon her locker was overflowing with banned books, so she appropriated the empty locker next to hers in which to house her collection.

Even though she is violating school policy, Nekocha believes it is worth it. She says, “Before I started [the library], almost no kid at school but myself took an active interest in reading! Now not only are all the kids reading the banned books, but they go out of their way to read anything they can get their hands on. So I’m doing a good thing, right?”

This story first appeared back in 2006 on the Web in a question posed at Yahoo! Answers. No one really knows if it is true. Some claim it is a hoax, doubting that anyone can get 62 books in a school locker.

But I really don’t care if it’s true or not. Nekocha’s story is close to my heart because Antigone Brown, the star of my novel Book of Mercy, also starts a secret library and stands up to the powers that be for the sake of banned books.

People like Nekocha and Antigone Brown are ordinary folks, who push aside their fears and do something extraordinary. Perhaps I am attracted to them because I have a lot of fears of my own, like shooting rapids and meeting up with mosquitoes. Perhaps I hope that I have the courage to stand up when the time comes. And maybe I am not alone, maybe that is the reason the concept of Nekocha was created or, if she is real, she stepped forward.

Whether you’re imagined or not, for now, all my support goes out to you, Nekocha. You’re my hero, kid.


Book of Mercy, a story about a woman who faces her greatest fear to save a town’s books, is available in paperback and on Kindle. Read more about Book of Mercy or check out an excerpt.