Tuesday, October 2, 2012
Banned Book Week: My Love Hate Relationship
This is where we stop and celebrate that we can read books that people want to ban for a variety of reasons. We can ride a raft down the Mississippi with Huck Finn even though putting such a bright glaring light on the evils of racism and post-slavery Southern States make some people uncomfortable. We can ride the Hogwarts Express and learn about the power of the individual who cares even though some people don't like that there are witches and magic. We can come of age with a nervous teenager and What [Her] Mother Doesn't Know even though many mothers would rather we not know.
This is actually a bit of a big deal.
We forget, too easily, that there are parts of the world where the government, or the religious leaders, can forbid their people from having access to words that they don't want them to read. They can deny that printed books be sold, that internet sites be accessible. They can lock down Twitter on a whim and can make Facebook posts just vanish.
Even in our own history, not too long ago, having the "wrong" book in your house was a way to get yourself listed a Communist, be blacklisted from your profession and have your life ruined. We did not tolerate different very well, and most Americans worried more about keeping food on the table, and gas tanks full of fuel then they did making a fuss about their Right To Read. Thankfully we outgrew that phase.
But I'm always a little hesitant about banned book week as well. And as the author of a banned book, I think I have the right to comment.
Fantasti*Con was added to our district library for all High Schools. There's a copy in each one of them now for check out by students. It's very cool to see the little author sticker stuck on the spine. It is, however, not stocked in our middle schools.
The reason, to me, is completely logical. The book has a pretty intense scene it that will probably freak out a kid who's only 11 making their way through it. I think it's completely readable by a bright Eighth Grader, but I'm not sure they're really mature enough for it.
And that gets me to what I somewhat dislike about this week.
I'm not really someone who can say that their book is banned. I'd like to because, hey, all the cool authors have. Huxley, Lee, Rushdie (who, by the way, gave a great interview on the Daily Show), and others all have banned books. And they were banned by governments, political parties and religious fundamentalists. They were banned because you, as an adult, were not supposed to read them.
Those are Banned books.
I just saw The Hunger Games on a list of banned books because it's too adult for children to read and parents had concerns with it's level of violence.
Now we can agree or disagree on at what age someone should or should not read about ritual execution of other children. There are lots of places to put that particular pin on the time line. But saying "This book is for adults only" is NOT banning it. It's saying "hey, this book really is for adults."
Also on the list? Gossip Girl. Why was it banned? Because people felt it provided poor role models for teenage girls. Okay. But did anyone tell an adult they couldn't read it for some reason? Am I, as an adult, forbidden from buying it or checking it out of the local library?
A quick visit to the ALA page shows Hunger Games as #3 on the challenged list, and Gossip Girl at #9. They're challenged more classics like To Kill a Mockingbird (#10) and Huck Finn (not ranked in the top 10). Is it, perhaps, that these books are being challenged because they're not being treated in an age appropriate way? My gut says that's far more the case, and once a few people complain, nothing moves sales like being a "banned book".
So if we're going to celebrate banned books, let's celebrate books that were banned for their honesty, for their vision or for challenging us to see the world around us a little differently. Banned book week is for our Right to Read. It's for our right to see what a mess we've made of ourselves. It's for being challenged, titillated and grossed out. It's for every Adult's right to choose.
It's not for people to complain that their 13 year old can't get 50 Shades of Grey in their high school library.