Guys, its Banned Books Week!
Its like…Halloween and Thanksgiving (oh, mashed potatoes) and Christmas and my birthday all got together and thought, meh, we’re nothing compared to Banned Books Week!
I am trying to picture your reaction to the sentence I just wrote above and I’ve come to the conclusion that you either think I’m a crazy person, that I’m silly (I kind of like that one), or you just totally understand.
See, here’s the thing. I love books. I absolutely completely love books. I love books with a passion. I mean, you should see how crazy I get about books. Wait, you guys kind of do…
Anyway, its incredibly baffling to me that someone would want to actually ban books. Look, I understand that there are books you don’t like. Or that have content that you don’t agree with, but I believe that censorship in writing is just wrong. Its just wrong. I mean, sure, I don’t want someone to write a book that teaches me how to kill a child or whatever, but I’m pretty sure someone would never actually publish that because ohmygod what is wrong with you?
BUT. Censorship. Its wrong. Its just wrong. Just because you don’t agree with something (and there are things I absolutely positively do NOT agree with in books) doesn’t mean you should censor it.
I also think that a lot of censorship in books comes from, well, the inability to look past your biases and see the real story. Often times, a book is challenged, honestly, for the most ridiculous reasons. Animals talking because its too fantastical and against nature. A blow job because its inappropriate for teenager readers. (Really? Really? Do you really think teenagers aren’t sexually active? REALLY?). Things like that.
I was doing some research while writing this post and I came across this quote from a August 15th article on Christianity Today, that actually pleasantly surprised me and I thought I would share it:
Now there are hundreds of books that have been challenged, adult books and young adult books, nonfiction books (SERIOUSLY? FACTUAL BOOKS ARE CHALLENGED!), children’s books…so many books. But of course, because this is my blog and I’m the all powerful master of everything that happens on this blog, I am going to talk about some YA books I love that have been challenged.
Because you know what? I want to shout out to these awesome books. Keep your head up authors, if someone hates your book so much to try and get it banned completely…that’s pretty awesome.
Harry Potter Series
Of course. It promotes Wiccan practices (which, I mean, is centered around nature so what’s so bad about that?) and Satanism (to each their own) and witchcraft to children. People have complained that the books avoid the discussion of religion period, and there was even an uproar when JK Rowling revealed that she had always thought of Dumbledore as gay. Harry Potter is about so much more than shoving witchcraft down your throat and everyone needs to hush, Dumbledore is fabulous.
The Giver has been challenged many times. In fact, its one of the most challenged books and it ends up on the top lists quite often. Its cited simply for “violence” and “not suited for the age group”. Apparently the book is too dark for children to read. Its also been pointed out that there is drug use, and brainwashing and things like that. Did no one else get that the whole drug use, brainwashing and that sort of thing was a BAD thing in the book? Or was that just me?
The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Challenged by parents in different school districts because of sexually explicit content and foul language. (Have they literally never met a teenager before?) Oh yes and it deals with homosexuality and abuse. Because why on earth would we want a book that deals with realistic issues that teenagers every day are dealing with? And why on earth would we want characters with different sexual preferences? Realism is so overrated anyway…
Looking for Alaska
Again with the sex. A bunch of teenagers are living in dorms at a boarding school and we really don’t expect sex to happen? Really? I’m blown away by this. There is a scene in this novel (sorry guys if you haven’t read it) that is a blow job. A really bad blow job. Like, there is an attempt at a blow job and its kind of funny. Eventually things get squared away a little and the BJ goes a little bit better, but apparently its the worst scene to ever exist in the history of YA literature. Looking for Alaska has topped the challenged book lists in the past couple years and I just want to roll my eyes. Must we go through this again? Teens have sex.
The Hunger Games
There is SO much wrong with this book according to those who want to ban it that I kind of don’t know where to start. Its anti-ethnic, anti-family, violent, has themes of occult and satanic nature, its insensitive and has foul language. Now, I can understand not wanting your child to read this book. It is pretty violent. I don’t agree with some of the other stuff, but I can still see why someone wouldn’t want their child to read that. But that’s a whole ‘nother story at the end of this post.
Hell yes I went there. Putting aside the fact that is NOT a well written book and the story is so incredibly lacking in plot structure, character development and that sort of thing, I do like it. Sometimes you just need a cheesy romance that its an incredibly easy read. You just do. Its mostly been banned because of sexual content but also some schools have pulled it off shelves because Bella was a bad influence for girls. Now, while I totally don’t disagree with that, I don’t think that this is enough reason to completely pull this book off shelves. But more on that later…
Eleanor and Park
I read an article with immense distaste (god, I can’t handle it) that Eleanor and Park was such a disgrace as a book because of the foul language and the age inappropriate content. Its also apparently “sexually charged”. I’m getting the disgusted shivers just thinking about it. Blergh. This leads me almost perfectly into what I want to end this post with…
Basically, the issue that comes with a lot of YA books is this: inappropriate material. Drug use, abuse, sexuality, sex period, all kinds of stuff. But there’s the thing, you may not LIKE this subject matter but banning books doesn’t get rid of this completely. You can’t deny that there are people using drugs and drinking alcohol, yes as teenagers. And yes, teenagers are having sex. Lots of it. And okay, not all teenagers, but its happening and yes its more than just your traditional sex, they’re having oral sex too! Surprise, surprise. And violence and foul language, all of these things exist and keeping books away from your kids isn’t going to keep them from being a reality. Even the sort of things that appear in a fantasy book or dystopian or science fiction still has some basis in reality.
So here’s my thing: banning books, pulling them from shelves, forbidding your kids from reading them? Doesn’t make any sense and honestly is pretty pointless. But talking to your children and being open and honest with them about the material in the books, and deciding when they are mature enough to read books with that material….that makes a lot more sense to me. If you don’t want your kid to read The Hunger Games, sure, that’s fine. Don’t ban the book! Talk to them about the issues you have with the blog, discuss it and then decide when they’re old enough to read it.
Plus, I’m just saying, when I was younger, if my parents told me not to do something, forbade it, made sure that I totally and completely did not do it, I would probably make sure somehow that I did it. Luckily, I have parents that have always been awesome and open with me about all sorts of things. I’ve never felt like I read about books with material too mature for me, and if I ever did, I felt confident that I could approach my parents and talk it out.
Basically, I love banned books week. I love talking about books and book controversies and looking up articles from all the book banning people and laughing a little at the overdramatic arguments they make against books. I love this week and I hope you can join me in celebrating the love of literature and the ability that authors have to write something new and awesome and controversial enough (apparently) to anger some people. Because you know what, I want people to hate my book as much as people love it because hate is a strong reaction and that’s still pretty badass.
Thanks, as always, for listening to me ramble :)
And don’t forget to share your own favorite banned books in the comments!