(I'm a week late but hey, I was too busy reading my banned book to write about them!).
Last week was Banned Book Week in the United States. Yes, there is a week dedicated to highlighting and promoting literature that has been banned for expressing views, using language or containing subject matter that some people find objectionable. While I think it is important to bring attention to this issue, for me, the real problem is that books are being banned. I mean really? Isn't it ironic that in a country whose very foundation is based on liberty and free speech, that as communities we ban books. How is that even possible? Granted, books that get placed on this ill fated list are still available in some bookstores and libraries but they are not accessible to everyone because some self appointed entity decided that they disagreed with what was written on the pages before them. Books tend to get banned locally by over zealous school boards and city councils who take it upon themselves to become their community's morality police. And what message does the banning of a book really send? To me, it seems to imply that if you don't like or agree with something you can simply make it go away. Now that is pretty darn scary.......
But what is the real purpose of banning a book? Is it to stifle discussion and knowledge about a particular subject because you don't like or agree with it? Is it to limit exposure to ideas that are different or conflict with those of your own? Is it an attempt to erase history because what happened is no longer considered to be politically correct thoughts or actions? Rather than making it difficult for an entire community to access this material wouldn't it be better if you simply chose not to read the books you personally find offensive? And if you don't want your children reading it then that is an issue between you and them. It isn't right to impose your values on others. Don't allow them to read the books you find so offensive, or better yet, read them together and discuss the material. Banning a book isn't going to prevent your child (or yourself for that matter) from hearing certain language or learning about certain subjects.
Growing up, one of my favorite books was The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Spear. I received it in a Scholastic Book order and devoured it in one long weekend of reading. As a young girl I simply loved the story yet when this same book was spotted on the library shelves of my school by an "all knowing" parent who thought she knew what was best for all children, it quickly disappeared. (This also created a run on the book as I passed my copy from one friend to another). Did this mother really think young girls would turn to witchcraft because they read this book? That thought never crossed my mind when I read the book the first, second and third times. And it certainly didn't this past weekend when I reread this classic book from my childhood.
But maybe I just like controversial books since so many of my favorites have found themselves on banned book lists. Aldous Huxley's Brave New World and Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn have long been offensive books in the eyes of some people. Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye and Beloved have become list regulars because of language and references to sex, violence and religion. And Dori Hillestad Butler's My Mom's Having A Baby and the Captain Underpants series by Dav Pilkey, books clearly written for children have been banned because of subject matter and supposed offensive language. The lists, complied in the land of the free and free speech just literally go on and on. Isn't it ironic?
Books aren't dangers but narrow minds are.