Monday, September 27, 2010
Playing With Fire: Book Banning
Everyone grab your coffee and croissants, and make sure you’re comfortable. This is going to be a long post as this subject is one of my hot buttons in general, and as you’ll discover, even I can sometimes be conflicted. Differentiating between right and wrong isn’t always that easy, is it?
Last week, our very own Madison Scott posted about how outraged she was over a man who had complained to the school board about certain books in the school libraries. You can read Madison’s post here > http://threewickedwriters.blogspot.com/2010/09/speaking-loudly-against-book-banning.html
This week is Banned Books Week (September 25 – October 2). Lots of organizations get involved to not only celebrate our freedom to read as we desire but also to remind everyone that censorship in any form must not be tolerated.
Now, I understand the need within the public school systems to consider the age appropriateness of any book. That makes perfect sense to me. However, every once in a while a book finds its way into a school’s library that offends someone and parents run screaming to have it removed. Or in the case of Madison’s post, one man. A lot of times the silent majority never even weighs in.
Most of these books are rejected by those wanting them banned due to religious beliefs or sexual content. The Harry Potter Series comes to mind as one I heard about at my children’s school as some parents finding objectionable based on the theme of witchcraft. Speak by Laurie Anderson is one that Madison mentioned in her post, and, of course, this book clearly has some sexual overtones that make it unacceptable to some. Recently an invitation to Ellen Hopkins, author of Crank, a NYTBS, to attend a Teen Lit Festival in Humble, Texas was rescinded by the school superintendant there. Apparently a middle school librarian believed that Ms. Hopkin’s presence would not be good for students. Since then, several authors have pulled out of the Teen Lit Festival in protest. What a loss to those students. You can read about it here > http://ellenhopkins.livejournal.com/11666.html
We can sit here and say that the individuals who would ban or even burn these books are unintelligent, prejudiced, or some sort of zealot all we want, but that’s not always the case, and the bottom line is that it’s their right to protest these books just as much as it’s my right to want the books to remain on the shelves. And that’s where all this gets tricky, isn’t it? And where all my personal conflict sometimes starts.
No. I don’t in any way fashion, shape, or form applaud book banning. If it happened here in my hometown, you better believe I’d be on the frontline raising HOLY HELL. But I have to defend everyone’s right to their opinion and their right to raise their children as they see fit. I might not agree with the person, but they do have those rights the same as I do. Parents should be vigilante as to what their children are reading. As a matter of fact, if your child is reading something like Speak or Crank, then it’s a good idea to sit down and talk with them about the subject matter. It’s not enough for a child/young adult to read a book, they also need to understand how what they’ve read applies to life. I haven’t read either of those books, but as I understand it, both are incredibly worthwhile reads. My children are no longer at that age in which I monitor their reading habits, but when they were younger, I most certainly did.
It seems to me that those who complain about what our libraries stock on the shelves would be better off simply keeping closer tabs on their children and teaching them right from wrong rather than limiting the scope of their reading by doing away with books. Because, after all, not everyone’s beliefs and ideas as to how to raise their children are the same. Yet I sit here and see their point when these book banners refuse to consider mine. And that’s where they lose me.
Here’s something else for you to think about. A few days ago a friend of mine sent me a link to a well known book distribution site. I clicked on the link and could not believe my eyes. This huge business was selling books with content which the vast majority of traditional publishers consider way past taboo. Underage sex, incest, rape, and bestiality stared at me from the web page. My first thought? That I’d never buy another book from that site again. The subject matter of those books is sickening and the idea that they are up there for sale right along with mine disgusts me. But I had to take a step back and think. I was basically saying that “someone” had no right to read these books. That the author had no right to write these books.
And yes, I think those books were designed to feed some very sick minds---to tap into the lowest forms of pornography possible, and to make money. I don’t for one second believe there was a miniscule amount of honor as a writer in putting pen to paper in creating those stories.
Did you know that bestiality is only illegal in like thirty-four out of our fifty states? Not completely illegal in the UK either. And not at all illegal in a great many countries. Underage sex is not illegal in a lot of countries too. Rape laws have always been questionable in almost all countries, haven’t they? I still can’t condone these books. Don’t want to think of them up for sale. But I can’t demand they be taken down either.
I’m just one person trying to muddle through all of this. I won’t ever read those books I deem to be trash, but I can honestly say that I would defend anyone’s right to read those books. And I hope like hell the day never comes when I have to defend those books too. The subject of book banning is a lot harder to understand and deal with than most might think. I’ve been reading articles for a few days now and I’m amazed by all the challenges to books. Check out the list here > http://www.ala.org/ala/issuesadvocacy/banned/frequentlychallenged/challengedbydecade/2000_2009
I’m also amazed by the court challenges and lawsuits involved. I write erotic romance. Most visitors to this blog either write it or read it. Who’s to say that one day someone won’t challenge one of our books? The Constitution of the United States does not protect what is referred to as “obscene literature”. And just who issues the litmus test? No, I don’t expect one of my books to end up in a school library, but a great many erotic romances are sitting in public libraries. There are also a great many erotic romance writers who, under a different pen name, write YA. What would happen to this author’s YA titles if just one person, one unenlightened individual within a school system, discovered that the author whose books are in her child’s school library also penned erotica? Guilt by association?
My way of celebrating Banned Books Week is to educate myself on this issue. To give it some serious thought—which I have. Discussion on this subject is important to the education process, and I’d like to know the views of everyone who reads this post. Has your child ever brought home a book from school that you seriously thought about making a complaint about or did complain? Have you ever picked up a book at your local library and questioned as to why it was ever placed on the shelf? What do you think about those ultra taboo topics I mentioned and their place in society—should we protect those type of books?—or do we have the right to only protect the books we agree with? Let me hear from you.
My publisher, Ellora’s Cave, is encouraging everyone to review a favorite banned book this week—again, you’ll find the list here > http://www.ala.org/ala/issuesadvocacy/banned/frequentlychallenged/challengedbydecade/2000_2009 as a way of supporting Banned Books Week. Visit Ellora’s Cave Redlines and Deadlines Blog to read more about the challenge. http://redlinesanddeadlines.blogspot.com/2010/09/favorite-banned-book-blogs.html
Thanks to everyone who stops by and comments. I’ll see you next Monday!