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Why Ban the Damn Book?

As many of you probably already know, this is Banned Book Week. I realize many of you will come across hundreds if not thousands of blogs from authors, librarians, booksellers and readers about the injustice of attempted bannings across America. And no doubt articles from newspapers, magazines, political and social conservatives tearing down the practice of taking one week out of each year to bring to the nations attention that book banning is no longer a thing of the past.

As an aspiring writer and avid reader, it should come as no surprise that I support Banned Book Week. It saddens me that people, and it seems it's mainly parents, feel that any book, any story, would be not only be unfit for their childrens minds, but for ANY children. You see, the majority of books people ask to have removed from library shelves are young adult genres, books meant for middle and high schoolers. Often the books that are challenged are due to sexual content and drug abuse, but they run the gammut from offensive language, homosexuality, religious and or political viewpoints, violence, and racism. Ready to start challenging books? WAIT.

Has it not occurred to some of these book banners that these stories can actually HELP young adults overcome some of the obstacles of life? Take for instance Crank, by Ellen Hopkins. A story loosely based on her OWN DAUGHTERS emergence into drugs, prostitution to get money for those drugs, rape and pregnancy. This is not a pretty thing. Yes, there is sex and drugs, but this is a cautionary tale. And I took that warning. I had friends in high school that were into drugs, some more than others. I never felt comfortable talking with my parents about either subject, and I'd considered experimenting in both, partly to see what if felt like and partly to be 'cool'. I did neither, because of Crank. It scared, and pardon my language, the ever living crap out of me. The truth of what could happen to me if I even toyed with drugs or sex horrified me. I even hit one of my closer friends for asking me if I wanted to join them at her house for some 'dope shit' as she called it.

Quite frankly, my story is lame compared to some of the letters Mrs. Hopkins (sorry if I got the salutation wrong) has received over the years. She has cited letters from girls in the SAME POSITION as she'd written. And it had given them HOPE. All her books portray the horrors of real life, lessons for children to learn if they are not in those positions. They are hard, gritty, and even for me sometimes difficult to read. But they are also good, they teach and show, and they make readers grow as people. So yes, maybe you can speak openly, candidly with your children about the horrors of drugs and sex, but there are so many others who can't. YOU ARE NOT THE ENTIRE SCHOOL'S / LIBRARY'S PARENT. My mother wrote a letter to my lunch ladies telling them I could only have the meal and nothing from the snack line. She knew them by sight and name. This isn't hard to do, people. Most schools now have swipe/ scan ID cards, and mine was able to block certain things. Like the yummy snack line.

Another thing I don't understand is the banning of positive portrayals of homosexuality, political or religious viewpoints, etc. These are VIEWS, I've not read one book that demands I subscribe to their beliefs. Instead they make me THINK. And thinking is good, last time I heard. Because of all the books I've read, including as a child, middle school and high school student, I've developed a strong self awareness. I know my strengths, and accept my weaknesses even as I try and better myself. And realize that while your protection may actually keep them from harm as children or teens, when they become adults, go off to college, get jobs and move away from you, they will face the real world, and you may have crippled their ability to navigate its tough waters. If you do not believe that will be the case with your own children, then good for you. But remember, not all kids have such great parents as you, and you may be damning them to a harsher existence without the aide and hope the books most commonly challenged could give them.

My main problem with the idea of Banning or Challenging books is the idea of INTOLERANCE at the heart. My life motto "Tolerate everything but Intolerance." An oxymoron? No, not in my mind. I could hate everything a person has to say, but I will not confront them unless they have proven themselves ignorant or intolerant. By intolerance, I mean they refuse to allow whatever they fear or dislike enter their sphere of life in any way. I give you an example:

If you were at an art gallery, and your friend was browsing, looking for a painting to buy, what would you do? Look around, of course. If there are many artists on display, you will have your opinion, those pieces you like and those you don't. Your friend has found and fallen in love with, oh, lets say this painting, Soft Construction with Boiled Beans (Premonition of Civil War), 1936 by Salvador Dali. You hate it. You can't stand it. But your friend loves it. Would you tell them "I hate it, I can't stand it. Its gross, who would want that in their home? They should ban it." No, you probably wouldn't. If you did, frankly you're not much of a friend. But they ask your opinion. Myself, I would say something to the effect of "Its a great mastery of paint, the sky quite well done and realistic. I like the fluidity, the surreal form against the soft, seemingly abstract background. I personally don't like the subject, a little too vulgar for my taste, but I can RESPECT THE ARTIST AND THOSE WHO LOVE HIS WORK."

See what I did there? I gave it credit, I respected the work, and I can appreciate the mastery of the technique. I don't like much of Dali's work myself, but I would never say I hate it and it should be banned. Why? Its a different way of looking at life, a different perspective. I've been in that position, with a print (not that one) of Dali's work a friend so dearly wanted. I was excited for her, not because I liked the painting but because she did. That is what's important. I let her have her opinion and did not think less of her when it didn't coincide with mine.

As in art, so in books.

There should be no reason for intolerance, with books especially. Closed, they cannot speak to those who do not pick them up and open them. If you don't want your kids reading something, fine. But don't force your ideals on other children. A better understanding of sexual orientation, race, political and religious beliefs can lead to greater understanding between everyone. Offensive language? Trust me, your child has heard worse than anything written in YA books. Sex? Your kids know more about it than maybe you do. Kids talk about 'taboo' subjects because you don't want them to, and they're curious. Seriously? Books are not the root of teen pregnancies, shoplifting, drug usage. If you want to stop those things from entering your kids minds, look at what they watch on TV (Gossip Girl?) and the games their playing (Grand Theft Auto anyone?).*

Most of all I just want to know why. Why? Why ban a book entirely from the presence of people who would read and learn from them, whether the author intended a lesson or no? Why is any book so wrong for anyone to read? Some have argued that a book may have been removed from the shelf of one library, but is available in another. So? You have now marked that book for more bans. Just because the government no longer bans books does not mean its not a problem anymore. You are claiming yourself above the ideas in the book, and you are not. No one is above an idea. No one.

Often I see cases where news anchors and advocates of banning books point out the word *fuck* appears 17 times in a book, that sex is described, etc. They fail to put those things in context to the story written around them. Why? Because they don't want to admit those things are valid. That sex may be rape. *Fuck* may have been said by a parent in the story. Let each parent make their own decision, and keep yours to yourself, please, especially if you want to go on a tirade. Because anyways, if you push and/ or succeed in a banning, it only brings whatever book you banned into the public eye, and curious people who may not have read it will do so.

In conclusion, I ask again.

Why Ban the Damn Book?

*Gossip Girl and Grand Theft Auto are fine in my opinion, so long as you TALK WITH YOUR KIDS ABOUT THE CONTENT. Just like with books.


  1. Anonymous says:

    Very thought-provoking look at just a few of the adverse affects of book banning. You know you should send this post to one of the organizations so keen to ban-books. Maybe it would open a few eyes on the disservice they are doing.

    Trish McCallan

  2. Why thank you Trish! I may just do that. I wonder who though....

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