Today is the beginning of the American Library Association Banned Books Week. Everybody grab a banned or challenged book and start reading.
The site also has lists of Frequently Challenged Books, organized by year. The classics list surprised me. Who knew I was reading so many challenged books and enjoying them without feeling the least twinge of conscience? I must be going to hell in a handbasket.
There’s also a list of the most Frequently Challenged Authors. Judy Blume, high five.
I think people ascribe too much power to books influencing action, particularly if they have not ACTUALLY READ the books. To whit: two examples from my childhood of books that were banned from my house.
I was reading THE LUCKIEST GIRL by Beverly Cleary at around age 14. My father found it and read the jacket, which describes a teenage girl who doesn’t get along with her mom and goes to California to spend a school year with her orange-growing relatives. He confronted me with the book. “Is this why you’re fighting with your mother? The book is giving you big ideas.” Um, no. In fact, the book is all about how the girl has a better relationship with her mother in the end. The NY Times said, “Ought to be required reading for teenage daughters and their mothers.”
Another time, I had acquired Fer Shurr! How to Be a Valley Girl- Totally! at a used book sale. It’s a harmless and funny book about the language of valley girls. I thought nothing of it, until my parents were hunting around in my room and found it. “This was hidden behind your bed!” my father said, and proceeded to lecture me. Apparently they thought Valley Girl=Slut. I explained it was a joke book, and somehow my explanation was good enough that no one felt compelled to read it to actually see if I was right.
Needless to say, I actually did become more careful in hiding my books– and my inner life– from my parents.
My parents were not readers. We had one fiction book on the shelf when I was growing up, and that was left from my grandmother’s visit in the 1970s.
I have the feeling that people who ban books don’t generally read the books. They also may not understand what fiction is. Banning Harry Potter? But you know that he triumphs over evil, which is as good a religious morality fable as anything else?
You may read stuff and decide you don’t like it. You may read stuff and decide you do like it. That’s between you and that book. But you shouldn’t decide it’s easier to ban something than to think about the issues it brings up.