Monday, September 25, 2006

Happy Banned Books Week

Today is the start of Banned Books Week, and the captains of irony are out in force already becuase a group of people are protesting the use of the work "banned" in speaking of Banned Books Week - they feel the word challenged better describes the process. That's right, people are trying to ban the use of the word banned.

Moving on. I have been reading a really long time - possibly close to thirty years at this point. I have read about all sorts of things - witches, presidents, vampires, lawyers, detectives, clergy, bookworms, royalty and boy who was flat. There's been sex, murder, addiction, war, magic, and love. While, I'm sure my mother influenced my early decisions, I do not recall anyone ever telling me what I could not read. Apparently I was fortunate. The people around me trusted me to read and still make good choices. Or possibly they thought that exposure to all diferent kinds of fictional people in different circumstances would help me make better choices.

I snuck into movies that were rated R as a teen, I drank alcohol before it was legal for me to do so (although I was careful only to do it when I was in for the night to prevent the who's sober enough to drive issue), but I never had to break any rules when it came to books. There was a post a few weeks ago on The Lipstick Chronicles about how banning books caused one child to read them, as if the list of banned books created a de facto reading list.

One of my many concerns about banning books is that the concerns sometimes seem raised by people who didn't finish them. I recall several presidential elections ago when a candidate targeted "Trainspotting", quoting the apathetic opening speech. Of course (spoiler ahead here) the central character goes through a change, realizing that he want's a different life for himself. And while, he may not choose the best method of getting to it, he gives a very different speech at the end of the movie.

Certainly, I have talked about books I couldn't make it through, books I put down unable to see if things improved. But I never suggested these books should be removied from the shelves. Only that these books did not resonate with me. I'm thrilled if someone else is getting something out of them.

I have no problem with people feeling certain subjects or topics are inappropriate for themselves or their children from a standpoint of age, morality or even simple dislike. But I do not understand why anyone feels that they get to make that decision for everyone else. And I also and saddened by the fact that often it is books with sex that seem to get people worried - not serial killers. Again, I don't think any books should be banned (or challenged), but it fascinates me that people get so worried about sex, which one imagines they expect their children will grow up to do one day, but serial killers that's fine.

Five Books That Have been Banned:
The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame
A Separate Peace, John Knowles
Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell
The Lord of the Flies, William Golding
To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee

"Sweetie, those books have no place in a public school library. Especially now. Any student can waltz in there and get all sorts of ideas." Joyce Summers, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer"