Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Banned Book Week and Pink Heart Picks

Today is Pink Heart Picks book club day, so head on over to The Pink Heart Society where I've reviewed Bachelor Sheriff by Paula Graves and find out what we're reading next month. :-)

This week is also Banned Book Week. I'm not a fan of censorship. While I understand parents' concerns about what their kids are reading - heck, I go through it a LOT - I don't believe in taking away the choice. When you look at the most frequently requested books to be banned it boggles.  To Kill A Mockingbird. Harry Potter. The Color Purple. The Lord of The Rings trilogy (for those who get so up in arms for religious reasons, it's called religious allegory).

You know what censorship is? It's fear. And I'm willing to bet that most of the banning requests come from people who have never read the books in question. Let's face it - I hear it all the time with Romance novels. How many times have we heard them referred to as Trash? Ask romance's biggest detractors when they last read one, and chances are they'll admit that they haven't.  They haven't lowered themselves to reading such cheap literature. What a great way to make a judgment. And of course I could go on about the fine qualities of Romance novels but that's a post for another day.

My view is, wouldn't it be better to read it and discuss it rather than dismiss it?

Last week there was a whole kafuffle about the novel SPEAK - do a google of it and you'll see what it's about. As a parent, I do understand wanting to ensure your kids are reading material that is age appropriate. If I'm concerned, I read the book first. If I think there are some situations that the kids can't handle, I recommend we wait until they are a little older before trying it.  Here's an idea: read what your kids are reading. You might actually understand more of what they're thinking. And of course it doesn't matter how old you are, reading is a good thing.

I know there was a big deal made about Twilight so I read all four books before handing them over to my girls. When my eldest started them, she was almost 11. At the time I told her she could read the first two and save the last two for when she was a teensy bit older. She read Eclipse and Breaking Dawn this summer. When I read that one of the main criticisms for Twilight was explicitness, I was shocked. One of my main things with Meyer's writing was how she was able to convey sexual tension with what I'll call "chaste" language. It was all very well done, I thought. Yet at least one person was shocked that I let her read the first 2 at her age. I had read them and deemed them okay. One person in particular that expressed surprise had never read them at all.

I was at the curriculum night for the jr high last week and one of the teachers was asked if there was a list of "recommended" books that didn't have any vampires. I was very pleased with the teacher's response, which was along the line of what's important is that the student is reading. That you can recommend until you are blue in the face but if the subject matter has no attraction for the student then it won't matter. And what they aim to do is make readers out of children. I trust that my kids -at this age - can tell fantasy from reality. And while I have one kid who will read just about anything including the cereal box, I have another who is more discriminating. For me, finding something she is excited to read is key.  A good deal of the time it is non-fiction.

The thing is, nearly every book out there has a legitimate gripe about it. We can start banning and then we will have nothing to discuss.

Or we can appreciate the freedom of choice and read, learn, and open our minds. Maybe we can make an educated judgment. And maybe, just maybe, we'll be better people for it.


  1. Bravo, Donna. That's a really good, reasoned, measured post. How can anybody make a reasonable and informed judgement from a position of ignorance?

    Let's hope that people who are full of prejudice will read this, think about it and then maybe start to see things in a different way.

  2. Fabulous post Donna! I had no idea that To Kill A Mockingbird was on the list! I'm a baffled. It was one of my high school assignments!

  3. Well, the "list" is just the most requested titles. Apparently lots of people take issue with the language in TKAM.

    And a staggering number of requests are for young adult literature.

  4. Another Bravo here, Donna. I've even heard comments that girls should be discouraged from reading Anne of Green Gables because Anne isn't a "strong enough" (read feminist enough)heroine. Does that mean the whole history of literature should be wiped out because those authors wrote from the viewpoint of their own time? I agree that censorship is about fear and ignorance. Discuss it, don't dismiss it.

  5. Anne:

    Worked hard and put school first
    Used her imagination and thought for herself
    Never considered marriage a "career plan"
    Furthered her education, worked as a teacher, and then went on to university
    Never settled for "good enough" but went for "wonderful" in Gilbert
    Went on to raise wonderful children.

    Not feminist enough? Gosh, for the time period, she was nearly revolutionary. I consider Anne a wonderful role model for my girls. Strong, ambitious, imaginative, compassionate. Hmph I say!

  6. Anne of Green Gables not feminist enough! You've got to be kidding!

    I grew up in the 60's AOGG was such a different role model then the majority of female role models in literature.

    I love your blog, Donna. You might want to consider writing as a career choice. ;-) Your comments are articulate and well thought out. Thanks for putting this topic forward.