So, yes, in case you haven’t heard, September 25- October 2 is BANNED BOOKS WEEK. The American Library Association has put this together for years, and it is a really awesome thing people should be aware of. For more information or to check out books that have been challenged/banned, check out this website.
I have a big problem with people who ban books, and it isn’t even an issue of “freedom of speech” or anything “political” or “constitutional.” I have a problem with how the book banners go about it. Take, for example, Wesley Scroggins, a professor at Missouri State University. He goes above and beyond in this article, trying to ban the book Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. The problem I have with this particular man? HE CALLS IT SOFT CORE PORNOGRAPHY.
First, let me say, I have absolutely no words for this. In case you have never read Speak, it is a beautiful story about a girl who is raped and her trying to cope with it throughout the rest of the story, which results with her saying nothing, not one single piece of dialogue, for the rest of the book. So, yes, she is raped at the beginning of the book, and suddenly rape is now porn. Because porn is designed to stimulate you, and reading about a horrific rape (that is no where near the detailed/scary rape scenes in books like The Lovely Bones, or Lucky -both by Alice Sebold) is something so seducing that it should be equated to rape?
I must bring up a video from John Green that relates to this. His book Looking For Alaska has been a banned/challenged book since it hit the shelves. Why? Because there is an oral sex scene. Now, I’m not making excuses, or stating that it is okay to put oral sex scenes all over the place just for the sake of capturing readers. But if you actually read the book, you would see that in no way was that oral sex scene as stimulating as say… something from Twilight (which, I – and a few of my classmates- feel was only written so people could read it with their bodies not with their minds). There is an oral sex scene and later a make-out scene in the Alaska. The make-out scene was faaar more stimulating than the oral sex scene, and I can back that up from at least four or five people I know who have read the book. And that is the point. When an author puts something in the book that is supposed to be horrible, or awkward, or unpleasant, it isn’t in there to be sexually stimulating (although, I must say this is not the case with every single book, but I feel it is with a majority of YA books). (Yes, it may provide some sort of shock value, but you can look at any book and find something shocking about it.) IN NO WAY CONCEIVABLE was the rape scene in Speak designed to stimulate the readers. Laurie Halse Anderson has stated in her blog about this issue: “The fact that he [Scroggins] sees rape as sexually exciting (pornographic) is disturbing, if not horrifying. It gets worse, if that’s possible, when he goes on to completely mischaracterize the book.”
And that is my biggest problem with book banners. They use whatever they need to from the novels to get them banned. HOW DO PEOPLE FIND THIS ACCEPTABLE? Maureen Johnson, a young adult author whose books are frequently challenged, has this happen to her all the time. Take her novel The Bermudez Triangle. I have read this novel. I do not know why it was banned (I mean, I do, but I don’t understand why). In case you don’t know, the plot revolves around three girls who are best friends. Then two of them start dating. And then it gets banned. And the book banners use random passages that have nothing to do with homosexually, but when taken out of context, construct a new meaning.
Okay, so it is a book about homosexuality. Okay, so you don’t want your kids to read it. Okay, SO DON’T LET THEM READ IT. DON’T LET THEM CHECK IT OUT OF THE LIBRARY. IT IS THAT SIMPLE. You don’t like the oral sex scene of a book, so you get it banned to prevent your child from reading it, which also prevents my (hypothetical) child from reading it. Where you see sex scene, I see a story about a girl who just wants to find a way out of her routine life. Don’t try to get a book removed from a library or classroom library. Don’t try to get the book put into a section of the library that kids need a note to access. If you have such a strong problem with it, just don’t let your kid read it. Why should I be forced to abstain from literature because YOU don’t like it?
And it isn’t just young adult books, oh no. It is classic books like To Kill a Mockingbird, or I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, or Of Mice and Men and other books like that. It is series like Harry Potter and Twilight, and while I may not exactly choose Twilight as the number one book for my future students/children to read, I must say that with the way literacy is going in this country right now, whatever gets a child reading is good enough for me. And you want to put a stop to that? You want to ban the few books teenagers (and even adults!) read, because it doesn’t fit your personal agenda of what “good literature” or “appropriate literature” is? Who are you to make that call? Who am I to tell you that you shouldn’t read that book or watch that show or listen to that music?
I suppose this issue will never go away, but I hope one day it does. In the full spirit of sticking it to the book banners I encourage everyone to read a book that has been banned. Go check it out from a library. Encourage your kids to read them. Because it may not be a huge, loud protest, but just knowing that you aren’t going to let those idiots get you down in a comforting thought.