Monday, September 26, 2011

Banned Books Week

Did you know that we are smack in the middle of Banned Books Week? Well, we are. As a librarian/avid reader/liberal, I am very much anti-book banning, so I like Banned Books Week. There are plenty of arguments out there about why banning books (and movies and TV shows and video games and music) is just plain wrong (and stupid), and I am going to trust that you are internet-savvy enough to find them, if you so desire. Instead of adding my voice to that, and rambling on for days - which I am perfectly capable of doing - I will give you my brush with book banning:

When I was in 8th or 9th grade, a parent at my school tried to get a book banned from a class reading list, The Sound of Waves by Yukio Mishima, because it had naked ladies (actually, culturally-correct pearl divers) and a couple of teenagers tempted to have sex. My mom was on the curriculum committee at the time, and asked me to read the book and give her my opinion. I like to think that was because I was (a) very well-read, with good opinions about books, even back then, and (b) I had extremely well-developed common-sense for someone of my age group. (Mom, don't say anything that will disabuse me of this notion. I like the rosy-tinted view of my precocious self.) Anyway, I read the book, and although I don't really remember all that much about it (I can't remember most of the plot described in the Wikipedia summary), I do remember that it was not in any way worth banning. It didn't get banned, in the end (probably not because of my opinion, alas), which is as it should be.

The whole incident struck me then, as it does now, as incredibly ridiculous. The innocent child who could have been asked to read such filth was in junior high at the time, and the book was for a junior or senior level class. How did having such a book on a list harm that kid? No idea. (Besides, in high school, anything assigned in class is less likely to be read simply because it was assigned i.e. boring and homework, therefore, often skipped. A book you pick up on your own and read in private is one you want to read, and far more likely to be "dangerous").  Also, the book was in an elective class, not a required one. If the parent still had her panties in a bunch over the book by the time the student got to that point, in 4 or 5 years, she could have just not allowed the child to take that class. That is how people should react to something they don't approve of - by not reading it, not by trying to force other people to stop reading it. (Of course, I also think we should expose ourselves to things we don't generally approve of before we make the choice to continue with our dislike, but that is another point for another day). Not to mention that the mother couldn't protect/shield/pamper/mess up her kid for ever.

There are plenty of books and TV shows that I don't approve of for whatever reason, but unless they are primarily hate-speech and require some sort of active response, I don't read them, I don't watch them; it is my choice to make. I don't think books should be banned, because suppressing an idea or opposing viewpoint doesn't allow for discussion, for debate, for exposure of alternatives. It provides a false sense that everyone believes the same thing, that we all ought to live in lock-step with one another. We don't. We shouldn't. In a country that prides itself on being the country of "liberty and justice for all," the free exchange of ideas and viewpoints is a vital necessity. Even for junior high students. So, go read something that has been banned, and flaunt it!

1 comment:

Candace said...

Well said...and you are correct on all the things you said :)