Monday, September 27, 2010


The ladies over at Let the Words Flow are celebrating banned books week with a series of posts on the topic. Today's post started the week off wonderfully with an appeal to let readers choose for themselves--don't take the choice away from everyone because a few people have an issue. And it's always just a few people, isn't it?

As a reader of historical fiction, it's not often that one of "our" books gets caught up in the banned-book melee. Maybe this is because historical fiction doesn't tend to market to the younger crowd, which is often where trouble starts--a young adult book or a book that appeals to young adults gets parents or educators in a tizzy. Maybe it's also that the themes are considered a bit safer--after all, this isn't sci-fi, fantasy, speculative--this stuff did happen, so maybe it feels less "touchable" by the morality police. Maybe it's just a smaller genre and there are so many hooplas that can make the big-time every year.

All that to say--I often don't feel the bite of book banning because my favorite authors are seldom in the crosshairs. But that doesn't mean I shouldn't care. If you love books, you should care. A quick glance at the ALA's list of banned books would make anyone stand up and pay attention. Some are absurd--Winnie the Pooh comes to mind. Some are likely politically-overcorrections--Gone with the Wind and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn are probably hitting the list mainly for racist language. And some--some are just scary and ironic, like Farenheit 451 and Brave New World.

At the same time, I fully support those who want to speak out against a book, too. After all, we're granted freedom of speech in this country. So say whatever you like, exhort other parents to make sure their kids aren't reading Author XYZ, petition your kids' teachers to remove the book from the reading list. It's your right. Have fun. But teachers, administrators, and libraries should be, in my opinion, less willing to cave to the demands of one or two vocal parents.

But what I'd really like--most of all--is for the focus to turn away from whether or not a book should exist and to become a conversation about the book's merits and issues rather than an argument about whether to pull it from the shelves. We recognize the power of books if we want to uphold them or ban them. Wouldn't that energy be better spent talking about and promoting the books that we do think are contributing in a positive way?

What's your favorite banned book? Ever come across a book that you thought was deserving of restriction or banning?


Kat Zhang said...

Thank you for contributing to Banned Books Week! My school bookstore is actually having a special table of banned books, with a little note by each explaining why it was banned. I was very surprised to find A WRINKLE IN TIME there, as I'd loved that book as a child. If anything, this reminds me I need to go back and reread it!

Sharmon said...

A well thought out post. Book banning is so controversial, isn't it? I for one am glad I got to read Pooh and F.451 :-).
What I truly believe in, like you, is the freedom of speech. The right to state any protests and the right to state any support of said books. You can't have one and not support the other.
Good, thought-provoking post, Rowenna.

Katy F. said...

Of course, my favorite banned books are the Harry Potter series, but the banned book that moved me the most when I read it was Kaffir Boy by Mark Mathabane.

Miss Rosemary said...

Oh that last paragraph is simply brilliant!

Rowenna said...

Kat--I bet it's an interesting display at your school bookstore!

Sharmon--thanks! Pooh and Farenheit 451 are both very different veins, of course.

Katy--I'll have to take a look at Kaffir Boy!

Miss R--Thanks!

Hema P. said...

Well said, Rowenna! I feel similarly frustrated when I hear about movies being banned in different countries because one group or the other has taken umbrage over the content or the message.

'To Kill a Mockingbord' is my all-time favorite, even though there are others in the list I adore: Adv of Huckleberry Finn, Gone with the Wind etc.

Rowenna said...

Thanks, Hema! So true about movies, too--I freely admit to loving films as much as books. Both can raise questions and explore the world in such beautiful, varied, creative ways.