The Right to Read

27 Sep

Saturday marked the beginning of Banned Book Week. Here at LTWF we’re dedicating the whole week to awareness about banned books. We’ve got a lineup of fantastic articles, culminating in our announcement of our banned books-inspired book of the month for October on Friday. This coming Saturday we will post pictures of ourselves with our favorite banned books, and pictures that our readers send us. One lucky reader will even get a giveaway prize!

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The Right to Read

by Savannah J. Foley

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When LTWF decided to honor banned books week by inviting readers to post pictures of themselves with their favorite banned book(s), I wanted to do a picture with every banned book I owned.

I went to my bookshelf, and grabbed the few I knew without a doubt were high on the banned books list… Beloved, The Bluest Eye, The Great Gatsby, Running With Scissors, and Harry Potter. Then, as I began to scan over my shelves again, I realized that a lot of titles had properties that were probably considered ‘inappropriate’. Curious, I pulled all my favorites from the shelves and googled their histories.

They had all been banned. Every single one.

Fight Club, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Gabriela Clove and Cinnamon, Giovanni’s Room, A Passage to India, The Good Earth, Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, Me Talk Pretty One Day, and Silence of the Lambs. I had been able to recognize which books were banned simply by identifying my favorites.

My favorite books are filled with sexuality, violence, family issues, infidelity, broken hearts, cultural schisms, prejudice, segregation, internal sadness and fleeting joy. They are filled, in essence, with humanity.

When someone says a book should be banned, they are saying that its content is inappropriate for existence, not just children. They are trying to cover up the fact that none of us are perfect, completely moral, and well-balanced people. When I was a young reader growing up, I was drawn to these types of books because they felt gritty, and significant. I read a lot of other happy, bland fiction, and I thought that was a more normal representation of people. Imagine my surprise when I grew up and learned that it was the darker, edgier books that more closely resembled reality.

Humans mess up. We fall down, and we struggle to get back up. We try to hold on to the good things, and sometimes we do, but sometimes we don’t. That doesn’t make life bad. That makes it a journey. And lying to kids about what they are and what they will be only sets them up for disappointment, dissatisfaction, and intolerance.

I’m white, financially secure, and straight. But my diverse reading experiences have given me an empathy and tolerance for people very different from me. I used to not like certain groups of people, but I realize now that was simply because I didn’t understand them. I didn’t understand they were human, too. Since then, I’ve tried to live by a quote: “You cannot fear that which you understand.”

Banning books is a display of fear. It’s a display of ignorance. It promotes false realities, an isolates people from their own emotions.

Now, I can understand why a parent would not want their sixth grader to read American Psycho. But it’s better to talk to your kids about what they’re reading, and help them make decisions about what they’d be comfortable with, rather than take away the choice from readers everywhere.

The problem with banned books is that one leads to another. We ban Nazi hate literature. Then the Marquis de Sade. Then American Psycho. Then Silence of the Lambs. Then Fight Club. Then Harry Potter. Then The Hunger Games. Then anything that anyone says has a value that could wake children from their innocent dream-world of perfect happiness and normality. But guess what? Children aren’t blissfully naïve little angels. They know that people aren’t perfect, starting with their parents and extending to the rest of the world.

Like many other bloggers have testified, reading ‘morally questionable’ books doesn’t make one a social deviant. It makes one wise. It make one empathetic. It lets you care about people you otherwise might hate, or ignore.

Don’t presume that you know what I need or want better than I do. Don’t you dare think that you can make decisions for me, my children, or my family. Keep your hands off my body, my eyes, my voice, my land, my possessions, my love, and my books.

Don’t ban ideas. Don’t ban humanity. Don’t ban freedon. Don’t ban books.

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Savannah J. Foley is the author of the Antebellum (originally known as Woman’s World) series on Fictionpress. She has written five novels, owns her own freelance writing company, and is signed with the Bradford Literary Agency. Antebellum is currently out on submissions. Her website is www.savannahjfoley.com, but she updates more frequently on her livejournal.

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15 Responses to “The Right to Read”

  1. Aurora Blackguard September 27, 2010 at 7:44 AM #

    This was abso-freaking-lutely amazing. This is so true and I am appalled at my own species that we, always crying out for justice and freedom and whatnot, are so willing sometimes to strangle the inspirations and works of others simply because they don’t fit in our moral trains of thought. They’re like the stoplights that make them have to take a detour. So yeah. Savannah, FTW and I am SO going to be writing about Banned Books on my LJ ;D

    • Savannah J. Foley September 27, 2010 at 10:37 AM #

      Yay, I’m glad! I think that people get so caught up in their own egos they begin to believe they have the right to make decisions for others.

      • Aurora Blackguard September 27, 2010 at 11:24 AM #

        Exactly! I mean, we don’t judge things by the same moral standards. Sigh, whatever shall we do? Well, aside from protesting non-violently and writing a whole lotta ammo towards them? 😉 It’s what we do best right?

  2. Joana September 27, 2010 at 10:16 AM #

    I actually did a more thorough Google search of my books, because I said on the last post that I had a lot of gay romance books and they didn’t seem to have been banned. Guess what? Yeah, all of them have been challenged or banned SOMEWHERE. Even Boy Meets Boy, which has no drugs, swearing, sex, nudity, NOTHING. It was intentionally written to be as clean as possible according to the author, and it’s still been challenged. Why? It presents being gay or transgendered in a positive light.

    Sigh.

  3. Savannah J. Foley September 27, 2010 at 10:37 AM #

    I am not surprised 😦

  4. tymcon September 27, 2010 at 10:50 AM #

    I just found out Shades Children by Garth Nix was banned somewhere or other (shakes fist)

    • svonnah September 29, 2010 at 1:55 PM #

      As it seems to be with all the best books 😦

  5. Julie Eshbaugh September 27, 2010 at 1:03 PM #

    Great post Savannah! I’m sure you were quite upset when you wrote this, yet your thoughts are presented so eloquently. Bravo! Thanks for this provocative post. 🙂

    • svonnah September 29, 2010 at 1:54 PM #

      Thanks, Julie!

  6. Rowenna September 27, 2010 at 1:24 PM #

    Great post–hope you don’t mind that I linked from my blog 🙂

    • svonnah September 27, 2010 at 5:12 PM #

      Definitely not 🙂

  7. September 27, 2010 at 6:13 PM #

    Consider my socks rocked off.

    • svonnah September 29, 2010 at 1:54 PM #

      Aww, thanks! I was in a bit of a frenzy when I wrote it.

  8. Vee September 29, 2010 at 7:49 AM #

    *applauds*

    So well said, Sav 🙂

    • svonnah September 29, 2010 at 1:55 PM #

      Thank you, Vee!

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