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!
The Right to Read
by Savannah J. Foley
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.
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.