Last year I celebrated the whole week here at my blog and it was so fun I’m doing it again this year! Today a basic overview of the week and what it’s all about.
Banned Books Week (BBW) celebrates the freedom to choose or the freedom to express one’s opinion even if that opinion might be considered unorthodox or unpopular and stresses the importance of ensuring the availability of those unorthodox or unpopular viewpoints to all who wish to read them. After all, intellectual freedom can exist only where these two essential conditions are met.
The “10 Most Challenged Books of 2006” reflect a range of themes, and consist of the following titles:
“And Tango Makes Three” by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell, for homosexuality, anti-family, and unsuited to age group; (This book is about penguins. Not made up penguins, but real penguins at a zoo who adopt an abandoned egg and raise the chick. The two adult penguins are male. Yes, the entire furor over the book is that the penguins in a nature book were male)
“Gossip Girls” series by Cecily Von Ziegesar for homosexuality, sexual content, drugs, unsuited to age group, and offensive language;
“Alice” series by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor for sexual content and offensive language;
“The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things” by Carolyn Mackler for sexual content, anti-family, offensive language, and unsuited to age group;
“The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison for sexual content, offensive language, and unsuited to age group;
“Scary Stories” series by Alvin Schwartz for occult/Satanism, unsuited to age group, violence, and insensitivity;
“Athletic Shorts” by Chris Crutcher for homosexuality and offensive language.
“The Perks of Being a Wallflower” by Stephen Chbosky for homosexuality, sexually explicit, offensive language, and unsuited to age group (BTW, as a parent of a son who is very different from his peers, this book is one I know I’ll be giving him in a few years. It’s a really amazing book even for adults)
“Beloved” by Toni Morrison for offensive language, sexual content, and unsuited to age group;
“The Chocolate War” by Robert Cormier for sexual content, offensive language, and violence. (this is one of the smartest YA books I’ve ever read. It doesn’t have a happy ending per se, but it’s a scarily accurate view of what it’s like to be an adolescent. I do read a lot of YA books, by the way, it’s part of the parenting gig and my oldest is getting to the age where some of these books are appropriate reading. I also like them too!)
Off the list this year, but on for several years past, are the “Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger, “Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck and “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain.
Freedom to read different ideas, even if you disagree with them or they challenge you, is one of our most important and cherished freedoms. As the author of Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury, said, “You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.”
I grew up in a household that treasured this concept. From a very early age I read everything I could put my hands on. If I had trouble or found something I couldn’t understand or made me upset, my parents used this as a teaching moment.
I’m not saying you have to agree with everything, or that you have to let your children read anything they want. I do think we, as a culture, seem to have a growing fear of ideas we don’t agree with and rather than listen to them and debate with our own, or simply ignore those ideas we loathe, we find it necessary to silence those other ideas.
As an author that frightens me. The books I write often contain sexually graphic material. Some of them have magic and paranormal creatures. Some of them have violence, some of them are menages with male/male contact. I understand and respect that not everyone will like them or agree with them. I don’t let my children read my books, that wouldn’t be age appropriate although I don’t generally go out of my way to hide what I write from them. But last year, my husband, stuck in traffic and listening to the local NPR station, heard the weekly call in show about new books and he called in to talk about mine. They put him through and he sat in a queue until they came back to him and told him they looked at my website and decreed it inapprorpriate for the adult audience to hear about on the radio. Apparently they decided the “elderly audience” listening “would be offended” and with an apology, they cut him off.
Adults are now being babysat by other adults because their own belief system is so weak they’re unable to hit the back key on their computer after hearing my website on a radio talk show. This is ridiculous.
If two male penguins sitting on an egg disturbs you and you think it’s somehow inappropriate for your children, I respect your right to believe so. I respect your right to take an active part in your child’s reading and intellectual life by not allowing it to be checked out from the library or purchased. What I don’t respect is the attempt to stop MY children from reading it because, it is my belief that a fear of two male penguins taking care of an egg is irrational. Beliefs – everyone has em and that’s a GOOD thing.
Ideas are not dangerous. The ABSENCE of ideas is.