Friday, September 24, 2010

Banned Books Week

So this is an unscheduled Friday post, but it's necessary because I totally forgot this coming week is Banned Books Week! What's that you ask? Well this Saturday (Sept. 25) to Sunday (Oct. 3), people across the nation are celebrating our American right to read whatever we want by reading books that people have tried to ban in libraries, schools, or any other place.

Now when I told one of my friends I was going to Borders (my bookstore of choice) to buy a banned book, he was confused and asked me how I was going to find a book that wouldn't offend my sensibilities. I didn't really answer his question because he sort of confused me. I guess it's because when he thinks of what I read he thinks SF/F and he thinks those aren't controversial genres? I'm unsure what he was thinking. It's really hard to offend my sensibilities in a book. I've been reading adult books since I was many ways I'm way past sensibilities.

Regardless, I did come up with an answer. I explained to him that a lot of totally random books that offend few people are banned. Like The Catcher in the Rye. What's there to be offended about except there is a whiny annoying self obsessed teen who somehow represents the 60s (or is it the 70s? I forgot)? Or To Kill a Mockingbird. Seriously, what's to hate about a loving southern family who fights for civil rights and justice?

Or for that matter, Harry Potter in the Sorcerer's Stone, one of the most popular books to ban at the turn of the millennium.

I was (am) something of a Harry Potter nut, and I vividly remember the day my parents had "the talk" with me. Not the birds and the bees talk. The Harry Potter talk. It was just before the fourth book was going to come out, and it was the summer between seventh and eighth grade. Apparently, they had been listening to their friends talk about how Harry Potter was the devil, and they were concerned because I had already read the first three books. They told me they thought I shouldn't read the next book and I burst into tears right there, on the spot, sitting on their bed, in their room, where we were having this talk.

They were somewhat disconcerted by this.

Luckily, when I got over my tears, I put up a pretty logical argument. I had been reading The Wheel of Time longer than I had been reading Harry Potter. I had been reading fantasy books from the adult side of the store since fifth grade. What made Wheel of Time ok and Harry Potter wrong?

My parents were (are) both Wheel of Time readers as well, and quickly got the point. If we're going to say one fantasy story is wrong, we have to say they're all wrong. They then asked me to explain Harry Potter to them, to describe the events, and if I thought anything was strange or satanic. I explained the story lines of boy trying to save the world, and they let me read the fourth Harry Potter book.

I'm still not sure my parents get the allure of Harry Potter for my generation, but thank the Lord they let me read them. I can't imagine how different life would be, how outside of conversations and crazes I would have been, if I had not read Harry Potter. Harry Potter was something my siblings and I got to bond over, and trust me, my siblings and I pretty much bond over nothing. Harry Potter is like our only common ground.

So banned books aren't all sexually explicit or anti-God. And even if they are, I don't think any book should be banned, even if it does go against your personal sensibilities. You don't have to read it, but it's someone else's right to be able to read what they want.

However, when it comes to banned books this year, instead of reading oldies but goodies like Harry Potter and To Kill A Mockingbird, I'm going out on a limb and reading books that have recently been attacked. And shocker of all shockers, they are both YA books.

I know, didn't I say how much I dislike YA yesterday?

True, true, but I also said YA is getting better. Everyday better and better YA books are being published that is helping YA turn around. However, while I'm certain both of the books I bought are going to be fantastic, I think both are well within the teenage girl drama that usually fills YA. My main point, which I'm not sure I got across yesterday, is that I want YA to open to more genres. It's still a chic lit if it's about a girl falling in love in space. Please, just give me a regular SF that happens to star teens (like I don't know....Ender's Game.)

Anyway, that's way off subject for this post.

So this week during banned books week I will be reading two books:
  • Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler
  • Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
For me this is a step out of my comfort zone - the YA section that is - but I encourage you to do the same. Look up some local book controversies. Peruse the list of Frequently Challenged Books. Read a book that people have tried to take off your shelves and think for yourself.

Everyone has the right to monitor what their kids read. No one has the right to dictate what I or my (theoretical) kids should read. I make my own decisions, and you should to.

Read a banned book. And enjoy Banned Books Week.

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