Monday, September 26, 2016

Banned Books Week

I read banned books. If you want me to actively seek out a title, slap a "banned" label on it, tell me it's offensive or explicit or harmful or dangerous. That's the kind of reader I am.

One person's required reading is another person's hell no. And the opinions of one, no matter how closely held, shouldn't dictate what is fit for reading by someone else. I mean, opinions are like elbows, everybody's got 'em.

Hiding ideas won't make them go away. Not talking about things that may make us uncomfortable won't stop them from happening and reading about things that are provocative won't hurt us. There are many reasons that books can be challenged—as many reasons as there are books, to be sure—some for being too real, some for being not real enough, some for just introducing thoughts that are considered far too provocative.

Here's the thing, as I see it: life happens to us all, and then art—in this case, in the form of books—reflects life, in all its sticky, messy, scary reality. Books are written that teach us, challenge us, push our boundaries, entertain us, thrill us, scare us and more—but should that mean we try to hide those books?

I urge you to seek out a challenged book and read it this week. Go to the banned books week web page and find all the ways you can spread the word or participate.

You might look at the infographic below and see 50 Shades of Grey is listed and feel validated that banned books are maybe not a bad thing; but also consider that almost half of the Radcliffe Publishing Course Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century have been challenged. This includes must-read titles such as The Grapes of Wrath (profane and vulgar), To Kill a Mockingbird (referred to as a 'filthy, trashy novel'), 1984 (pro-communist), Native Son (graphic language and sexual content) and The Lord of the Rings (satanic).

As a parent, there are some books I don't want my kids to read yet—they may not have the context to understand some issues. But I won't be afraid that what they read will warp them or harm them; like I said, art is meant to enlighten. To entertain, to challenge. Books can do all of these things.

So, go ahead, throw an elbow at restrictions. Grab a banned book. You'll be in good company.

Note: this is not a sponsored post, I just really feel strongly about freedom of speech. Images were downloaded from the ALA website's free download area.

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