My first REALLY cool experience with a library was when I started attending community college at 17. I walked into the Molstead Library on NIC campus, and there was this big "Banned Books Week" display.
It sucked me in. There were all these books that I knew of or even loved on display with chains around them: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Of Mice and Men, Harry Potter, Brave New World, and more. I had no idea that books were even BANNED in America. I grew up believing that libraries in a "free society" were bastions of free information to any and all who would want it. I had heard of stuff like that happening in tyrannical, despotic nations, and in the past, but in modern day U.S.A.? It was unheard of to me.
Of course, I was a naive, then. Hardly aware of the necessity for ALA's "Banned Books Week." The issue of preventing censorship in libraries eventually became one of my passions. When I was a student at Brigham Young University, I had the opportunity to hear Chris Crutcher (YA author) speak about this very issue to my young adult literature class.
One of the things he said is that when we ban books about gay kids, when we ban books about kids who get pregnant or who have drug problems or other issues, we, as a society, are essentially telling our own kids who have these issues that they don't have a right to have a voice. That they're not worthy of validation. That their issues are too disgusting to talk about in a healthy way. That they are taboo, that they are outcasts.
This is so harmful to kids who may be struggling with such issues. It is so harmful to be interpreted as someone who should be shunned from society. This only breeds psychological repression.
We give our teens too little credit. We think they can't handle certain books. We think they are incapable of putting a book down if it is too much for them. I remember pulling all sorts of things off of the shelf at my public or school library when I was a kid. I also remember that if it had something in it that "bothered me" I would put it back. Not to mention, parents can talk to kids about books that deal with tough issues.
I was so infuriated yesterday when I read about how Wesley Scroggins, an associate professor at Missouri State, successfully put into motion to ban three books at a Missouri High School: Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut, and Twenty Boy Summer by Sara Ockler (go here to read her response). His reasons for banning the books were because they taught principles "contrary to the Bible." Though Speak was spared, the Republic High School board voted to remove the other two books from the classroom curriculum and the library.
Ironic that right before I had read the article, I did a blog post here about classic dystopian fiction. Ironic in the sense that these totalitarian societies, we read about in our beloved dystopian books, would also be more than willing to ban books they would consider "inappropriate."
Why do we yield to censorship bullies in our society? Is knowledge or a perspective other than your own really something to be that afraid of? Are we really that insecure in our own "faith" or "beliefs" that we can't handle someone having a different opinion than our own, so as to deny them access to literature in a public institution? Since when is it okay for one parent to decide what other parents' kids can or can't read? What the hell happened to separation of church and state?
I'm so upset I'm considering sending an email to the Principal of the school in question.
We need to encourage our kids to talk about books with tough issues, not pretend they don't exist.
How do you feel about Banned Books Week? Or the issue of censorship in libraries?