The blogosphere is all abuzz about Banned Books Week. I’d like to say I’m reading a banned book now, but this all kind of snuck up on me and I didn’t have my act together. But I’ve enjoyed reading some great posts. Marie at Boston Bibliophile reviewed two banned books: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie, and A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L’Engle. And then Florinda at The 3R’s Blog, and Wendy at Musings of a Bookish Kitty, both shared their point of view and listed several banned or challenged books they’ve read. This got me thinking about my experience with banned or challenged books.
My first encounter with this phenomenon occurred ten years ago. A certain person who shall remain nameless sent an email, warning us that our 7-year-old daughter should under no circumstances be allowed to read the Harry Potter books. The email message included the full text of a news article claiming the Harry Potter series was turning children to devil worship. What this person didn’t realize was that the article came from The Onion, a satirical news site. Our first response was uproarious laughter. But then we became incensed. Judging by the “Fw: fw: fw: fw: fw: …” in the subject line, this email had spread its malicious point of view all over cyberspace. This was a classic example of the hysteria that often leads to a book being challenged or banned.
Wendy said it so well, I just have to repeat it:
I do believe in a parent’s right to guide his or her children in choosing appropriate reading material when necessary; I think it’s smart parenting to know what your children are reading, listening to, watching, and playing. However, what I do not get behind is when someone or a group of people decide that no one should be allowed to read a particular book. And so they challenge it and request it be banned. Often books are challenged because they raise viewpoints that differ from someone else’s. Or perhaps they touch upon subject matter that the person finds offensive or uncomfortable. I respect a person’s right to have his or her own opinion about any book. I truly do. But do not tell me what I should and should not read, or anyone else for that matter.
Naturally we ignored the email and continued to encourage our daughter’s reading, including the Harry Potter series. J.K. Rowling turned out to be one of two authors (the other being Jane Austen) who inspired my daughter to become a writer.
The American Library Association has published the top ten most frequently challenged books of 2009, along with a List of Banned and/or Challenged Classics. You’ve probably read many of these books. Why not read another?
Oh, and if you need a good laugh, here’s that article from The Onion. Imagine anyone thinking it was true !