How Good Books Get Banned By Good People

So as many in the publishing industry know, this is Banned Books Week (Sept. 26-Oct. 3). And while typically bloggers and news outlets focus on the books that have been banned—everything from Judy Blume to Catcher in the Rye to Little Women—I’d like to focus on something else. Actually, someone else. The book banners. Because they’re not who you think.

I suspect that many in the literary community tend to think of book banners as these evil beings with Freddy Krueger nails and Zippo lighters. And while some may fit that description (who knows?), I think most of them look like the guy sitting in the cubicle next to you. And he might be a nice person. He didn’t go from book lover to fire-starter overnight. I bet the shift was subtle, stretched over years (maybe decades), until one day he saw his kid’s reading list and snapped. And instead of just monitoring what his own kid was reading, he decided it was his job to monitor the reading for all kids. He got out the torch.

And I’d like to talk about the first step into book burning craziness.

Not long ago, I was speaking to a couple of young parents. They are both highly educated (multiple graduate degrees), liberals, and one even works in the realm of education. They were talking to me about how horrified they were about the young adult literature they recently saw stocked at their local bookstore.

“There was all this stuff about ‘summer hook ups’ and drugs, and rape, and sex. We were shocked. They didn’t sound appropriate for teens. Who decides this is okay? What happened to books?”

I explained that YA spans the spectrum, you’ve got your squeaky clean authors like Meg Cabot (Princess Diaries) and then you’ve got your more risqué authors like Cecily Von Ziegesar (Gossip Girl). There’s even an entire section called “trauma porn” that’s all about teens dealing with catastrophic events (think Hunger Games or If I Stay). But you’ve also got your Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series and your Sarah Dessen novels to even it out.

Still, I could see that look in their eye, that implication that something had gone “wrong” with publishing. That this needs to “change.” And if they simply apply that belief to monitoring their own child’s reading, then fine. That’s a parent’s job. But I feel like I got a glimpse into what could lead a person down that slippery slope—that first step to where “this needs to change” becomes ”this needs to stop.”

So remember people, this week of all weeks, that books are fun, and tragic, and scary. And teens are smart enough to enjoy them and appreciate them as entertainment. I know I was smart enough at that age. Weren’t you?

When did the world decide it only watches television on Thursdays? Did I miss that memo? Because if you look at my DVR, I’ve got nothing going on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, then suddenly everything I have ever wanted to watch is scheduled on Thursday night. My DVR can only do so much, folks. Grey’s Anatomy, Fringe, and The Office. That’s one too many. And you know which one gets the ax? The one that’s free on Sorry, Steve Carell, but I’ll be watching you on the net until these conflicts are resolved.

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One comment on “How Good Books Get Banned By Good People
  1. nisha says:

    loved your book banned post. I agree about Thursday night TV. What the heck, people?

    Hope all is well!


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