Meaningful Bookstore Chatting

I apologize for the epic fail that was my posting some entries throughout Banned Books Week. I had this whole thing thought out and I was going to be like “here’s a book…here’s why it was banned…here why that’s a stupid reason,” but life got in the way. Stupid life. And now I’m tired.

However, I feel like I kind of made up for it last night with my friends. You see, a handful of us went to Border’s last night and milled around there for TWO HOURS (we went because one of my friends’ brothers just published HIS first book and was having a signing, so we were being supportive) and we ended up back in the YA area. If you watch the Wo-Town Writers vlog I post on Mondays, you’ll know these people too–three of the other four girls who vlog with me throughout the week…Jessi (whose brother is now an UBER-FAMOUS author because I have a signed copy of his book and I say so), Janet, and Caitlin. So we geeked out for a while and threw book recommendations at each other like the Apocolypse will be here tomorrow and then things took a turn for the serious.

I don’t remember what started it. We may have been talking about each other’s videos from last week or the fact that our other friend and fellow vlogger, Emily, almost made us all cry with her video, or perhaps it was when Caitlin started weilding around YA books that have been banned for stupid reasons. Whatever it was, we started ranting and debating and meaningfully chatting with each other about banned books and why those who ban them suck.

Here’s the consensus we came to: people ban these YA books for reasons like violence or drugs or sex or language. When you ban books for reasons like that, you’re just hiding the problem. You’re just pretending the problem doesn’t exist. But it DOES. Hiding the problem doesn’t go away. Because, here’s the truth…in the real world, violence and drugs and sex and foul language are EVERYWHERE. Hell, you can’t turn on the news without having all of these make an appearance at least once. Last week, a family from my church was the lead story on the news at least once (probably more, but that’s the only night I happened to have the news on when it started)–the dad freaked out, shot his two sons, shot himself, left a suicide note, and then his wife found them when she came home. TRAUMA much? These types of things are everywhere and it’s not happy and it’s not pretty, but we can’t hide from it. All the kids in my church who knew the two boys are having to face this reality and it sounds like their parents are doing everything to shield them from it–the mother from this family wanted the children’s choir to sing at the boys’ memorial service, but the parents freaked out. I guess I can understand, because it’s a horrible situation, but you can’t keep that veil down forever.

It’s the same thing with book banning and challenging. Parents read five sentences from a book or the synopsis online or see the cover or whatever and then subsequently shit a brick. NO! I don’t want my child to know that there is violence in the world! There’s no murder or rape or domestic abuse! No one drops the f-bomb or says terrible things! The world is a pretty, shiny place full of rainbows and butterflies and that’s all I want my children to know!

But then these kids grow up and realize that it’s NOT all rainbows and butterflies. They learn that bad things happen, or perhaps, god forbid, something bad happens to them. And because you banned [insert banned book here], your child can’t know how to cope with that. Because you took Speak off the reading list at school, now your teenager doesn’t know how to feel about the emotional effects of rape. Because you insisted that Harry Potter be removed from your library because it promotes Satanism (which is just crap on so many levels), your child can’t read about all those deep, underlying messages of love and friendship and fighting for what’s right. Because you took away Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret, your pubescent girl can’t know that those thoughts are normal and those questions are normal and wondering about what on EARTH is going on to your body right now is normal.

I am so thankful that my parents never restricted what I read. Never once did my mom see I was reading something and tell me I had to wait until I was older. Not once did my dad storm into my school or my library and say that they couldn’t have this book on display because I might somehow get my hands on it. I read Harry Potter many times, and while my parents rolled their eyes and wondered how many times I could possibly read this series before I grew bored (answer: I have no idea, because I’m still not bored with it yet), they never thought I was going to want to do witchcraft. I read The Lovely Bones many times as well, and while my mom said I was morbid and couldn’t understand why I love this book so much, she never said that I was going to scar myself for life. They let me make my own mistakes with my reading. One time, while we were at the library when I was younger, I somehow got my hands on a book about the Black Plague and proceeded to read it before we left (it was just a short book…with pictures…in the older kids’ area). I scarred myself. I locked myself in my room when we got home and didn’t come out, nor did I say anything was wrong when my mom asked. But that was my own mistake to make and my parents always let me make them (with reading, at least). That book was way too old for me and far too graphic and I was traumatized for a few days, but there we are. I didn’t read the book again.

I’m sure that book is still in the library, though, because my parents never challenged it or said it should be on a higher shelf.

The moral of this very long story is…you can’t shield your kids from the world. You can’t assume that they are too young to handle the tough stuff and the deep emotions. They need to learn how to cope with these things now, they need to learn that what they feel is normal, and they need to understand how the world truly is. You’re just hurting them more by hiding them from the books that would teach them these things.