Today I’d like to address a heavier topic, not completely related to young adult literature, but it began because of some books I recently read. I’m sure it’s been beaten to death, but I have yet to cover it.
Censorship. Or book-banning.
I think most readers agree that censorship is bad, to say the least. I mean, readers have banned books week and applaud any books that have been challenge/ banned in schools or libraries across the country. “Oh, you’ve only been banned in 3 places? Better vamp it up!”
But why are we cheering? I would venture to say it’s out of sarcasm, a slow clap for all the people out their who try to shield children from literature. And it seems most of the significant literature tends to be the books that have been banned in different places.
Take The Color Purple, for instance. People are robbed from the experience of this book because of too much sexuality and violence. They are robbed of its overall beauty in its themes, writing style, and message. They are robbed blindly simply because of explicit content. Yet the content isn’t distasteful. The novel isn’t some raunchy comedy, filled with inappropriate content just for a laugh. It’s there to emphasize, to show the themes and portray the hardships of the protagonist. Instead people have done just the opposite and honed in on the “inappropriate” content and called to block it from their innocent children. And the overall message? Lost in the battle of the banned.
There are countless other books that I could list and defend and argue that the weight of the novel does not lie in the portions that are banned. But who has time for that?
I read about this program for an e-reader that blocks out profanity and, when clicked, replaces it with a word that means the same thing. I’m still on the fence about this. If you can’t handle the whole book as the author intended, then don’t read the book. Then again, what’s worse, reading an altered version or not reading it at all? So, I guess for now, the idea seems fine, after all, it’s just censoring yourself. But I worry about the long run. After a while, whole paragraphs and scenes will become black and authors will begin to lose their work. Classic artwork doesn’t have little censored boxes on the “inappropriate” content, so why should books?
And then let’s get a little melodramatic, just for the heck of it. First, banning books in some areas. Next, censoring books everywhere. Then, complete subordination of society and a conning government. Boom. Promoting book banning= near future that’s a combination of 1984 and Fahrenheit 451 (both of which, I’m sure, have been banned somewhere).
But then you look at the other side of the argument. And the adults cry that their babies should not see that, they need to be sheltered and coddled and why would anyone write something so horrible? To this, all I can do is laugh and ask these parents to take a walk down a high school hallway. Your baby probably isn’t as innocent as you’d like to believe.
Oh, the school hallway. The epitome of “violence, negativity, sexual situations/ dialogue, and explicit language,” which are all common reasons books are banned. But here comes another argument. Teens are infamous for crude jokes and foul mouths, so what makes them mature enough to handle reading books with “questionable” content?
Answer: some aren’t. Which is kind of sad, but we’re still kids after all. Labeling us as young adults instead of old children doesn’t change the fact that maturity has not completely set in, no matter how grown up high schoolers want to act. But that’s okay. As much as I wish we could have a class discussion on The Color Purple or other banned books, I can acknowledge that that probably won’t be a completely focused discussion. But I think teachers still have the right to chose the books they want to teach, and if The Color Purple is there preference, and they think their class of teenagers can look past the “questionable” content and focus on the important ideas, then by all means, teach the book.
But then you have that one parent who sees the book in their child’s bag and has a mini heart attack. Oh, no sir, their child cannot read a book like this! What are you teaching in this school, anyway? Don’t make me get the superintendent involved because you know I can have everyone from the mayor to your mother up here to protest this godforsaken book by tomorrow.
One parent can’t control the school, though. If they don’t want their precious baby to read that horrible book, then they can request another book or assignment. The parent or the reader themselves should censor the material they read, but they shouldn’t dictate the book choices of others.
I chose not to read erotic fiction, not because I think it should be banned, but because I don’t want to read that material. Do I care if other people read it? Not a chance. Take your 50 Shades of Gray and plop yourself on a park bench and read until your heart’s content, and don’t even think about caring what the passersby think.
It’s not up to other people to take it upon themselves and ban books for the good of all the children. Just because your child may get confused and start looking for hippogriffs and waving sticks to jinx people does not mean my child should be barred from reading Harry Potter.
Please, I beg you, don’t pick up The Color Purple if you know you won’t like portions of the book. Don’t read Harry Potter if you think any witchcraft is blasphemy. Just don’t think that your views on what books are bad or good should change libraries or schools because one more place the book is banned is one more badge of honor for the novel.