Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Dear Book Banners

Dear Book Banners,

Book banning: It’s a bogey on the tissue of literature/life. Seriously.

Here’s the thing… if you don’t want your kids reading certain books because of the subject matter then fair enough -- I’m not into the whole wrapping your kids up in cotton wool and sheltering them from reality thing, making them live in a little censored bubble, but whatever, you’re the parent and you can raise your kids however you want to.

Key word there: Your.

That only applies to YOUR kids.

You shouldn’t try to get books banned from libraries because other peoples kids have nothing to do with you. You don’t have the right to try and censor other people or decide how their kids should be raised or which books other peoples kids should be allowed to read - focus on your own children and stop trying to control other peoples lives.

Sometimes I wonder if some parents forget what it’s like to be young, if they forget what it’s like being a teenager, especially the ones who try to get books banned.

Sex happens. Swearing happens. People taking drugs and drinking alcohol happens.

Maybe your kid isn’t experiencing these things first hand, but unless they’ve led and incredibly sheltered life then they will be aware of these things to an extent and have/will probably talk about them with their friends at some point. Reading about it in a book is not going to corrupt their innocence or turn them into a rebellious teen who is covered in piercing and tattoos and has underage sex while getting trashed at parties you forbid them from attenting.

As surprising as this may be, teen books with sex or homosexuality or bad language or drugs are NOT trying to encourage your kids to go out and have sex/be gay/cuss like the Devil/take drugs/drink. They’re not. And really, if you honestly think your kid isn’t mature enough to handle the subject matter then I feel bad for your child, because you are really underestimating them (and lets face it, if your kid wants to spend their time reading then the chances are you’ve got one of the good ones anyway, don’t treat them like they’re not by thinking they would be so easily influenced).

When I think of people trying to ban books, I’m always reminded of those people who try to get sex ed cut out of schools and replaced with abstinence only education -- guess which kids are more likely to go out and get pregnant or an STD? It’s not going to be the ones who have been educated about sex and the risks, it’s the ones who are left clueless about contraception and the possible consequences of having sex.

When people are told not to do something or that they can’t have something then 9 times out of 10 it will only make them want it more -- when something is unattainable or off limits, wanting it more is human nature.

When I was younger, I drank alcohol. I tried smoking a few times. I attended parties with people older than me, where people were drinking alcohol and getting high and my mum had no clue I was at them. Me and my best friend climbed out of her living room window sometimes in the middle of the night to sneak over to our guy friends house to play strip dares. First time I saw real porn I was 15 at a party I shouldn’t have been at and really, I’m not even mentioning some of the worst things and actually, I was one of the “good girls” -- I know people who have got up to much worse stuff in their teens. A girl I knew died when she was 16/17 because she took some bad drugs (please note: she did not like to read, in case you're delusional enough to think that fiction somehow put her on that track).

I haven’t been drunk or really drank any alcohol since I was 17 years old. I don’t and never will smoke (although, I do have a tendency to cuss like the devil but I'm 21, whatever). And really, I turned out okay… those things didn’t corrupt me or make me into this awful person. They happened, I learned from them and I regret none of it.

My point in telling you all of this is not to say I encourage any of this stuff, I honestly don’t -- my point is simply that it happens. In real life, it happens. These books you’re trying to ban aren’t these horrific stories created in the minds of disturbed people -- they’re just authors telling realistic stories and they’re not encouraging the stuff in their books either, the books aren’t a How To Guide in engaging in underage sex or drinking or taking drugs or anything like that… if anything, they show the reasons not to do that stuff.

Some people tried to ban one of my favourite books: Looking for Alaska by John Green. Now that book is bloody fantastic, it’s well written and the characters could very easily be people I know, they’re intelligent and realistic. The things that happen in the book that had wannabe-book-banners throwing a hissy fit were a big part of what made the book realistic and they chose to ignore the fact that it was true to real life and teens reading the book could very easily experience that stuff in their own lives anyway and they chose to ignore the amazing message that the book had. All they saw was, LE GASP!, mention of underage drinking and mild references to sex.

I’m not going to tell you how to raise your kids, because I don’t have any. I’m not a parent, but as someone who still kind of feels like I’m stuck between growing up and being grown up, I assure you banning books is not the right thing to do. You can’t shelter your kids from everything, you should make sure they’re educated about that stuff -- talk to them instead of just trying to isolate them from all the bad things in the world.

My co-blogger is a teen and she's more mature than a lot of adults I know, same applies to some other people I've met through a love of reading, and they've read books like Looking for Alaska and they read it a lot more maturely than you did.

They read it and saw the way it was written and the brilliant characters and when they finished the last page, they were inspired by the message in the book and that message had nothing at all to do with sex and alcohol -- they were reading the book the way it was supposed to be read, if you missed all the good things and only saw the things you think are "inappropriate" for people their age to read then clearly you're missing the point and reading the book all wrong.

Would you stop teenagers from watching the news too? Because honestly, the stuff you see and read in the news makes the stuff you’re trying to ban from libraries look as innocent as rainbows and butterflies and My Little Pony.

There’s so much more I want to say but the very idea of book banning makes me so angry that I literally can’t discuss it properly or particularly coherently so I'll leave it at that.


P.s. It's funny, Julie and I wrote our posts completely seperately without discussion what we would be - discussing, beyond the general subject and weirdly they compliment each other. Although Julie makes her point so much better than I make mine.

P.p.s. The following post script is totally stolen from Julie's post. *snatches links from co-blogger, is lazy*

P.p.p.s. To read the events that inspired this post and some authors talk about why censorship is wrong:

Ellen Hopkins Explains
Melissa de la Cruz Withdraws
Tera Lynn Childs Withdraws
Pete Hautman Withdraws
Ellen Hopkins Explains More


  1. I completely agree with you! Censorship is wrong and at times just annoying and silly. I remember in high school looking through my school library for the Harry Potter books to find out that none of them were there. When I asked the librarian he said the Principal didn't allow them because of all the witchcraft, I couldn't help but roll my eyes and feel aggravated.

    Teens should be allowed to read what they want, if you don't think its age appropriate for your kid then make sure you talk to them about it, see what they know. Its just silly how parents think that kids don't know about cursing and sex and drugs. Honestly, were they ever kids themselves?

  2. Absolutely. I'm going to have to post about this as well, because I have definitely experienced some attempts by not-so-well-meaning parents to censor books at my school. Not cool. Raise your kids. Leave others alone!

  3. Great post! You should join me at www.RoofBeamReader.net each week for Saturdays, Uncensored! It's a weekly post I do to bring continued attention to censorhip, book banning/challenging, etc. I typically feature 2-3 books each week. :)

  4. wonderful post - I totally agree!

  5. Psst! You should join my Ban This! campaign for September! Stop by and check it out!

  6. This post reminds me of the book I read on my summer reading list, lol.

    Has anyone ever heard of Farenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. It's a dystopian novel about people who burn books because its illegal to own books.

  7. I'd much rather that any kids I have are able to read about life as it is, rather than just some censored boiled down fantasy version. My theory is that if kids knows about sex, knows about drugs, knows about alcohol, knows the facts - then they are far more likely to not throw themselves into something stupid like having unprotected sex. I'd rather my teenager drank at my party than they drank hard liquor in a bush.

    Censoring Harry Potter because OMG WITCHCRAFT is just one of the many signs of stupid in the world.




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