Monday, September 23, 2013

Why I Want My Kids To Read Banned Books

In honor of Banned Books Week, an annual celebration of the freedom to read, sponsored by the American Library Association I’m sitting down to read some of my favorite Banned Books.

Why are we still talking about Banned Books in this day and age where sex is on prime time and childhood idols are twerking on national awards shows???

Well, even in 2012, the Office of Intellectual Freedom recorded 464 challenges, but the ALA (American Library Association) estimates that up to 80 percent are never even reported So where are these books being banned? Our schools and public libraries. What is it that is so offensive, so utterly damaging about any of the books that have recently been banned?

The most common reasons for a book being pulled off the selves:
Sexually explicit (the top reason according to the ALA), Offensive language, Homosexuality, Violence, Religious viewpoint, Drugs, and Nudity

Now I would agree books like Fifty Shades of Grey have no place in the schools, but I still think (despite my personal feelings on the book) it should be freely available at the public library. If parents are sooooo concerned little Timmy will get his hands on a sex book, they need to actually monitor their children, instead of dictating what everyone should be reading.

I have the resources to buy my kids books. We still frequent the libraries, mainly to find new things, but if it was our main source of books (like it is for many families) there should be a wide selection. Not on limited by the morals of a small minority.

Banning books mostly comes down to pissy adults, passing judgment and forcing their own personal morality on the whole. We are talking the old ‘squeaky wheel’ issue. Let’s take for example the The Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

JUST THIS WEEK the book was removed when ONE parent, Kimiyutta Parson, complained because it was ONE OF THREE books the students could pick from on a summer reading list for high school juniors. YES.  High school juniors… you know those kids between 16-17 years old. Here was Parson’s complaint:
“This novel is not so innocent; instead, this book is filthier, too much for teenagers. You must respect all religions and point of views when it comes to the parents and what they feel is age appropriate for their young children to read, without their knowledge. This book is freely in your library for them to read.”
So while I respect Parson’s right to tell her 11th grader not to read The Invisible Man because she feels it’s ‘filthy’, what right does she have to take that book out of the school, depriving other children the opportunity to read a book that won the National Book Award and is on the Modern Library’s list of the 100 best novels of the twentieth century?
Is it a fluffy book about unicorns and rainbows?

NO. It’s a hard book to read that deals with tough issues. It addresses many of the social and intellectual issues facing African-Americans in the first part of the twentieth century, including the reformist racial policies of Booker T. Washington, as well as issues of individuality and personal identity. It’s a book that makes you think. 

Arizona also pulled Dreaming In Cuban by Cristina Garcia for its sexually explicit content.

The book tells of the life of three generations of a single family after the 1959 Cuban revolution. The book written in 1982 was a finalist for the National Book Award. Cuban history and the rich culture are important facets of the novel. According to the American Library Association, which tracks banned books, this is the first banning of this novel.
Again, the banning originated with the complaint of one parent who noted the following passage was inappropriate for her 10th grader:

Hugo and Felicia stripped in their room, dissolving easily into one another, and made love against the whitewashed walls. Hugo bit Felicia’s breast and left purplish bands of bruises on her upper thighs. He knelt before her in the tub and massaged black Spanish soap between her legs. He entered her repeatedly from behind.

Felicia learned what pleased him. She tied his arms above his head with their underclothing and slapping him sharply when he asked.

“You’re my bitch,” Hugo said, groaning.

Sexually explicit? Yes, I agree, but the book is so much more than this one passage. This passage sets up the unstable and abusive relationship that Hugo and Felicia have.  She becomes pregnant and runs off with Hugo, against her own fathers wishes.  This passionate affair turns and she attempts to kill Hugo, ultimately causing her children to take his side.  Felicia tumbles down a hole of mental instability and her behavior becomes more despondent and erratic as the years go on. All of this starts with this one passage.

If you don't feel your 16 year old is mature enough to read this than there should be an alterative title for them to read. And again I go back to the idea; I don’t need to be told what’s right or moral for my child

I know what you’re thinking… ”Why don’t you just let your kid read the book on their own time? It doesn’t have to part of the school curriculum.”

Again I agree.... If schools allowed students to pick books to read on their own as part of the curriculum, instead of sticking with just the ‘mandated and appropriate’ titles, than I’d be fine with letting my kids pick their own books. But that’s not the way schools are run anymore. My kids have a hard enough time keeping up with the homework assigned and the light extra-curricular activities they enjoy. Leisure reading has become a luxury we reserve for vacations. 

Just so you understand where I'm coming from...This kind of mandatory reading nearly beat the joy of reading out of my son. The books assigned to him didn’t spark his interest and slowly he stopped wanting to read. I’ve just recently stoked those dying embers back to life with audio books and graphic novels, but I fear the damage may be long lasting.

And I know where he’s coming from. I do feel his pain...

It might be surprising to find out that I myself hated to read. Yes, me. The woman who easily reads three novels a week. The one who’s writing a book. It wasn’t until I was in eighth grade, around the age of 13 or 14, that I discovered the bodice ripper romance novels. You now the ones I mean, with the virginal heroine and the hunky man who was overly aggressive.

Johanna Lindsey was one of my favorite!!

Well, I started reading those salacious novels for the sex. Yes that right, at 13 I knew what sex was and wanted to read about it. The funny thing was those books were like a gate way drug. I started staying up all night to read them. I spent my spending cash to buy more. I started branching out to harder fiction and even some nonfiction. Before I knew what happened I found myself selling the stuff. I got a part time job at Barnes and Noble just so I could get my fix at a cheaper rate. 

So there it is dear reader, my mad decent into literary addiction.  Sexually explicit novels were my downfall.  My gateway drug of choice.

I’m not the type of parent to tell you what your child should and shouldn’t do… So please afford me the same respect. I only hope my son discovers he loves to read gory horror, gritty noir or space operas.  I wouldn't even care if he sneaks away with some of my dirty long as he is reading. 

With statistics saying one in four adults in the US did not read any books last year, I think we need to be less concerned with WHAT our kids are reading, and more concerned with whether they ARE reading.

The most challenged books in 2012 were:

1. Captain Underpants (series), by Dav Pilkey
Reasons: Offensive language, unsuited for age group

2. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
Reasons: Offensive language, racism, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group

3. Thirteen Reasons Why, by Jay Asher
Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, sexually explicit, suicide, unsuited for age group

4. Fifty Shades of Grey, by E. L. James.
Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit

5. And Tango Makes Three, by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson.
Reasons: Homosexuality, unsuited for age group

6. The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini.
Reasons: Homosexuality, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit

7. Looking for Alaska, by John Green.
Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group

8. Scary Stories (series), by Alvin Schwartz
Reasons: Unsuited for age group, violence

9. The Glass Castle, by Jeanette Walls
Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit

10. Beloved, by Toni Morrison                                                                                         
Reasons: Sexually explicit, religious viewpoint, violence

No comments:

Post a Comment