Tag Archives: Books

Banned Books Week – 2014

Imported Photos 00715

I took this picture at the Bebelplatz Square monument for the 20,000 burned books in Berlin, Germany.

It’s always shocking to me when books are banned. I don’t understand the purpose of banning a book. It goes to argue that if something is banned people flock to it to see what the hoopla is all about, right? I guess that makes free publicity for the author.

In my opinion, books are a form of art. I’m sure someone could argue that point with me too, but I’m not going there now. For the purpose of this post…books are art. Art is an expression from an individual. That expression is left to the interpretation of others. Sometimes people interpret art differently than the artist intended. Books are intended to transport a reader to another world. This world may be completely different from their normal environment and there is nothing wrong with that. Depending on the book it can give you an insight into a culture that could be impossible for you to experience. The artist (writer) shares their culture or beliefs through their books.

Just because I don’t agree with something that is written doesn’t mean it should be banned. It means I should put the book down and not read it anymore. It means I should start a dialogue with others to see if other people are interpreting the book the same way I am. It means that book is not right for me so I should move on. It means I won’t recommend it to friends and family to read.  Simple, right?

This week is Banned Books Week and I wondered what books made the list of challenged books this past year. I was surprised at the books that made the top 10 list for 2013. The Captain Underpants series by Dav Pilkey is number 1 on the list for the 2nd year in a row! Books by John Green and Toni Morrison made the list too. Most surprising to me was the presence of Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James at number 4 and The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins at number 5!  These are mainstream titles being challenged that people want banned.

I will admit Captain Underpants is not my thing but it does get kids reading and I think getting kids to read is important. I will also admit I didn’t like Fifty Shades of Grey. Gasp!  I couldn’t get through the first chapter because of how it was written, but that doesn’t mean the book should be banned because I didn’t like it. That series got millions of people reading that may not have otherwise read a book. There are so many reasons why people don’t like certain books and they are all valid reasons for that person. That doesn’t give anyone the right to then make their reason the governing one for everyone else.

I will admit I’m a book nerd. I love books. I went to the monument of the 20,000 books that were banned and burned on May 10, 1933 in Berlin, Germany. Through this window in the ground, in Bebelplatz Square, people can see the empty bookshelves that have enough room to hold 20,000 books. As I was standing there my heart sank. People burned 20,000 books that would never be read again. I stood there and wondered what book was burned that I would never experience or know I liked. I was never given the opportunity to decide for myself and it made me a little mad on top of the sadness.

What is right for you, may not be for me and vice versa. That is the whole purpose of art.

So I ask you, is banning a book really the answer? Would simply putting the book you don’t like down be a better answer so someone else can make the judgement of liking it or not?

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Filed under Banned Books, Publishing, Writing

Censorship: Where Does it End?

Cover of "A Light in the Attic"

Cover of A Light in the Attic

I was in my car yesterday listening to the radio when I heard the radio personality say that her child was having nightmares after she read a poem in the book A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein. She now thinks the book should not be in the school library. This was one of my favorite books as a child. Her child had read the poem Kidnapped! which is about a child making up excuses for why they were late for school. Most of the poems within this book are humorous and poke fun at everyday activities. It’s meant to be funny. I’ll admit this particular poem could be scary for some children but that’s where being a parent comes in. Talk to your child, have conversations about the different subject matters within these poems. A lot of people called into the radio station agreeing with the host. They think this book should be pulled from the library and encouraged her to go speak with the principal of the school. I was going crazy in my car. I couldn’t believe the amount of people calling in and supporting censorship. A few people called in and reminded the radio host that this book was written in the 70’s and times were different then. I was dumbstruck when the host offered up that authors should not be writing stuff like that. What should they be writing? I wish I could remember exactly what she said, but it was along the lines that authors shouldn’t be writing and publishing this kind of material. If that is the case, why is there so many genres of books? Who then gets to decide what is acceptable to publish? Not everyone likes the same genre of book. If this book is allowed to be pulled from the library shelves where does the censorship stop? Goosebumps? Harry Potter? Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs? Bambi? Hansel & Gretel? Later in the day I went to the radio stations website and found people’s comments on this subject. Within those comments I found the best response to this censorship problem. Joan Simon from UW-Milwaukee shared what a middle school librarian had shared with her,

Reading is a joy, a privilege and the right of every student. As you select the library books you will read, please understand that every book is not the best choice for every student. If a book is unappealing or offensive to you in any way, please return it and select another. You, the student, know which reading materials best serve you and your own standards, reading level, and beliefs.

 I don’t believe censorship is the answer. If you know your child gets scared easily, or is an anxious child perhaps a better solution is to help them pick out the right books for them to read, not get rid of the book so no one can enjoy it. Every parent has the right to censor what their own child is exposed to. What is okay for one person is not for another. Each person needs to be allowed to make that decision without enforcing their opinion on others. This difference of opinion is why there are so many books available.

What are your thoughts on censorship? Should someone be censoring every book that gets written to decide what gets published?

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