It’s that time of year again. When we bookworms all gather around to wonder at the sheer stupidity and close-minded ignorance of people who think banning books is a good idea. Banned Books Week has been held the last weekend in September since 1982. But hatred against certain books and bookworms’ puzzlement and indignant reactions have been present for much, much longer.
It goes further than just bookworms, though, and, honestly, we can understand why some books get challenged. Most of the time, it’s complete bollocks, but it’s not bollocks all the time, and therein lines the problem.
Books are challenged and sometimes (more than they should be) banned for a variety of reasons. Most of the time, just looking at the reasons they’re banned can give you a pretty good idea of what prejudices, idiocy, and prudish beliefs still have a foothold in society. Like banning a book because it’s got LGBT or transgender characters in it. That’s just bullsh*t. On the other hand, banning books that promote racism? Yeah, that’s a good idea. Banning books that spread hatred and bigotry and intolerance is a fantastic idea. However, that means books like various religious texts would get banned too, and religious fanatics just can’t stand to confront the idea that their preciouses might actually not espouse ideas that are, y’know, decent. So, unfortunately, that’s unlikely to happen in general. And in the current climate where the Oval Office is currently the litterbox of one of the most repugnant examples of a Walking Compensation Case, well… yeah. Human decency isn’t exactly going to be making great strides for the foreseeable future, is it?
Book challenging and book banning can be a tricksy subject. It’s easy to say “I’m against banning books…except those books. Oh yeah, those should definitely be banned”, but everyone has different ideas of what books should be in that “except those books” category. And so what do we do? Where do we draw a line? Or do we do refuse to draw any at all? It’s one thing to keep an open mind, another to keep a mind so open our brains could fall out. I believe the solution is to teach people that “Just ’cause a book exists doesn’t mean you have to read it.” Unfortunately, some people are like “but…but…it exists! And therefore I am OFFENDED!!” So, are we up crap creek without a paddle?
G- I think if we could all get off the “I’m offended” carousel people would enjoy their lives a lot more. Are there things that cause just offense? Yes. But when they get lumped in with virtue signaling then the larger offenses are trivialized. (And, by the way I think it’s a little weird that music and books, which are primarily non-visual media, face far more censorship than movies and television.)
I found it a little surprising that most books are challenged at the public library level. I honestly thought it would be more from parents not liking what their kids bring home from school to read.
Actually, on one hand, I kind of get it. A book gathers buzz for being naughty, offensive, or whatever, so Mrs. Smith (or Mr. Smith) gets his ire up and marches down to the library to demand a book be pulled from the shelves. That’s actually the only way I can see this happening, because in my visits to the local library to pick up books for the week, I have never came across a book that offended me to the point I considered throwing a hissy-fit to the librarians about. (Well, there was 50 Shades of Gray, but that was more because the book itself sucked, not because of the subject matter.)
Now, regarding schools and parents in fine fiery form, take a look at this Goodreads listopia of Popular High School Reading List Books. Just out of curiousity, I opened a second tab in my browser whilst perusing the list, and started asking if each book had been banned or challenged. I didn’t get all the way through the first page before giving up, because the answer was “yes” to being banned or challenged with every single book. The reasons varied, but ultimately each one of them could be handled by the parents untwisting their knickers and accepting that the teachers are using the books for a reason.
I mean, if you’re offended by:
- Profanity – I guarantee you your precious little high-schooler has heard (and probably said) 99.9 percent of the words that offend you.
- Sexuality / Sex Education – They’re teenagers, for Cthulhu’s sakes. TEENAGERS. Do I really need to say more? Trust me, those thoughts you afraid of them having? They’re already having them, sweetheart.
- Blasephemy and/or Religious Viewpoints– Here’s a clue: Your omnipotent religious figure doesn’t strike people dead for daring to take his name in vain, for God’s sake, so I’m sure your babies will survive hearing / reading it. And, coming from a couple of females that are frequently exposed to religious viewpoints they don’t appreciate, trust me, they will survive coming face to face with a different religion!
- Too Violent – Er… seriously? When was the last time you even watched cartoons?! And you’re going to grouch about violence in *books*? Here’s an idea! Instead of whinging about your little snookums doesn’t need to be reading about violence in books (because maybe it’ll make them have bad thoughts) you should spend more time teaching your kids that violence isn’t the answer. (Plus, these same high schoolers are probably playing Call of Duty on the weekends, so..-G)
- Racism – Here’s the thing, you have to ask what and why is it being taught? If it’s being taught to encourage racism, then of course it’s not okay. But, if it’s about racism and helping kids to understand it and have dialogue about why it was/is wrong, then it needs to be discussed. How do you think kids are going to learn if we don’t teach them?
- LGBTQ characters – Get over it. Intolerance towards others just because they choose to bang the same sex, sometimes like to bang the same sex, don’t wanna bang anyone at all, or feel they were born in the wrong body is just stupid. Maybe if y’all spent a little more time practicing the peace and love parts of your religion, you’d understand this. If it isn’t related to your particular sexual organs, then you don’t have a say! Sweet baby Cthulhu, I wish I had as much time to sit around bitching about people loving each other as some of you seem to. Where do you get all that free time to foster all that hatred?
- Uneducational – and you wonder why your kid doesn’t like to read? Educational reading is great. It’s fantastic. But it’s not everything. Kids need to read for fun. They need to have their imaginations prodded. They need to experience things outside of the box that they’re living in. And books are a fantastic way to do that. Books make you think. They make your mind work. They don’t hand everything to you on a platter like films and television. If you’re stuck on a problem or project you need creativity to be able to think around it. Lateral thinking, you know? -G
Sometimes there are good reasons to dislike a book. But most of the time? Most of the time it isn’t the book that needs to be changed. It’s you.
Having an echo chamber that doesn’t challenge your beliefs and ideas is dangerous. -G
Artwork courtesy of the American Library Association