Thursday, February 27, 2014

Freedom to Read Week Day 5

Banned Books… dun dun dun.

Those two words seem to be kryptonite to writers and readers alike. They seem to evoke feelings of negativity in the writing world. But, if you step back and put on a “parent” hat, you start to see the idea of banning of books to be a necessity. Which side of the coin is right? Is there really a “right” side? Let me tell you of my personal experience with banned books.

When I was young (maybe 7) my sister and brother were in high school. I grew up in a very small town in Illinois that had less than 10,000 people at the time and my mother worked at the high school. She came home enraged one day that Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter was set to be discussed by the school board to put on the ‘banned book’ list. Along with some of the works from Poe, Hemingway, Fitzgerald and Steinbeck. The reason these books were going to be banned from the school was a) the town we lived in was highly religious and b) parents didn’t want literature to corrupt their children. My mother was furious that “The Scarlet Letter” was going to be banned because it dealt with out of wedlock pregnancy and adultery. Even though these are uncomfortable subjects, even in 1985, these things were common place in society and my mother felt like the school board was being hypocritical.

Ultimately, my parents and others that shared their view, were overruled and The Scarlet Letter was placed on the banned list at my sister’s school. My sister and brothers ended up reading the novel at my mother’s insistence. (Thank you mom for encouraging all of us to think outside the box. You’ve made me a better writer that likes to push the boundaries.)

As a parent to a 9 year old boy, I don’t want him reading Stephen King at this age… but does that mean I want his books banned? No. In fact, I’d encourage my son to read as many books, from as many genre’s as he can. Books that address uncomfortable subjects, opposing views, and imaginary world’s help our children and our society grow. I’d rather have my son have a wild imagination, than one that is black and white.

Every written word is worth reading so you can understand the inner-workings of the human mind. Shutting out a book because it doesn’t agree with your view is only stifling yourself and your potential to grow. Are there books out there that have made me uncomfortable to read? Yes. Are there books dealing with Taboo’s that make me nervous for my child to read? Yes. But, I can’t put him (or myself) in a bubble. The world is getting smaller and smaller every day thanks to social media and cable TV. I think my son could view worse things on YouTube than to read The Scarlet Letter… but that’s just my two-cents.

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