Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Banned Books Week - Beyond the Choir

First of all, how come no one told me Banned Books Week started on my birthday this year?! It's one of my favorite Weeks (with a capital W), but it snuck up on me this time around.

Every time someone tries to ban a book in any capacity, the book community rallies and speaks out in support of the book and the author - and that's an amazing thing.

But I feel - a lot of the time - the real damage has already been done. And the beautiful defense of these wonderful, misrepresented books and justified outrage against the major news network that carried the story is akin to the choir all preaching to each other simultaneously - making a lot of noise that no one outside the church hears.

It's one thing when someone publicly speaks out against a book because it contains certain subject matter, leaving room for people to make their own judgements about whether or not they want to read it (or let their children read it).

But what about the times when someone - someone who many people will listen to - completely misrepresents a book? Like when a certain Missouri "educator" tells parents that Speak encourages teens to go to parties, get drunk and have sex. Or when church leadership, in the ultimate display of irony, tries to ban Fahrenheit 451 because they claim it endorses destroying religious texts. Or when a conservative teacher tries to wipe out the incredible messages in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by only talking about the (very accurately-depicted) language and a TEENAGE BOY's internal monologue about masturbation.

The media love these people. There's nothing that sells papers/commercials faster than a scandal and a threat to your children. Thousands of people declaring how YA lit with heavier themes has saved their lives? That doesn't get people to "tune in after this message from our sponsors."

My point is: parents and other decision-makers, listen to these deluded people and will forever think these books are horrible because they will never hear the impassioned (and more accurate) defenses of these life-affirming books. For all the wonderful #yasaves and #gayinya and #speakloudly discussions, most of the people seeing those discussions already support the cause, already think book banners are full of it.

So my question is, how do we reach these people? And on the same scale the book banners do? How do we let the parents and other decision-makers - who may have not read a novel since graduating high school, skim only the first three pages of the newspaper, don't follow any #yasaves fans on twitter, and trust everything the nightly news tells them at face value - know that reading a so-called "dark" book will actually make you or your child a better person? How do we stop preaching to the choir, reach beyond the participation of the congregation, and get our message out to everybody else?


Also, just wanted to throw in a mention that I'm giving away six books on my blog this week, including some by our very own DJ, Leigh and Kelley York! EVEN MORE, my sister and I are giving away two books by Lisa McMann at the YA Rebels.


  1. This post makes me sadface.
    Unfortunately, we can't stop people from stating their opinions, no matter how unfounded they may be. Which is a shame, because it's really slander.
    I've never understood the fear of books. I think books can open our minds and make us question the world, but I don't think they can change our core values unless we were already inclined to change. I read (and enjoyed) His Dark Materials, and it didn't cause me to doubt God. I read (and LOVED) Harry Potter, and it didn't tempt me to dabble in whichcraft.

    I think part of it is that some parents aren't ready to discuss certain issues with their kids, and they get upset when their child comes to them with questions about something they read.

    Teachers and Librarians play a big role here. They have to deal with complaints from parents ALL the time, so I give them major props. It's a sensitive issue.

    (Okay, I'll be quiet now, sorry!)

  2. I'm happy to say that my english class just got done using Fahrenheit 451 as a learning tool!

  3. I think reaching out to these people is a difficult task, because their ears and eyes are going to be closed to most anything we say. We are, after all, the Big, Bad Authors writing these dark books, so of course we wouldn't want them banned.

    Does every book belong in school libraries? Maybe, maybe not. I don't think I've yet to read one (YA, that is) that shouldn't be, however. I think parents need to step up to the plate and start reading more, see what their kids are involved in and reading so, if there's a controversial subject matter within, they can discuss it.

  4. It frustrates me to no end that people who often ban these books have never even read the book! If parents are concerned about what their children are reading, my advice is simple...read the book. Read what your children are reading and have an open dialogue about it. Concerned about sex, violence, prejudice, language in books? Well, that's what your teenagers and children deal with in the real world, so talk about it.

  5. It is frustrating, and so terribly sad that people would ban books that often help teens cope or make them feel like they aren't alone. Such things should not be kept from them.

  6. The misrepresentation doesn't stop in childhood--I know a woman in her sixties that had her pastor warn their congregation about the evils of The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman.

    He told them all not to read it, and to speak out against its message. Did you catch the order of those commandments? She was genuinely afraid that the book would corrupt her, let alone children.

    That's partly why I chose to read The Golden Compass for my Virtual Read-Out.

  7. Angelica: I remember when The Golden Compass movie came out. My church thought that it was a bad book/movie so they put it in our bulliteins that we shouldn't go see the movie or read the book because it goes against what we believe. I've never read the book or seen the movie but I'm not judging it bad just because my church said it was.

    Anyways, I think it's sad when people ban books. I've read a number of things that has questionable issues in it but that doesn't mean I'm going to go cut myself or whatever just because it was in a book. On the other hand, if you're worried about what your child reads, read it first and let the child decide wether or not he/she is mature enough to read it. If he/she has any questions about it don't be afraid to answer.

    Books represent real life and if we try to shelter our kids too much, what will happen when we're not there 24/7 to protect them?

  8. Sarah - you are just busy, busy, lol.

    LOVE that pic, speaks VOLUMES. So cool. Thanks for sharing!!

  9. THIS I don't know. And man I wish I did. My own dark YA comes out in November and yeah, I'm kinda worried. The first sixty pages are kinda dark and bad stuff happens. But if it weren't for that bad stuff, my MC wouldn't have a reason to grow, she won't have overcome anything at all. And that's LIFE.

    Anyway. I don't know how to read THEM, but I'm gonna try ~ any and every way I can think of.

  10. I've read and love harry potter. I like the covers of the golden compass books and have been tempted to read them but never have more because of what I've read about the books more then what people have said are the reasons I haven't plus a few things about the books upset me again based on what I read also I saw like three minutes of the movie and it was confusing and some parts really upset me so thats why I'll never read it to me any author who clearly states they are going against CS lewis's writings is not a book for me.

    I talk a lot about these topics on my blog already I've known people who wouldn't read harry potter because they said it went against the bible... which couldn't be true completely seeing as harry potter has religious symbolism eh