Monday, September 27, 2010

Banned Books

I guess I should lend my voice and opinion during this week we celebrate banned books.  I don't have anything terribly revealing to say, so I Googled banned books to see what would pop up. 

One of the first is "10 Banned Books you might not expect." 
  • "Captain Underpants" was my little brother's only source of outside-of-school reading material in elementary school.  They are reading aren't they?  Let them read!
  • Merriam Webster Dictionary and American Heritage Dictionary have both been banned in certain schools due to age inappropriate definitions including sexual terms and slang.  I say: children are going to learn it somewhere, might as well give them the proper definition.
  • Harry Potter series.  Congratulations JK Rowling, all seven of your books (and probably the supplement books too) have been banned all over the place.  I believe this should be celebrated because it is quite a feat to receive so much negative attention for writing a lovely coming of age book that does not include sex, swearing, or violence (ok, the last one is subjective).
  • Grimm's Fairy Tales.  Now that's just sad.  I'd much rather read about Cinderella's step-sisters getting toes and heels chopped off than watch Disney's pc version.  And my children are going to learn them too.  Grimm's moral: don't be selfish.  Disney's moral: get the prince.
From the link above, I found my next topic: Twilight, on the list of most banned books of 2009.  Set your beefs with Twilight aside.  When you get down to it, it's fun to read, even if you have to pull the covers over your head at night and disguise the book with a different book jacket and proclaim to anyone that will listen that you hate hate hate hate it!  And if we, the most critical of all critics, enjoy it, doesn't that mean non-critical readers will love it even more?  Ie teenagers?  From where I'm sitting, with my agent cap on (opposed to my overly critical editor cap), this is a good thing.  Twlight readers will be adult readers in two to eight years, meaning they will be clamoring for more books like Twlight, but for adults.  Which means that publishers will be paying more for high demand books (fingers and toes crossed).  I do have a few feminist complaints against the series (briefly, I don't want to get into it, a weak girl is incapable of taking care of herself and gives her entire life, body and soul, to the big mean macho man who is capable of killing her--great fantasy, not so great lesson for kids), but kids are reading again.  Harry Potter got my generation reading, but it was still "dorky" to do.  Bella and Edward made dorky cool.

Looking at the list of most banned books of 2009, I see a pattern in the reasons for banning books:
  • sexually explicit
  • offensive language
  • unsuited to age group
  • religious viewpoint
  • homosexuality
But this is the stuff of life!  So writers, your lesson for today, if you want a best seller, include elements of the above list into your work.  Just kidding.   And, looking at it, I didn't see violence at all on this list.  So war and pointless killing is ok, but loving a partner of the same sex who happens to swear, is in high school, and is religious, is completely out of the question.

My tastes actually run away from this list (mostly, with a few exceptions of course).  Look at my favorite books over there at the side bar thingy-->  There are elements of violence is almost all of them, and some romance (only one has explicit sex), but these aren't the elements I look for in a book.  They are all intelligent, creative, gets me thinking, fantastical, and have endearing characters that I care about.  So I'm not particularly a banned book reader (Harry Potter and A Brave New World are probably my favorites from those lists), but I'll continue to celebrate the fact that books (books! harmless little packs of paper with words on them) can have such an impact on our society.

So go give a sexually explicit, inappropriate book with explicit language and homosexuality to a child in your life, and, as always, happy reading!

1 comment:

J E Fritz said...

Banning books like Harry Potter is ridiculous. And Grimm's fairy tales? Well, there is more than that is racist and they are bloody, but you're right. A little blood is better than "get the prince."