26 September 2011

The Dangers of Words on a Page

For as long as I can remember, I have loved to read, loved words, letters, names.  There were always books and magazines in our house, as both of my parents were avid readers.  As a kid, I hardly read any books for children, since there just weren't that many on the shelves at home.  In school, I could borrow books from the library, but I was often frustrated because they were too short - I'd be finished by bedtime, and we only went to the school library once a week.

I remember that I was the only one in third grade who had read Silas Marner - not that I necessarily understood all of the layers of the story, but I got the gist  of it.  Teachers were always a little suspicious of me and what I would say that I was reading/had read.

My parents never told me that I couldn't or shouldn't read something.  I would like to think that it was because they knew that if something was forbidden, it might be that much more appealing.  But to be honest, I think they just figured that I'd decide for myself if something was stupid/upsetting/interesting/shocking/whatever.  And there were truly all kinds of books and magazines around - trust me.

I remember during the summer between 5th and 6th grade, I looked forward to the bookmobile that came every Tuesday.  One week, I had a few books, and one was some kind of fairy tale.  They wouldn't let me check it out because I wasn't "old enough."  It was the first time I had ever been told I wasn't allowed to read something, for any reason, and I was completely stunned.  When I told my mother, she said she would go with  me the next week and check out the book for me.  She thought the whole thing was just "so da**ed ridiculous!"

Later I would meet other people who were not allowed to read certain things as a child or even as a teenager, because their parents, or someone else in charge, didn't approve.  And it never ceases to amaze me that someone else's decision might mean I can't read something and decide for myself how I feel about it.

Words are powerful.  Put together in a sentence, they can actually express an idea. Plenty of people do not like ideas if they are not in tune with their own.  Some of those people feel that it is their responsibility and duty to make sure that none of us read these ideas.  Or are exposed to fantastical stories.  Or have the chance to learn about human biology.  Or appreciate a world that is part of our past, or completely outside of our own experiences and cultural beliefs.

Have you ever read Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck?  What about In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak?  The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini?  The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman?  To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee?

If you answered "yes" to any of these, you should be careful.  The titles above and many others have been challenged as inappropriate for one reason or another, and have been requested to be removed from library shelves.  Curious?  Look through some of these lists, and you may find out that you are quite a bit more radical than you thought you were.

It's Banned Books Week.  Read.  Think.  Be subversive.



7 comments:

Lynn said...

Add the Catcher in the Rye to that list as well. I read it in the 8th grade when I read this in class! I felt so grown up because it had the *F* word in it!!! oooohhhhh. My grandparents would have Died if they knew I was reading it.

Marie said...

My parents also never restricted my reading. I guess if there was something they didn't want me to read they just didn't bring it in the house. I remember reading Lady Chatterley's Lover when I was 14. When I was in library school, I got a button that said, "I read banned books." I actually had someone ask me why I wanted to do that!

Kim said...

Amen, sister.

Marji said...

MUCH better than my post!

Lorraine said...

Bridget- Maurice Sendak released "Bumble Ardy" about a naughty pig. I think that I may need to read it.

Lorette said...

Amen, sister, is right. I had the good fortune to grow up outside a tiny town that had a real library. I had read all the "kid" books by the time I was in first grade, and my mother encouraged me to read anything I wanted. I remember she had to argue with the librarian once about my choices, but the lady left me alone after that. I remember picking Raintree County off the shelves when I was in middle school, which shocked the little old lady a bit...

joanchicago said...

I came to leave a suggestion that you add "Catcher in the Rye" but saw that Lynn got there ahead of me. My parents never told me what I couldn't read alhough my mother threatened to take away "The Second Sex" when she saw how unhappy it made me (at the age of 18). She never actually did anything about it so I guess her words were more an expression of sympathy than a threat. And maybe in my mother's honor I should say that she read "Catcher" before I did. And knew I would EAT IT UP.