I’ve been tagged by The Orangutan Librarian to do this; those of you who have been here for a while will probably know that I don’t tend to do tags, but a direct invitation is hard to pass up! On her blog recently, The OL was discussing banned/banning books, and whether this has a positive or negative effect on culture and society. So this is the perfect tag to accompany that discussion.
As a child, were you ever explicitly not allowed to read a book(s) by your parents/guardian and which book(s) was it?
Not that I remember. I do recall there being certain books that my peers were encouraged to stay away from, but no concrete reasons were ever given (hence it completely backfired and people read them anyway).
Has a parent/guardian ever challenged a book you were reading in school? Did the book get withdrawn?
Not books on the curriculum. Honestly, there were a few that I wanted withdrawn, because I felt that the content was not appropriate/necessary for teenagers, and that public school was not the place for existentialist conversations — especially when the idea was supposed to be literary analysis.
Do you agree with the practice of banning books? Why or why not?
I don’t agree with flat-out banning something, because it often doesn’t work, and it makes the book more infamous, and more people read it, anyway. (Also for more reasons; I’ll get more into that below.) I do think it’s wise to put a warning label on things — I mean, would you really want your 8-year-old reading Fifty Shades of Gray because it wasn’t properly marked and/or too close to children’s access? But once you inform the public, let them — especially adults — make their own decisions. And don’t tell parents what they should or should not let their kids read. That’s part of parenting — us making what choices we see as right for our kids’ entertainment and education.
Have you ever read a book that shocked you enough that you thought it should be challenged/banned?
No. I mean, I’ve read books that I found shocking, and that I refused to read again. But I also felt that if other people wanted to go and read it, that’s their choice, and should be their ability. That’s the basis of a free society — you can have different opinions than your neighbor/co-worker/relative, and all views are supposed to be seen as okay, as long as none of it breaks laws. I don’t tell other people what I think they should avoid/engage in, so I’d like to receive the same treatment from them.
Should libraries/schools monitor their books in case some people find them offensive?
Unless you’re talking about school-age children (like in the previous question), then I don’t think so. And again, it shouldn’t be so much about trying to find something a minority will find offensive; it should be about adult content (sex, drugs, crime, graphic violence, profane language) and the fact that people under a certain age aren’t developmentally ready to handle that stuff, as opposed to repressing ideas. For example, let’s say your school district carries a lot of religious fiction in the library, because of literary merit and the fact a lot of the kids enjoy reading it. (Let’s take The Chronicles of Narnia as a perfect example.) If some parents don’t want their kids to read those books because they’re unsure about the message, then that should be a discussion those families have privately — without forcing the rest of the school district to give up their rights.
Have any of your favourite books been challenged/banned?
Oh, yes! I’m one of the growing number of people who subscribe to a Judeo-Christian belief system that loudly proclaim Harry Potter is not only awesome, but even Biblically okay. I can see Me Before You receiving the next major storm of controversy, because of the euthanasia issue, which I think is sad, because I saw the message and the focus of that story being so much more about how to live life well, rather than how to descend into an immoral pit.
Have you ever read a book specifically because it was challenged/banned?
No. Not intentionally. Often I simply choose to read a new book/author based solely on if I think I’d enjoy the story and quality of writing, and nothing else. (Isn’t that the point?)