Saturday, October 24, 2009

Ban the Books! Oh, yeah, that works...

The concept of banning books cracks me up. It's hysterical. Obviously, whoever came up with the concept never actually met a child or teen, or talked to one at any length. I can tell you definitively that every single thing my parents told me not to do, I did. If this wasn't a family show here, I'd run down the list, but it is. Not to mention most of them were illegal and possibly punishable by fines, jail time, or deportation. Like that stopped me.

The primary contraband of the girls in my middle school wasn't drugs or alcohol...it was V.C. Andrews. One girl would be assigned "lookout" at the cafeteria table, while another read particularly entralling passages out loud. This wasn't the first group of 7th graders these teachers had dealt with, and they could spot a shiny, cutout cover and an overworn spine clear across five tables.

I was an avid reader, but these were the only non-assigned books I ever saw come out of anyone else's backpack. Other than Go Ask Alice, that is. A rather free-thinking teacher of ours assigned that in Reading. Only time you never caught anyone trying to nap in class.

But sex, drugs and rock n' roll aren't the main reason books are banned, at least in my opinion. It's ideas.

Take a look at the banned authors list. Maya Angelou. Steinbeck. Shakespeare. Benjamin Franklin. Kurt Vonnegut. Great thinkers who encouraged people to look at things from a different viewpoint, to challenge the accepted ways of thinking, the ways pressed on them by the government and the church. People are scared of thoughts, because thoughts turn into actions, and actions can become revolution. Martin Luther (not King, Jr.) nailed a paper to a church door, and it not only changed the course of Western civilization, but was also used almost 500 years later to fuel the Nazi's war on Jews. Common Sense, by Thomas Paine, started another revolution. If it weren't for his pamphlet, we Americans might still be paying for our morning coffee with British pounds.

Librarians, teachers, and parents will use excuses, like language, sexual content, etc. for banning a book, but if you look more closely, actually open the book and read, you'll find those few scintillating passages mostly obscured by the revolutionary thoughts they inspire.

In one of my favorite books, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (which, along with its fellows, has spent a fair amount of time on certain schools' banned lists), Hermione is thrilled when a magazine containing an inflammatory interview with Harry is made contraband by a professor. Harry is confused, until Hermione says, " If she could have done one thing to make absolutely sure that every single person in this school will read your interview, it was banning it!"

So grab yourself a banned book, and Viva La Revolution!

Jacquelyn Sylvan is the author of Surviving Serendipity, a YA Fantasy novel. Click below to get your copy...before someone bans it!

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