Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Banned Books Week Day 5: What harm can a book do?

People say we're a more violent culture than we used to be.  Thinking like this tends to tick me off.  I don't remember attending a crucifixion lately, or watching Christians be fed to the lions, dropping my imperfect Spartan baby off a cliff, or drawing and quartering someone, so on, so on, so on.  Since the first caveman clubbed another one, humanity has been violent.   Hell, the world is pretty violent.  Baby sharks eat each other in the womb.  Have you ever watched that Meerkat Manor show?  They're like crime bosses.  So much for "nature is innocent."  

Let's not waste a lot of time here pretending that this is the generation that is going to destroy us all, because Socrates thought the youngsters of his time were going to destroy the world and we've had a pretty good run since then.

I'd be shocked if you haven't read this article by Meghan Cox Gurdon by now.
Cox Gurdon believes the YA has become too dark and that this newest generation is going to go to hell because they're reading about sparkly vampires instead of Nancy Drew.  According to her, YA is all "vampires and suicide and self-mutilation" and this is going to seriously psychologically impact our children.  We bookish types, especially those of us in YA, got up in arms about it and took to the internet to tear it apart.  There are a million good responses to it, like this one from Bookshelves of Doom.  This article is really maddening and I think the YA community has (rightly) said their piece on it, and the only reason that I'm bringing it up is that it seems to me a call to ban books.

Violence in a book is rarely used to advocate violence.  It's used to show struggle, evil, pain in the characters, and by doing that, show pain in this world.  The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins was banned this year.  The complainant had this to say:

“Twenty-four children are pitted in a life-or-death struggle with each other. The reason? Entertainment. That’s sick.  You guys don’t want Columbine, but you’re putting forth material that will totally desensitize the children to murdering other children.”
“What does that teach as far as honor?  What does that teach as far as ethics? Where is the moral lesson in this book that’s being shown to our children?”
For myself, I always took the moral of The Hunger Games to be Not to kill children.  That vanity, lack of education, and sensationalism will put a society on the path to become monsters, like those in the Capital.  Collins completely agrees with the complainant: children killing children for entertainment IS sick.  Every teen I know who has read The Hunger Games reached the same conclusion without needing it spelled out for him like an After-school special.  You don't get engrossed in a book, in a character you love, like Rue or Katniss, and come away from the story believing it was right to have done to them what happened in that book.  Here is another example of criticizing the content without the context, and underestimating our youth as you do so.

As always, parents should be reading what they're children are reading, making sure that their children are able to process what they're reading or seeing on television.  We'd like to give our children with a world less awful than the one we lived in but we just simply can't.  There are acts we perpetrate against our fellow man that are too horrible for me to understand as an adult and we can only hide them from our children for so long.  A story gives words, emotions, and life to a victim who might be just a name and a face on the news.  
I'm not an advocate for violence, but these banned books, with characters who are victims of violence, aren't either.

Check out Sheila from Book Journey's review on this "violent" banned classic and enter her Banned Books Week Giveaway: Here

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