Saturday, October 1, 2011

Banned Books Week Day 8: Banned Books Save

Last day of Banned Books week!

I love Banned Books Week, and I'm so grateful for all the people who support Banned Books this week and all year round.  I just wanted to end it with some parting thoughts.

This year has been a big one for YA books.  8 of the 10 most frequently banned books in 2010 could be considered Young Adult literature.  The previously mentioned Meghan Cox Gurdon article has created a great deal of controversy by basically vilifying the whole genre.  Then there was the 100 Young Adult Novels for the Feminist Reader list put out by Bitch Magazine that started to pull titles, all but supporting their censorship.  (A roundup of the full controversy can be found here.)

It's also been a hard few years for teens, not as though the teen years aren't always hard.  There have been a shocking number of suicides brought on my bullying and cyberbullying incidents; one of the most high profile ones occurred in my own St. Louis where the bully was actually the mother of a rival student.

Most disturbing about banned books is that it seems that time and again we are taking books away from kids that they most need.  I've mentioned The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier a couple of times this week for a  reason.  I read it last year for Banned Books week and was blown away.  It's such a poignant statement about mob mentality and school bullying.  I can see why educators wanted to have their students read this book in a school setting, so they can understand that bullying isn't new, that they're not alone, and it's always senseless.  But, because of a few cuss words, some teen boys ogling women, and a masturbation scene, it has been banned time and time again.  Is it more important to protect our teens from knowledge of sexism, cussing, and masturbation than it is to let them see the pointlessness of bullying and that no matter how bad it gets, there's always a way out?

When the #YASaves campaign really hit Twitter in earnest, there was story after story of teens who weren't damaged by books, but inspired and helped by books.  A lot of those books were some of the "Dark" YA literature that Gurdon talks about.  A lot of them are banned books.

What I urge people to remember after this Banned Books week is "I don't want my child to read this" does not equal "no child should read this."  A ban withholds a book from a whole population of people, and that book just might have been the book a child or teen needed to save them.

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