One of my fondest memories as a teen volunteer at the West Regional Library in Plantation, Florida, was spending half of my shift on display. In the front check-out lobby, the librarians had erected a tiny makeshift room for a teenager. Very few mothers would have allowed the strewn popcorn, empty soda can, and ratty pillow-rocker chair thing. At least, my mother didn’t. That was not my room. But for an evening, this haz-mat area was my refuge and the symbol of refuge for all teens and children. Refuge from the arguing.
You see, it was Banned Books Week. Each day, the librarians had us volunteers sit and read a book that had appeared on a “banned” list. I can’t remember the title I chose, but I can remember feeling exhilarated. Screw adults! I’m going to have access to this book and – gasp! – enjoy it!
Over the years I have reduced my participation in this fun protest against censorship and pointless idealogue bickering to the point of thinking to myself, “It’s Fall…isn’t Banned Book Week sometime soon?”
This year, it changes. Why do I care so much? Well, obviously as a writer, I have to confront the notion that these words I’m composing may very well be banned themselves. Recently, I wrote a chapter set in a public school’s sex education class. As my character is in religious ed, too, she got the Catholicized version. I can just tell one side will get angry I dared characterize 13-year-olds talking and thinking about sex. Then the other will argue that the chapter’s final scene is a critique of the glorified liberal “comprehensive” program. To a point it is. Because nothing is perfect or the right answer.
But just because a solitary adult is uncomfortable because someone doesn’t share your opinion doesn’t mean a child/teen will be. Do not deprive the youth of fresh perspective just because you have a psychological need to be right/to control.
Each day next week it is my goal to highlight first a couple of books that could be banned in the future due to content, books facing new challenges, and a classic book frequently challenged that might surprise you.
To be discussed! And please add your own in the comments!
Girl Parts by John M. Cusick (Candlewick 2010), Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson (Farrar Straus Giroux 1999), Lessons From a Dead Girl by Jo Knowles (Candlewick 2007), The Giver by Lois Lowry (Houghton Mifflin 1993), and the “Friday Fun” post (including brief snippets on such gems as the Merriam Webster Collegiate Dictionary).