Happy Banned Book Week! Are you reading something challenged?
So often, books that are challenged are done so because the content is challenging. Something about the plot, the characters, or the diction challenges someone’s notions. That person then decides that such a book should not be made accessible to any child/teen reader. What often gets lost in the discussion is the difference between access and appropriateness. A parent deciding that because Xavier got nightmares after watching 28 Days Later, Xavier should not read The Hunger Games is valid. Parents are gatekeepers of their families to an extent. What they are not is the moral police for everyone else’s children. Some parents pre-screen books. Others read with the child and have discussions about the challenging content. These are parents acting appropriately and responsibly. To deprive a whole population of a meaningful text because the word “scrotum” (The Higher Power of Lucky) makes you personally uncomfortable is not.
I am going to guess that Girl Parts by John M. Cusick will make it on some lists. I think writers and their editors have to have some inkling that the challenging content will ruffle a few feathers. Why? It opens with a teenager committing suicide on the Internet and a Joe McFrat Jr.-type character who could care less. That apathy propels the plot to his needing companionship in the form of Rose. Rose, a robot, then challenges notions of humanity. As she explores her burgeoning sentience, she, well, explores her sentience. The novel Deenie first dealt with that topic. Deenie has also been put on banned and challenge lists.
If Girl Parts does get challenged because of that scene, teen readers will miss out on an engaging, realistic, to-the-moment read on tehcnology’s effect on human psychology. The Metro newspapers ran an article recently about people who use the Internet in their suicide plans. It’s a timely topic, especially given the latest Japanese trends of virtual girlfriends and techno rehab camps in China. Rose’s moment is just one strand in the larger web defining the human construct.
Don’t force ideas out of the classroom or libraries. School and new ideas are supposed to be challenging.