Monday, September 27, 2010

I Read Banned Books...

Banned Book Week is coming up September 25th-October 2nd.

I'm currently reading a banned book (and so is my daughter).  Yes, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.  I have also read her another banned book, Alice in Wonderland (I kid you not, it was banned.  And my favorite reason for banning of the book:  Alice in Wonderland was banned in 1931 in Hunan, China, because "animals should not use human language.")

But we've come so far, haven't we.  I'm so thankful we don't ban books anymore.  What?  Wait...we do?

Hello Missouri--

Stockton -- The Stockton school board voted unanimously Wednesday night to uphold its April decision to ban a book from the school curriculum.


And here is the thing, the people who are banning these books think they are making the best decision for me, for us.  They want to keep us safe from foul language, from scenes that involve alcohol, racism, or violence.  I do believe their intent is to "save the teenagers" in this case, but I'd like to open up a second idea-- conversation.

I would like us to read the book and discuss these parts that make some feel uncomfortable and ask why.

When I read Tom Sawyer to her, I explain to my daughter why certain words aren't used anymore and share with her a time where African-Americans were forced to be slaves.  No, it's not my favorite topic or something I wish was a part of our American history, but it is and we can learn from it.

So what's the real problem with banning books (or banning art for that matter?)  The problem is it takes away the choice from others, from me, from you.

When an art installment is taken down because it offends one person or a book is taken off the shelf because it is felt "inappropriate," our choice to decide for ourselves if that book or artwork is right for us, is taken away.

We lose the choice to decide.

And if the censors who ban them are telling us that they are so terrible and will cause so much harm if we read them, then those same censors who ban them must be horrible, perverted, socially-unacceptable, racist people who are violent, swear often, and do terrible crimes--because they've read all those books they want to save us from.  If they had to ban them because these books are so destructive to the human spirit, then their personalities must have suffered the consequences from all that reading.  These censors  must be most disturbed people on earth.

But wait, they aren't?  They read the book and were fine?  They didn't start drinking or swearing, hitting people or acting in a racist manner?  They were able to discern that what was happening on the page was a story, a work of fiction.

Interesting.  Then I'd like that choice too. And I'd like you to have that choice too.

If you're interested in reading an excerpt from Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, you can go to here to NPR and read a short section for yourself.

Or better, check it out from the library decide for yourself if it's appropriate for you and your family.  If you think it's not, I respect that.  Just don't take my choice away.



  1. This is a great post. I've always gotten really angry at the practice of banning books. I think it's interesting, though, that you assume the censors have actually read the books. You're giving them a lot more credit than I do.

  2. Great post. There are people who seem to believe that reading a book magically changes the reader's beliefs into the beliefs expounded therein. They don't understand that, at its best, reading is a conversation, and sometimes an argument, between the reader and the book. Sadly, these same people end up on school boards and even at the front of classrooms.

  3. thank you, this is a post that every one that enjoys reading, even a little bit should read. to be honest, it made me giggle a little. it really t=helped me write my paper on why tom sawyer was banned from libraries

  4. Thanks everyone. Obviously, I'm a little passionate about not banning books.

    It drives me a little nuts when someone takes away my choice to decide.

    And Alexis, glad I could help. If you haven't read Tom Sawyer for yourself, read it and you decide how you feel about it being banned.

    All best,


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