Don’t Tell Me How to Think

I went to a Banned Book website to pick which book I wanted to read during Banned Books Week, a site that, for me, is so high in comedic value.  Charlotte’s Web is on there?  It’s such a wonderful, sweet book that teaches kids about the power of friendship and helps them understand death.  Who could possibly not want their children to read that?  Oh, I see.  The people who complain that talking animals are blasphemous.  Sigh.

I realize I will never understand the Religious Right, but perhaps I can give them some perspective:  It’s MAKE BELIEVE!  It’s FICTION!  Animals don’t really talk.  Nor have the ability to be blasphemous.

Do they never let their children near any book that has talking animals in it?  It seems to me that three-quarters of picture books we read to our children before they are old enough to read for themselves have talking animals.  Do they think the Care Bears are blasphemous?  Mickey Mouse?  The Little Mermaid?  Runaway Bunny?  (If you run away, I will run after you.)  Stuart Little?  Fox in Socks?  (Luke Luck likes lakes.  Luke’s duck likes lakes.  Luke Luck licks lakes.  Luck’s duck licks lakes.  Duck takes licks in lakes Luck Lucks likes.  Luke Luck takes licks in lakes duck likes.   It doesn’t matter how many years it’s been since you’ve read it to your child.  It never leaves your head.)

The Wizard of Oz has been banned.  I figured it was because they portray witches in a positive light, which explains why they hate Harry Potter and love Chronicles of Narnia.  ( See above about make believe.)  But no, that’s not it.  This was banned by ministers for depicting women in strong leadership roles.   I can’t even imagine living through those days.

The Scarlet Letter has been banned on sexual grounds, which would maybe make sense if there were any sex at all in the book, or they had the ability to understand what Hawthorne was trying to say.  Hester isn’t the villain of the tale.  She is the moral compass.  If they don’t understand Charlotte’s Web, The Scarlet Letter is going to sail right over their heads.

I remember being in church with my family, 1970 or so.  The pastor told us he did not want any kids from his parish watching Laugh-In.  I wasn’t too upset because I knew that wouldn’t apply to me.  I had watched Laugh-In with my parents since it started.  That was a short-lived dream.  They told me I could not watch it anymore even though I had watched it for two years already.  All they knew was “the pastor said so,” and that was the end of the discussion.  If a pastor ever tried to tell me what my kids could or could not watch on TV, the end game would have been very different.

To Kill a Mockingbird has been banned for being “trashy,” proving they do not know the definition of the word trashy.  Mockingbird is the kind of book that can change lives.  Here’s what Harper Lee said upon hearing her book had been banned.  “Surely it is plain to the simplest intelligence that To Kill a Mockingbird spells out in words of seldom more than two syllables a code of honor and conduct, Christian in its ethic, that is the heritage of all Southerners. To hear that the novel is ‘immoral’ has made me count the years between now and 1984, for I have yet to come across a better example of doublethink. I feel, however, that the problem is one of illiteracy, not Marxism. Therefore I enclose a small contribution to the Beadle Bumble Fund that I hope will be used to enroll the Hanover County School Board in any first grade of its choice.”

To which I add, “If you thought it was trashy, you didn’t read a darn thing Atticus said.”  Why do illiterates get to decide what our children read?.

Back to my journey to find a good banned book, I looked at a list of Most Banned in the last hundred years, and not only have I read most of them, I’ve read most of them recently. The list also reads as a Who’s Who
(What’s What?) of the best books of all time.

Looking at more recent bannings, I’ve read very few of them. I’m not quite the focus group for Captain Underpants, The Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Indian and Jaqui Delgado Wants to Kick your Ass.

But there’s no reason I can’t be. Good writing is good writing, no matter who it’s aimed at. The first Harry Potter book as well as The Hobbit were aimed at kids and I love them both. I have read a lot of YA books Kelly had laying around the house.  And I don’t always have to be a book snob

I started reading The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier. It was published in 1974, before YA was even a genre. The author said its about high school kids but he wrote it for grownups. It has been banned a lot.

I told Kelly last night I could see why because there is masturbation in it. Now, parents might know if and when their children know about sex, but I doubt they know if their kids know about masturbation. It’s a discussion most parents won’t have and no kid wants to hear.

Kelly said so what? Even if they don’t know, how is it worse learning about it from a book than from the streets or the Internet?

She has me there. Smart kid.

Kids are going to find out about everything eventually. You can’t keep reading Runaway Bunny to them forever.

According to the American Library Association, the main reasons books get banned are for offensive language, for being sexually explicit, homosexuality, violence, drugs and nudity.

If you’re stopping your child from reading Catcher in the Rye because of the profanity, just stop it.  School kids read that book at 17.  Seventeen-year-olds know all the swear words.  They knew them all at seven.

Lemme tell you a little story.  I wanted to see Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid when it came out but my Mom said No.  We both knew that Butch and Sundance said the S-word while jumping off the cliff.  I asked her if she had ever heard me say that word.  She hadn’t.  I said if I already know that word is in the movie, and you know I don’t swear anyway, what possible harm could come from me hearing it?  I lost that argument, too, but the insanity of it never left me.  It’s not going to harm kids to read swear words they already know.

My eldest had her nose in a book starting in first grade.  She graduated from Babysitter’s Club through Goosebumps (banned!) to whatever she could get her hands on.  She read Catcher at 14.  It never dawned on me I needed to protect her from a book.  I was just so proud she was reading a classic.

You do not want your kid reading Catcher?  That’s fine with me.  I would never dream of infringing on your parental rights.  But where do these parents get off going to school boards to ban books for the entire school?  You are not allowed to make that decision for me.  You screw up your kid your own way; I let mine read what they like.

I liked the way my kid’s school handled it.  They sent home the reading list, telling us if there was anything we objected to, our kids could read a different book instead.  Nice and easy.  No reason to bring in the Stormtroopers.

The uptight parents should take a deep breath and go read a book.  The best books shock you.  They haunt you.  That stay with you forever.  Why would you want to deny that to a child?

banned book


5 comments on “Don’t Tell Me How to Think

  1. I followed you back here after you started following me. I love this post. I love banned books. I think it says so much about our society that we let the ignorant control our education system. And nothing about what it says is good.

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