No matter what age I’m at, there is nothing that has ever pissed me off quite as much as people trying to tell me what I can and can’t read. The earliest time I can recall being told not to read something was in the first grade; I had grabbed the fourth Harry Potter book off of the family bookshelf and flipped to the middle and started reading. My mother told me “no” and put it back. (To be fair, I hadn’t read the others yet, but I was so interested in this particular one because a middle school student who helped teach my class basic Spanish would read parts of the fourth book to me on the bus ride to school.)
Since then there have been numerous other situations like that:
“It’s too mature for you.”
“There are gay people in that book.”
And my personal favorite: my mother once pulled me aside to ask me if Bella and Edward had sex in Breaking Dawn. *gasp* “But… but they were married first, right?”
I was able to tell her that, yes, Breaking Dawn did not include any extramarital sex scenes. Or anything I would consider sex scenes at all. The best part was I had already read the book by that point. And I was also seventeen.
I didn’t bother telling her that I’d read much “worse” things by that point. One of the primary reasons I wanted a Kindle was because at the very least she wouldn’t be glaring at the cover of every book I read. And, hey, it worked. I could read books with as many gay characters and sex scenes as I wanted.
Banned Books Week holds a special place in my heart because it reminds me just how much I hate people policing my reading choices. Or anyone’s reading choices. I believe that if a person can’t handle reading a certain kind of book, then that’s their own responsibility to figure out. They are capable of making their own choices.
It makes me cringe to think that it’s possible that maybe every single book on my shelves has been challenged by somebody somewhere. Do you know how much time and energy that would take?
Allow me to help you calculate just a little.
From top to bottom: Harry Potter books and poetry; an assortment of books relating to books I borrowed from my history teacher; comics; Shakespeare and picture books; oversized books.
Children’s books shelves 1 and 2.
Non-fiction on the left, adult fiction on the right.
YA on the top two shelves, the remainder of my adult fiction collection on the bottom.
Stephen King. (Yes, I seriously have a stuffed full bookshelf of Stephen King books.)
And, finally, my textbooks for this term, which I don’t have shelved because having them sorted by class is far more convenient than pulling them off the shelves as I need them.
Anyone want to take a guess as to how many books are on these shelves?
Nine hundred and one.
If just half of these books had been challenged, how much time would have been taken up trying to pull these from the shelves?
How many days have been taken up per book?
I’m cringing just thinking about how much time has been wasted banning books over stupid things like content that MIGHT be inappropriate for certain readers.
This particular Banned Books Week was even more special to me because it largely focused on banned comics.
As a comics studies minor, I believe it’s important for people to have access to comic books, no matter the content. There are still people out there who believe they are not “real” books and that they don’t deserve as much credit as “real” books.
Have these people not read Watchmen?
The Dark Knight Returns?
And that’s just a tiny list of basics.
My blood is boiling just writing this post. Here are just a few of the things I’ve done to work on combating the problem of
my rising blood pressure censorship:
Start a Comics Section at my Library
I volunteer at a tiny library every Monday and I tend to have a lot of input in what goes on the shelves. My current project is bringing comics to the library. Everyone needs more comics.
Donate to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund
Wonderful stories can only defend themselves so much. Donations help defend challenged comics so that people everywhere can continue to enjoy them.
Donate to NaNoWriMo
One of the best ways to combat censorship is to encourage writers to write what they want to write. And besides, I get to be a wizard!
*waits for Hagrid to show up to bring me my belated Hogwarts acceptance letter*
Volunteer for the SMART Reading Program
Oregon’s program to help kids learn to read. They get to CHOOSE what you help them read! Isn’t that great? I knew kids were smart enough to make their own choices! (I will be starting my volunteer work here in October)
Take a moment to stop and think: what could YOU do to help fight censorship?