A blog about general entertainment, fashion, and movies. And some random stuff too.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Soapbox: Banned Books Week

Next week (October 8th) "Howl" is coming to the Angelika in Dallas. I thought it was only fitting to go ahead and get on my soapbox and tie this movie into Banned Book Week, which is going on right now.

Banned Books Week is this week, September 25th through October 1st. This is a week where awareness is raised for books that have been challenged in some way in the past. Therefore, I've taken my freshmen down to the library so our librarian can talk to them about what all that means. I know that most students don't think about their right to read the books they want (assuming that any of my 150 students, indeed, would enjoy reading for pleasure), but I think it's important that they are at least aware that people are trying to censor and control that. The funny thing to witness is their turn from indifference or ignorance about this issue, to getting fired up about the the thought of someone taking away their choice to read a certain book, even if they aren't interested in the book. A lot of times, they don't care about their rights until someone tells them that their rights are being threatened.

While sitting and watching my librarian talk about the books that have been challenged, I can't help but squirm just a little bit. The reasons that people have challenged books are so petty and ridiculous in most all cases. For example, Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstine was challenged because in one of his silly poems he mentions eating the baby and that encourages cannibalism. In Where's Waldo, there are ladies in bikinis, even though it is because they are on a beach. Madeline L'engle's Wrinkle in Time was challenged because it promoted evil and witchcraft, even though she is a well-known Christian author. Even Little House on the Prairie was challenged... I mean, mostly that book is about hugging your family and sewing dolls.

Now, do I think that each family has the right to choose what topics/subject matter they allow to be read within their own household? Of course, that right is reserved for parents to make for themselves and their children. But, do I believe that that choice should be made for every family in the US by one group who doesn't agree with a book's content? Absolutely not. I think it should be an individual decision, not something that is forced onto anyone. Don't take books off of shelves and deprive those of us who want to give it a try the chance to do that. 

As the presentation ends each class period, I find that my students are more interested in these banned books now that they know some of these titles are taboo. Perhaps if none of them had seen this presentation and were never informed of this censorship, they would have never wanted to read these books. My guess is, they wouldn't have. But because these books were challenged or banned, they in turn became much more interesting to my students than they ever would have been before. Which brings me around to my point, when people decide to complain and boycott most things, it usually has the opposite effect that they want. It just draws more attention to it and will eventually cause interest and awareness to rise. If it's a book you want no one to ever read, raising heck about it isn't the way to go about it. 

This reminds me of a situation that happened just a few years ago surrounding the release of The Golden Compass to movie theaters. There were all kinds of controversies with that, and a few groups (who most had never even read the book, so this was completely out of ignorance; many didn't even know the movie was based on a book!) thought it was a great idea to rally and boycott the movie. And what happened? It was on the news everywhere, raised more awareness than any marketing the film could have produced, and got some people interested in it that never would have seen it otherwise, had it not been for all the controversy.

I guess, with that in mind, I should be thanking those groups who have gone up against some of my favorite books and tried to get them censored and taken off shelves. If it wasn't for them, the controversy and hype surrounding them wouldn't exist and therefore the interest in them wouldn't continue to peak like it does. My students wouldn't be interested in reading these classic books now, that early today, before it was talked about in the Banned Books Presentation, they would never have thought twice about. Movies, such as "Howl" wouldn't exist. There wouldn't be anything interesting enough to write a script without it! So thanks censorship! I'm glad that a lot of the time, it back fires. 


  1. I love this! I want you as my teacher!

  2. Not only for making them aware of all of these books that had to fight for their freedom of speech but making your students aware how easy their choices can be taken from them if they don't fight for it.

  3. The Golden Compass boycott made me so angry!! Excellent post!

  4. Lol well said. I didn't know you actually had students to command at your disposal, right on! You make a great point, I feel that alot more people can benefit from that so next year when you get a new batch of students, definitely let them hear this presentation as well.

    Kind of reminds me of the Church Fathers threatening to burn Qur'ans and then getting calls from the White House to stop, its just people trying to become famous so this would be the negative way that your info works. Just hope it works more for the best.

  5. Thank you for the encouragement guys!

  6. This is a great post! The pastor of my parents' church makes me so impatient sometimes when he says things like he's not so sure if it's good for a Christian to read novels. There are always people in the pews who will let a person like that do their thinking for them and accept such an opinion without doing the mental work to examine it first. Banning books is really an outgrowth of not wanting to think about things.

  7. So much win, Audree. So. Much. Win. I completely agree. People should have the right to choose what books they read. There definitely are books that, were I the parent of a young child, I'd rather my kid not read. But that would be solved by questioning the rights of schools, etc. to require reading that is, for example, sexually explicit or something.

    But to ban them all together because one group or groups finds them to be offensive? Well, by that logic, we'll be banning all kinds of crazy things. Heck, I bet if we tried hard enough we could find at least one person to be offended by every single book, movie, or television show. It's just gotten way out of hand.

    It's always the squeaky wheel that gets the grease, and the rest of us suffer because one person raised hell about bikinis in Where's Waldo. Give me a break.

  8. right on! So true. The same thing goes for when people try to put strict limits on themselves in general. It focuses our mind on the one thing we're not supposed to be doing, and that's all we can think about. It's better to just be open all around. :D Love love!

  9. Great idea! <3

    I was already thinking of dedicating this Friday to banned book week. I've been putting banned book quotes on my board all week. Kids have noticed! NOW, I'm for sure doing a banned book Friday. It's really one of my favorite weeks on the year!

  10. I think anything involving Itsy Bitsy Spider should be banned. I am highly offended.

  11. Just thinking about this gets me fired up. '1984' is my favorite book of all time. These people just suck. And it REALLY pisses me off when they start meddling with other mediums like film and music...*facepalm* this country was founded on the idea of freedom for an individual to choose how to live their lives...I honestly don't even know how these people get away with this crap. Arrrrgh.