Laughter and books make life a little easier

Banned books week 2014

Banned books week 2014

So last week I started talking about book banning. This week is the yearly Banned Books Week when book lovers from all over the world celebrate free speech. Far too many books are still banned and/or challenged worldwide every year. If you believe in free speech you cannot believe in book banning as well. But why does it still happen?

Book banning is extremely ineffective – it’s human nature. Forbidding something makes it a hundred times more attractive. If a book is not forbidden it would probably receive average amounts of attention. But as soon as it’s forbidden suddenly everyone wants to read it.

Why is book banning wrong?

You do not have the right to prevent other people from reading something you do not agree with. Once you open the door for banning one kind of book, you let others in. Therefore I say: no banning books. No taking away freedom of speech. Once there is one kind of restriction on what people can read others will slip in.

If freedom of speech is a human right then book banning is the thing that is wrong, not people writing controversial books.

On last week’s post Grace commented how unlikely it seems that a book like Little Women would be banned. Following this I tried to find out why Little Women is controversial, but I couldn’t find any information. It seems that Little Women was banned because it was banned. 😛 There are also so many other unlikely-seeming books on that list. The Wind in the Willows, a childhood favourite of mine, for example. There are books that I can see why they are controversial. The Hunger Games-trilogy, for example. I think the things that it is accused of being are completely false, but I get why it is controversial. I can see why the His Dark Materials-trilogy is even more controversial. But…

Book after book on the banned lists are referred to as “unsuited for age group” by parents. I never understood that. I spent my childhood reading books I was probably too young to understand. The ladies at the library tried to stop me but my mother never did. I don’t think I’m immoral. I don’t think my mental damage was caused by books. How do you even decide what is suitable for a certain age group? So kids are not supposed to know about sex? About death? But it’s right here, how are you hiding it? It’s an old, clichéd adage, but actions do speak louder than words. You really think children and teens cannot tell the difference between fantasy and reality? You think their morals are so weak they can be influenced and changed completely by some ink on paper? They know it’s words. It’s the actions of their parents and the other people around them that really shows them the way.

That being said, you know what makes me furious about some parents? I suppose no one can stop you if you want to forbid your own kids from reading a book or series of books (though I still think it’s ineffective). It’s your kids, your business. You do not have the right to decide for other people’s kids, but I guess you can decide for your own. Fine. But you know what I really hate? When parents forbid their kids from reading a book because they heard from their friend’s husband’s cousin that it contains all kinds of nasties. No. If you want to control your kids’ reading then you have to check it out yourself. No hearsay. No letting other people decide for you.

Okay, now I’m done.

So book banning is here and it’s wrong. What about it? You could say we should speak up against it. And that’s great. But I think we should all do what we can. I could never confront an angry parent. But I can write. Others can speak. Do the best you can to prevent bad things from happening.


This post was what I can do. Talk soon,


13 responses

  1. I think parents have the right to forbid their children from reading certain books, but a general ban imposed on everyone is kind of silly.

    Personally, I do believe that not all books should be read. But I don’t understand the whole “not appropriate for children” thing. Honestly, why is it okay for you and not for children? I avoid sexual content because I believe it is a private act and therefore it’s not appropriate to be reading someone else’s intimacies, even if they’re fictional. I wouldn’t let my kid read it for the same reason that I don’t read it, not because I’m trying to shield her from finding out about sex.

    I was once reading an article in Parents magazine in which the parent wrote how shocked she was when he child dropped an F bomb and realized that she had to be more careful in what she said around her child. What on earth? It’s perfectly okay for you to curse, but it’s not okay for you kid? I just don’t get it.

    So, yeah, your idea of “the parent has to read it first” wouldn’t work for me. If a friend whose opinion I trust tells me that there is sex in a book, I won’t read it nor will I let my children read it.

    September 28, 2014 at 16:19

    • Well, not all books by everybody, no. It’s a personal choice though, not a communal decision.
      Hang on, so it’s just scenes where the clothes are off that you don’t like? What about the actual intimate scenes where all the clothes are on? In my experience those are the scenes that really make you feel like you’re spying, as opposed to most sex scenes which verge on boring, do nothing for the plot and are cheap sensation.
      I suppose research from a reliable source could also work. It’s the listening to, what is essentially, gossip about books that really gets to me. Hearsay is just not a way to judge a book. I still think it’s weird and ineffective not letting your own children read certain books, but it’s more something that I feel than something that I can actually think of an argument against.
      (Sorry, I wasn’t around last week. It was my post queue working, not me.)

      October 6, 2014 at 00:16

      • Well, there can be some hot make-out scenes with all clothing on which I also would be uncomfortable reading. Even if they’re not sex, they’re still sexual.

        What do you mean by “ineffective”? I guess you might say that children are going to learn these things anyway. But for me, I’m just trying to avoid, whenever possible, exposing both myself and my children to things I find distasteful. So if I don’t allow a book, I have successfully prevented this exposure. It’s not that I don’t know these things exist; I just want as little exposure as possible.

        October 7, 2014 at 00:24

      • I meant just talking, having a conversation. Nothing sexual at all. Those are the scenes that make me feel like I’m spying on something really private and intimate.
        It’s ineffective because something that is forbidden is tantalising. By disallowing children (or anyone, really) to read a book you make that they really want to read it. Maybe there are children who won’t react that way, but I was never one of them and I don’t know anyone else who was. I do know people who were forbidden Harry Potter and that made them borrow the books, hide them and read them under the covers at night. All because they were forbidden to do it.

        October 7, 2014 at 22:00

  2. Well, if you put it that way, you might say that all literature is like spying because you’re invading the thoughts of the character or characters.

    I think sexual acts are uniquely intimate, though. They’re . . . holy, if done right. This world has both physical and spiritual aspects, and I believe that the physical aspects are not meant to be shunned and avoided but used in conjunction with the spiritual, and the combination of the two is more perfect and complete than spirituality alone. Sex represents the ultimate physical high; therefore, I think, there is a very high spirituality that can go along with it, and together they create something incredibly holy. So I believe it ought to be treated with respect and kept private.

    These are totally my own musings here. Hope I’m not saying anything heretical. 😉

    Now, about children wanting what’s forbidden . . . well, yes, that is an argument that I have heard before. And yes, it is definitely possible for a parent to be so overprotective that their child ends up rebelling and doing bad things. But I do think that in general it’s better to have more boundaries than fewer boundaries, just as long as they’re not oppressive.

    Here’s an example: I went through a phase in which I liked to listen to music that was, shall we say, not very savory. My mother did not approve. She would not allow me to play the music in her presence, so I listened to it quietly in my room. She knew I listened to the stuff and didn’t yell at me if she caught me doing it, but she was very much opposed to it. Eventually, I was able to find the strength to stop, and I feel much better about myself for not listening to that trash. But it was very difficult for me to quit, and I think the fact that my mother clearly did not approve was what really made it possible. Had my mother been, “You do what you want, it’s your decision,” I might still be listening to that stuff today. And I’d feel disgusted with myself for it, but I wouldn’t be able to stop because I was always allowed to do it.

    Growing up, I knew a girl who always had tons of candy in her home. Her parents were of the opinion that if the kids were always allowed candy, they wouldn’t like it so much. In my house, we just didn’t buy candy and didn’t have it lying around. But you know what I found? This girl was ALWAYS eating candy! She said, “yeah, we have all this candy, so to me it isn’t even that good” but she ate it anyway! Whereas I ate much less candy than her–because I only got my candy from outside the house, when friends or teachers or relatives gave me as treats–and I probably enjoyed the candy much more than she did. Of course, when I grew a little older (like high school, probably even a little before that) I didn’t even like candy much anymore, and this girl who was so used to eating candy still liked it. This is a different sort of example than the previous, but it’s the same idea of my mother being more strict and me ending up better for it. Again, she wasn’t overbearing about it; she didn’t forbid me from ever having candy. She just didn’t bring it into the house. So I ended up consuming less candy as a young child, AND I quickly grew out of liking it anyway. Win-win.

    In general, I think it’s important to have rules for the child, even if the child might rebel, because it instills into the child a value system. I won’t deny that as a child there were times when I did things behind my mother’s back that I knew she wouldn’t like. But her disallowing things never made me crave them MORE. I think I just wanted them as much as any other child, not more; but since my mother didn’t allow some things, I felt guilty doing them, and as I grew older I didn’t desire them anymore while other people whose parents had been less restrictive still desired them.

    Okay, I feel like I may be just repeating myself by now, and this has certainly gone on long enough, so I’m just going to end it here. 😀

    October 26, 2014 at 07:22

    • I think your comment might be longer than the blog post! 😛 But that’s okay too!
      I can definitely see your point and I can respect that. At the same time I remain academically interested in analysing why authors push the boundaries and invade what people consider characters’ private lives. And other boundaries, such as chronology or actually making sense in your story, as well. Obviously. But I still think the best authors are the ones who don’t need to hit you over the head with a sex scene to imply that it happened between two characters. They are so good at implying things that they might spend one sentence before moving on to more interesting plot points.
      The more I read this, the more I think the rules and boundaries that work for one child will not work for every child. Of course rules are good, but the way parents impose limits should be adapted to the personality of the child. An extremely independent and stubborn child, such as I was, might react differently to boundaries than a less stubborn child. For example, any amount of teachers yelling at me did nothing. I would be cowed for a while, before only getting angrier than before at the entire world. But one teacher telling me quietly that they were disappointed in me had me crawling back in line. One my science teachers understood this really well. He didn’t get angry when I did badly in a test, but he knew just how to get me to sit down and try again, harder this time. So he did get the boundaries across, he just did it in a different way.
      Like with your candy example, a balance must be found and I really think it depends on the child how this should work.

      October 26, 2014 at 20:53

      • “But I still think the best authors are the ones who don’t need to hit you over the head with a sex scene to imply that it happened between two characters.” I totally agree with you!

        Now, in your example, I don’t think that’s only because you were a stubborn child. I think yelling is simply not a good form of discipline. It doesn’t accomplish much. When I was yelled at as a child, I reacted the same way you did. 😀

        But it’s definitely true that parenting depends on the child.

        Some children can be given rules and they’ll follow them. I happen to be the sort of personality who likes the sense of security that rules bring. So I was never a major rebel. I wasn’t the perfect child and definitely had my share of rule-breaking, and as a child I THOUGHT I hated rules, but I never did anything major (I snuck out of the house to go out with friends once, and I felt guilty and ended up telling my mother some months later even though I had gotten away with it, just because I didn’t feel right being so secretive), and I soon grew out of the rule breaking. By 16 I think I was a pretty good kid.

        Some children, though, like to rebel, and to them rules are made to be broken. You have to be careful with these kids. I still think you should have rules to ingrain in them a set of values; otherwise they might get into all sorts of trouble because they’ll have nothing to anchor them in. But since these kids like to rebel, you can’t overreact to any wild behavior because that’ll only spur them on. Simply showing disapproval silently, but not absolutely forbidding them, is probably the best method.

        October 26, 2014 at 22:51

      • There is no one-size-fits all for discipline. I definitely agree that silent disapproval is probably the best way of dealing with rebellious children.
        I know lots of personalities like that, it’s not weird. But, for me, the rules are not necessarily made to be broken, but definitely made to be questioned.
        While my final record was mostly clean, that was just because I was so good at not getting caught. I didn’t do anything major either, I just broke school rules, no drunken parties or stuff like that.

        October 27, 2014 at 23:57

  3. So I guess you’d come somewhere between the “bad kids” and the mostly (but not always) good kids like me? You’re definitely not the drunken partying sort. 😀

    October 30, 2014 at 16:57

    • Possibly a bit closer to the bad kids, but yes. I was in with the wrong people in primary school, the people who ended up smoking behind the pavilion in high school. And I wouldn’t be surprised if it was something other than tobacco.
      My more conservative friends are always surprised that respect for authority is not something automatic for me. Respect is earned, not generated automatically by something arbitrary as authority.

      November 2, 2014 at 19:54

      • Eh, well, I guess we just have different values there. I believe that teachers and parents ought to be respected simply because of what they are, whether they deserve it or not. And I struggle with this! It’s easy to not have respect for a teacher if I don’t think him worthy of respect; the challenge is HAVING respect for him. It’s not about the teacher; it’s about me. I want to be the best person I can be, and I believe it makes one a better person to conquer her feelings of disdain and have respect for the teachers she wouldn’t naturally respect.

        November 14, 2014 at 02:39

      • Definitely. I’d say yours is the more healthy and productive attitude though.

        November 26, 2014 at 23:54

  4. Thank you. 😀

    November 27, 2014 at 18:37

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