I am going to interrupt my currently unfinished Turkey posts to write about banned books (which, incidentaly, I can relate to Turkey).  Banned Book week, starting October 2 in the US begs the question…what will you be reading?

When I was a kid I had free reign on my book collection. I am pretty sure my parents didn’t moniter terribly closely what I was reading. That being said, they didn’t need to. I would read a new book and tell them about it or talk to them about things in the book. They trusted me enough to not read anything I shouldn’t (and I didn’t). They also trusted me enough to make up my own mind on the books I read and decide for myself whether or not they were worth reading (shock horror!).

Banned Books Week isn’t trying to bring awareness to the blatant censorship in countries such as Cuba and China or North Korea. It’s about censorship in the good ol’ US of A. I did a thesis at MSU-Billings on censorship of textbooks in public schools and briefly touched on censorship of regular books as well and frankly, it was quite shocking the list of censored books and the amount of control that one family has over textbooks in the US.

Many classic books which I think should be required high school reading are frequently challenged and sometimes banned from all sides of the spectrum for various reasons. I am not saying that all book challenges come from super conservative, religious right nutters. While a majority of the challenges down south may come from that side of the spectrum, there are also a significant number of challenges from a the extreme left wing liberals.

The conservatives normally object to books because they are blasphemous, contain violence, adult language, sexual references or depict scenes contrary to Biblical teachings. I own a children’s book that was one of my favourite books called “Love You Forever” that was actually banned because it showed a child not listening to his parents and said he used bad words in front of his grandmother. This is central to the story however as the book is about how a mother will always love her child no matter what and her child will always love her no matter what. I believe the overarching theme behind the book negates the fact that a child was misbehaving.

The liberals normally object to books that contain sexism, racism or other forms of discrimination or ‘political incorrectness’. Books such as To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee come to mind. This book was challenged from all sides, but a significant number of the challenges were race-related. Depicting blacks as a lower class (admittedly there was a lower class white trash family in it), a distinct lack of civil rights and the blatant racism all contributed to the challenges against the book. But lets ignore the fact that it had a strong message that you shouldn’t be racist, you shouldn’t teach your kids racism, you should stand up for what is right and not what the majority thinks. It’s also history. It may be a fictional story, but the fact of the matter is that it used to be like that in certain parts of the US. This is part of America’s history and it shouldn’t be denied. It should not be swept under the rug. It should be used to help shape a better future.

Australia is a prime example of sweeping history with Aboriginals under the rug. The stolen generation is a rather embarrasing point in Australia’s history, surpassing even that of the ‘White Australia’ policy to stop immigrants coming in (which funnily enough included Caucasions). It wasn’t until quite recently, years after Aboriginals were recognised as both human and citizens under the Constitution, that they even started teaching anything about Aboriginal history or culture in schools, and even still it is apparently only touched on.

Books are challenged because they frighten people, because they challenge the status quo, because they are ‘politically incorrect’ or because they are against certain people’s ideals and beliefs. This is no reason to ban any book. Kids are usually more aware than the older generations give them credit for and are perfectly capable of reading a book like Catcher in the Rye without wanting to go out and drink, smoke, swear and hire a prostitute. A well-written and timeless book is meant to challenge you. It’s meant to make you think outside your box and it’s something you should learn from. By all means, read Jodi Picoult or Stephen King and get your kicks from these novel mills that really have no significant way of challenging your mind. I love reading books like that when all I want to do is kick back and relax after a day of having my brain fried at uni. But try to read a book that will challenge you. A book that you may not necessarily agree with or a book that could change your opinion on something, or at least get you to consider your position.

So the question remains. What will you be reading during Banned Books Week?

xoxo Aryn