It’s Banned Book Week again, my favorite time of the year to remember how outrageous it is that morons judge and disqualify literature they often haven’t even read. Needless to say, this makes me nuts.
It’s easy to go nuts over this. But what do we do? What actions can we take that make a difference in the face of this?
Well, the first is simple: Read. Support authors, especially living, breathing, trying-to-make-a-living authors who are fighting book challenges. (Because while it’s ludicrous and depressing that schools keep banning THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN at least that author isn’t trying to earn out his advance).
According to the American Library Association (ALA) the most frequently banned books in 2010 were:
- And Tango Makes Three, by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson
Reasons: homosexuality, religious viewpoint, and unsuited to age group
- The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
Reasons: offensive language, racism, sex education, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, and violence
- Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
Reasons: insensitivity, offensive language, racism, and sexually explicit
- Crank, by Ellen Hopkins
Reasons: drugs, offensive language, and sexually explicit
- The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins
Reasons: sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, and violence
- Lush, by Natasha Friend
Reasons: drugs, offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited to age group
- What My Mother Doesn’t Know, by Sonya Sones
Reasons: sexism, sexually explicit, and unsuited to age group
- Nickel and Dimed, by Barbara Ehrenreich
Reasons: drugs, inaccurate, offensive language, political viewpoint, and religious viewpoint
- Revolutionary Voices, edited by Amy Sonnie
Reasons: homosexuality and sexually explicit
- Twilight, by Stephenie Meyer*
Reasons: religious viewpoint and violence
The best way to support reading ALL books is to support the authors who write them. This sends a clear message to publishers and the rest of the industry that yes, there is a market for brave books. For the ten people in the world who haven’t heard yet, the economy is kind of lousy right now, and publishing is certainly taking its share of the pain. Buy books. It’s that simple.
Also, if you haven’t read Sherman Alexie’s THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN do so. Now.
The second suggestion I have is more complex, and it comes largely from a blog post I read by YA author Aprilynne Pike. She was writing about a kerfuffle this year when another YA author, Ellen Hopkins, was uninvited from a literary festival. Ellen Hopkins writes pretty gritty, intense books, and she was unequivocally censored when she was asked not to come to the festival. In response, and as a protest, many other authors pulled out of the festival as well. Ultimately, the festival was cancelled due to a pointed lack of authors. One would say it was an effective protest, no?
Except that, as Aprilynne points out in her blog post, the big loser here is not the literary festival. It’s the teenagers in Humble, Texas. They’re the ones who lost out on a bunch of awesome coming their way. Her blog post went on to suggest another possible course of action – a stealth, guerilla Che Guevara course of action. Bring Ellen Hopkins along! Not in person (that would be awkward to pack). But bring her books and give them away freely. Mention her in every speech. Make sure, when publicly thanking the shitweasels who banned her, to mention her name and her book titles a few times.
In this case, who loses? The pooweasels, who look like fools and who have failed to take Ellen Hopkins out of the picture! Not the authors, who get to share their words with the audience, not the kids, who manage to get cool authors to come to their parochial and close-minded town, not even Ellen Hopkins, whose books would likely be noticed more than ever. (And btw, I am in NO way blaming the authors who protested, or saying they screwed up. They took a stand for something they believe in and more power to them).
So what am I saying? Really, it’s back to my pretty simple first point. Read. Buy books. Buy banned books. If you hate them, think about why, about what upset you so. Then, go out and read some more.