This week is Banned Book Week so I thought to myself, What better week to write about dinosaurs? Then I remembered that I don’t get paid to write about dinosaurs and so I turned my attention back to banned books.
As parents, it is our duty to protect our children from questionable, controversial, and uncomfortable ideas at all costs. Book burning seems strangely out-of-fashion lately (probably because of all the wildfires) but there’s something to be said for shoving your children’s hands into a bonfire of books and then telling them that their pain was caused by J.D. Salinger, who should probably have just focused on drawing pictures of happy kittens.
The cautionary tales are everywhere. We all know children who turned to the dark arts after reading Harry Potter, or who became a communist immediately after reading The Wizard of Oz. And I think we can all agree that the parent who had Fahrenheit 451 banned (because it contained a curse word) is a goddamn saint. I mean, what kind of balls does it take to insist on banning a book that teaches the inherent dangers of book-banning? Answer: Non-existent ones.
I’m sorry. I was trying to keep up the pro-book-burning argument for this whole article, but I sort of want to stab myself now. Book-banning is ridiculous, if for no other reason than it makes people want to read the banned book even more. The exchange of ideas (even unpopular or inconvenient ones) is important in making us who we are, and helping us to promote independent thought. Also, books about witches and talking animals are awesome.
Truthfully, I’m a fan of all books and I encourage my child to be as well. Do I worry how she’ll be affected by the ultra-violence of A Clockwork Orange, or the raw sexuality of Brave New World? Nope. Because she’s 7 and she can’t reach that high on my bookshelf. And because, as her parent, it’s my job to prepare her for life and to let her know that there are millions of ideas out there to look at objectively ... and some will make your stomach hurt, and some will make your heart soar, and some will make you furiously angry about things you never imagined existed. And some books ... the very best ones ... will set you free.
It’s my job to prepare my daughter to be excited about finding the voices and authors who speak to her, and who will help her find her path in life -- even if it’s not a path I’d ever take myself -- and she can’t do that in a world where ideas and books are banned or censored. And that’s why I’m vehement against banning books. Unless it’s a book about the importance of banning all books. Then I just get a headache.
So in honor of banned book week, I'd like you to tell me about a book that changed the way you saw life ... whether it was banned or not. Because I need to put together a reading list for Hailey and there’s no better time to prepare than the present.
PS. I apologize for being much less sarcastic and ridiculous than usual. I think I might be sick. Last night I read part of a scandalous book (which was banned last year in a California school) and I think it gave me cancer. You might have heard of it. It’s called The Dictionary.