This week is banned books week. Every year, hundreds of books are banned or challenged all over the world. I recently read Captain Underpants is one of the most frequently challenged books for offensive language. This made me laugh, but challenging and banning books is not a laughing matter. For banned books week we’re celebrating the freedom to read whatever the hell you want (<—offensive language).
As a writer, I think banning books is a travesty. It’s the ultimate censorship, and because of that it’s wrong. Sure, there are some books that are disturbing. There are books explicitly about sex, the wrongs of religion, race relations, and all sorts of subjects that may make the reader uncomfortable.
Books on diversity are the most frequently challenged. By diversity I’m talking more specifically about books with non-white characters, people with disabilities, and LGBTQ. Folks, this shows we have a societal problem. Diversity is under attack, and challenging and banning these books isn’t helping our kids, it’s hurting them. It’s showing them the way to deal with people who aren’t like them is to pretend they don’t exist. Who wants their children learning that lesson? I certainly don’t. I want my children to be accepting and embracing of everyone. I want my children to realize that difference does not equal threat.
A few years ago I decided to pick up Lolita. I knew the subject matter before I started reading, and it did make me hesitate to read the book. But Nabokov is able to show us the life of a sick person, Humbert Humbert, who is obsessed with nymphets and subsequently runs off with Lolita, a young girl. The book was disturbing, but so well done. Nabokov was an incredible writer. But the thing I loved most about this book was the afterword. Nabokov detailed in the afterword about his struggles of whether to write this story, but it kept haunting him. Finally his wife told him to write it, and she insisted he publish the book. Lolita subsequently became one of the most banned books, but it also earned Nabokov a lot of respect as a serious writer.
As a writer, I know that feeling. When I wrote The Devil Within, I wasn’t sure if I would ever publish it. The material was disturbing and I knew it would upset a lot of people. Not only the abuse in the book, but the religious aspects of the book too. Religion is not described in a fluffy feel-good light in The Devil Within. Instead, the downfall of distorting the Bible and religion to fit ones own needs is discussed along with the comfort we can receive from religion if it’s used wisely (this sounds familiar in today’s society, doesn’t it). I’m so happy I did publish the book, because it’s been well-received. But I can understand how Nabokov felt, on having written such a despicable character, but such a wonderful book.
So what banned books have you read? Probably more than you think. Check out American Library Association’s website for a list of wonderful books to choose from and get reading! These books have a lot to offer:
Frequently Challenged Books 1990-1999
Frequently Challenged Books 2000-2009
What’s your favorite banned book?
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