September 30th, 2010


Happy First Amendment Day!

. . . and Banned Books Week!

I've read a blog post or two recently on The Banned Book that Changed My Life. These are really cool, and a great reminder of why it's vital that these books be accessible to everyone. I'd like to do something like this, but I can't think of one specific banned book that Changed My Life, so I'm just going to list a few that made the ALA Top Ten Most Challenged lists for various years, and that I'm glad I read. These aren't necessarily ones I think are highly significant, though some are; primarily, they're ones I really enjoy.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee - Top Ten in 2009 for offensive language, racism, and unsuited to age group - Read this for school. Found it brilliant. Wouldn't call it a favorite book of mine, but only because it doesn't have smexy elves.

And Tango Makes Three by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson - 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006 for homosexuality, which should not be a reason to censor a book, but has become a category thanks to all the intolerant idiots out there who complain about it - A professor read this aloud to our class. It was sweet and a nice overall kids' book as well as being a strong and beautiful assertion of acceptance and tolerance. I love that no one in the book makes it an issue that Tango has two dads. This is how real life should be, and how do you move people toward an ideal if you can't portray that ideal in fiction?

His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman - 2008, 2007 for political viewpoint, religious viewpoint, and violence - I read these when I was about fourteen, and they were REALLY IMPORTANT TO ME, MMKAY? These (and, OF COURSE, Harry Potter) are as close as I come to having a Banned Book that Changed My Life. Plus, I'd say that these books are about as atheist as Narnia is Christian, and you don't see Narnia banned a lot.

Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling - 2003, 2002, 2001 for occult/Satanism, violence - Okay, these seriously did change my life. And I have met at least one girl, nine years old at the time, whose parents wouldn't let her read them for religious purposes. These books are not "about" magic, let alone Satanism. Magic is part of their world, in much the way that alligators might be part of the world of a book set in Florida. The books are about people, and, importantly, about love and friendship and courage and loyalty and doing the right thing and GAH WHY WOULD YOU CHALLENGE THESE BOOKS.

Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George - 2002 for unsuited to age group and violence - What, really? I liked this as a kid.

That's just going back to 2001, and leaving out a lot of classics that I suspect are Important but that did not inspire me personally. Is it not horrifying to think of what some people would, given the choice, not allow one or one's children to read?

Happy Banned Books Week!