Sunday, October 3, 2010

Banning books

When I was 12 or 13 years old, I wrote horror stories. My mother came across one of the more gruesome examples and while she espoused many liberal leanings, now she was faced with a barely adolescent daughter who penned pretty twisted stories. Well, one that she knew of, and that was one too many. She called me into the den to have a chat.

We perched on the sofa across from the TV set, which was set in an alcove that was also stacked with loaded bookshelves. There were more bookshelves – six or seven, I think – on each side of the window.

“The story was very disturbing,” she said.

Well, yeah. That was pretty much the point, I thought.

“Your dad and I have decided,” she continued gently, “that we’re going to have to censor–“

I flicked a horrified glance across the ranks of shelves. Carrie, The Exorcist, Marathon Man. The Curve of Time, Little Women, A Man Called Intrepid. Goldfinger, The Girl in the Plain Brown Wrapper, The Hobbit.

“–your television choices.”

Was she kidding?

I could have laughed, I was so relieved.

So when I heard that last week was Banned Books Week, I checked out the US’s 10 most challenged books of 2009. The list includes To Kill a Mockingbird and My Sister’s Keeper.

When I told my sister, who had just finished Harper Lee’s novel, she gave me a “you’re joking” look and passed the information to her teenage daughter, who had just read My Sister’s Keeper.

“You’ve got to be kidding,” was my niece’s response.

I’m so proud.

So to the people who challenge a book’s presence on library and bookstore shelves, I say, “Yeah, let’s get all those stories out of there. Let’s get them in readers’ hands and minds, where they belong.”

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