Good Day, Readers:
Since I have the honor of working tomorrow, I will probably not be able to do my typical Saturdays, Uncensored! post. So, instead, I am cross-posting my guest post on censorship and banned books, which you can also find at Smash Attack Reads. It generated a great dialogue amongst her followers, so I’m hoping my readers are equally interested and willing to dive in! Also, since the ALA’s annual Banned Books Week begins next Saturday, September 25th, I figured this was a great way to get ourselves ramped up.
Censorship: What’s With the Expurgation, Mr. Bogus?
In this day and age, the idea of censorship in books seems almost laughable. Most people certainly tend to believe that censorship in fiction went out of fashion in the 1960s (or sooner). Sadly, this just isn’t the case. Books continue to be challenged on a regular basis, particularly by parents who want the books pulled out of school district libraries. So, why should we care?
Well, for me it is a philosophical stance – an argument for personal freedoms. It is fine to censor what you or your children read – that is your right as a conscientious adult and caregiver, but does your right to choose your own reading material supersede the right of an author to present his or her thoughts? Should this ever be the case?
What comes to mind for me at the moment is the rather heated debate that has been surrounding the author Ellen Hopkins lately. I recently read my first Hopkins book, Tricks, and while I loved the prose and the plot, I found myself understanding the desire some parents might have to “protect” their children from the “bad” things. Interestingly enough, when reflecting on this epiphany, I realized that as a junior high or high school reader, I would have loved and devoured the book, but, on the other hand, if I had children of that age, I would probably want to keep them as far away from these books as possible. The automatic urge, then, is to push the bad things away; to make things better; to hide what we don’t want our children to see or learn too soon. This urge is the noble monster, though, which ultimately takes us astray and distracts us from being proactive in educating our kids in relation to the world so that they will be prepared. When we hide things from them, what good does it really do? Ultimately, the argument should be stripped down to individual tastes and choice and not to anybody’s “right” or power over another’s ideas. There exists within each of us no inherent right to censor someone else’s thoughts, dreams, or opinions, but there does exist in us a right to choose what is best for ourselves. This is the heart of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and the sentiment, at its core, was born with man’s first thought.
There are limits, of course. Should we be allowed to print the names and addresses of real people, for instance, and slander them politically, socially, or culturally? No, I think not – but this isn’t so much a case for censorship as it is a testament of common human decency and respect for others’ privacy (another American social protection, though this one perhaps even more at risk – but I digress!). This is why biographers have such a strict code of ethics and why they are scrutinized so very closely by their critics and peers.
Banned Books: Let’s Talk Some Trash.
In fiction, though, in the land of make-believe, as long as reality-based characters are shrewdly disguised in parody and satire, and social opinions are handled with a respectful nod to dialogue, rather than a goading incite toward violence, then authors should have the freedom to express what they feel should be expressed! Let’s not forget Mark Twain, that clever so-and-so, whose greatest work of fiction, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, at first could not get off the ground because the publishers were forced to abandon sales of the book due to its many challenges by the public (and private) interests. Twain went door-to-door to sell his first printing of the novel (oh, if I could only get my hand on one of those!) because he knew it was important and, thankfully, the rest of the country and the world eventually picked up on this fact as well. Shockingly, Huckleberry Finn still holds a place on many of the “banned and challenged books” lists today. The reasons cited for challenges recently tend to be for depictions of violence and for what some call a derogatory depiction of class and race. These people are wrong, of course, but at least the argument has moved from the original inane charges of “use of slang” and “depictions of slavery as inhuman.”
Basically, this is my long-winded way of saying – fight censorship and the practice of banning books because it’s the right thing to do. Great works of literature (and, yes, bad ones too) will always be challenged for some reason. Many of the greatest books in history were censored at one point and an insane number of English-language novels were banned from publication in or shipment to the United States. While censorship laws of the 1960s and 1970s eventually opened the flood-gates, the risk still pervades and those who do the challenging take different approaches and tactics, making new claims to request censorship of the same books. As Mad-Eye Moody would say, “Constant Vigilance!”
So, do you agree with my sentiments? Do you disagree? I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas on the subject. Obviously, censorship and banned books are often lumped into the same category, but they are different things and it is feasible that some of you may be okay with censorship but not okay with altogether banning books (or vice versa). Some of you might agree with me that it is up to adults to choose their books based on their own tastes and to monitor their children’s reading, while others might find it perfectly acceptable for schools to pull books that are deemed inappropriate off of their library shelves. So – share! Leave a comment below and let’s get a dialogue going!
You can read the full guest post here.