Let's Talk is a new weekly feature here at i swim for oceans. I think it's important that we all have our say, and there's something to be said for raising our voices. Simply put, here on the little old blog, I like to host some of my very own discussion posts because, well, I like to converse with you all.
And so, Let's Talk will feature questions or prompts, which I will answer, too. Love it or hate it, weigh in or don't, it's my hope that Let's Talk will at least get you thinking...and maybe even get you discussing with the rest of us!
Question: What are your thoughts on book censorship in schools?
Hello, hot-button issue! When I started this feature, I knew I wanted to make it a mix of fun discussion topics and heavy-hitting, relevant issues that concern people beyond the book blogging and publishing world. What is a bigger discussion topic than censorship? Censorship, in and of itself, simply makes my skin crawl. I believe that there is merit to just about any written work, and to ban a book across the board, regardless of the content makes me want to pull up my soap box, stand with my head held high and preach to the world just why exactly I think book censorship in schools is wrong.
I'll state it right here and now: my opinions will rub some people the wrong way. I don't apologize for my opinions because they are really and truly my own. Just as I want people to respect my opinions, I truly respect opposing viewpoints. Simply put - I think that banning books across the board in schools is wrong. Many school boards like to gloss over the messiness and call their reading curriculum a "selection," rather than the blatant banning that I believe it is. I'm not going to lie and say that some of the banned books I've seen don't have messy content...because they do.
Consider Breathing Underwater by Alex Flinn. One of my all-time favourite authors takes a harrowing story of an abusive (both emotionally and physically) relationship between teens and creates a story that is startlingly realistic and relevant for the young adult crowd. Is it brutal? Heck yeah. There's no glossing over the violence and the drama. There shouldn't be. Abuse is abuse. There are no shades of gray, and a story like that is important for teens who might otherwise be scared into silence because they are the abused and ashamed, or they're the abuser and are afraid to seek the help they need to get better. A Washington school district banned this book due to the graphic nature of the content. Is it right to take this book out of schools just because it makes the parents uncomfortable that their children are reading it? It should make the kids uncomfortable. It should make them think.
Take, for another example, Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. Written about a young teen who is raped at a party, haunted by the memory, taunted by classmates and friends and damaged to the core, this book is harrowing. I'm not going to lie. It's not an easy read to stomach. Last year, it was referred to as "soft core porn." Needless to say, the bookish community was outraged. Such a comment says that we should ban this book because the victim brought it on herself. The rapist should be allowed to run free through the story. Should such a book truly be banned because it makes someone upset? It's not meant to be pretty, or easy, or simple. Real life is messy. Real pain is tangible and speaks volumes to someone who might otherwise be too afraid to speak up that they, too, were a victim. The same goes for another of the author's novels, Wintergirls. Tackling eating disorders and cutting, it's a hard-edged approach to an all-too common disease. Should it really be pushed under the rug?
There are so many books out there today that are banned because of their "offensive" content. Think of Catcher in the Rye, or the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Think of Bridge to Terabithia, or Harry Potter, or Lord of the Flies. Yes, books might offend people. Content speaks volumes to different people in different ways. That's a good thing. In my humble opinion, parents should read what their children are reading. If you have a problem with the material, discuss it with your child. Don't fight it. Embrace the challenge and open the communication. Speaking about it might just diminish the fear of those words, and children might actually stand to gain more from reading it.