Weekend Reads is a weekly post in which I discuss a variety of topics and mention the books I plan to read on the weekend. In honor of Banned Books Week in the United States, September 25 – October 1, I’ve decided to do the Freedom to Read Tag, which was created earlier this year by Canadian booktubers for Canada’s Freedom to Read Week, a reading event that I find to be similar to Banned Books Week. Both promote access to books.
Banned Books Week is a much needed campaign to promote freedom to read in the U.S. as well as highlight problems with censorship. I understand that some parents would rather not expose their children to certain topics, however, I do not believe it is their right to impose their beliefs on other children. Of course, maintaining the innocence of children isn’t the only reason why books are banned. Reasons for banning books are myriad. I, however, believe it’s best to share knowledge and experiences so that people can make more informed decisions and gain greater understanding of what is going on in the world, what occurs in other nations and what others have endured. Banning books won’t obscure reality; it only makes it easier for one to turn a blind eye to problems in the community.
As a child, were you ever explicitly not allowed to read a book(s) by your parents/guardian and which book(s) was it?
Waiting to Exhale by Terry McMillan immediately came to mind and also Danielle Steele’s books. My aunts didn’t prevent me from reading books. They encouraged me to read whatever I liked. However, whenever I picked up their romance novels, they would pluck it out of my hands saying I wasn’t old enough to read them, which made me want to read them even more. I was pretty young then, probably 8- or 10-years-old. I remember coming home from school one day and sneaking into one of my aunts’ room and grabbing Waiting to Exhale. I hid and read it but my aunt found me. However, she didn’t take the book away. She just shook her head and left me to complete it. It wasn’t a bad read either though I can’t remember if I really understood all I read. The memory is foggy.
Has a parent/guardian ever challenged a book you were reading in school? Did the book get withdrawn?
I can’t recall someone doing so in my community. However, when the Harry Potter books were published, they were greatly challenged and banned. By the time they were published, I was living with my parents in the U.S. They didn’t take the books from me, but they often expressed their displeasure at me reading them. Their reaction to the books was out of ignorance of their content. When the Harry Potter books were challenged, many pastors and other religious figures claimed the books were “evil” and such because of the magic, and that was also preached in churches. My family is religious so they believed what the pastor said hence displeasure in my reading taste. However, I didn’t mind. I found it hilarious and hypocritical as well. They gave me fairy tales to read as a kid. If not for those, I probably wouldn’t have been interested in Harry Potter. Interest in fantasy, I believe, started out with those fairy tales.
Do you agree with the practice of banning books? Why or why not?
I do not. I believe books are banned in a feeble attempt to block oneself and others from issues and opinions people would rather ignore. It’s a way of erasing things and denying their existence. It’s an ignorant way of seeking protection. I also see it as people forcing their beliefs and discomfort on others.
Have you ever read a book that shocked you enough that you thought it should be challenged/banned?
No, I haven’t. I’ve read books that shocked me, yes, but I’ve never thought they should be banned. I’d probably say to myself that the book isn’t for kids, but I’m very liberal with these things so I wouldn’t prevent a kid from reading a book they are really interested in reading. However, I wouldn’t give a kid Fifty Shades of Grey because that might hurt their brain. It really sucks. (Lol)
Should libraries/schools monitor their books in case some people find them offensive?
That’s a tough question because it’s hard to appease everyone. I don’t think they should. I don’t believe it’s good to shelter children too much. I think it’s best to guide them. I think schools and school libraries should monitor their books to make sure the books are age appropriate, children’s to young-adult books, but allow kids to decide on what they want to read themselves.
And I say the same for general libraries and higher-education schools. I don’t think it’s good to limit other people’s exposure to things because someone might be offended. These are all my opinions based on how I see the world (obviously) and I prefer to know things even if they might be offensive to me.
Have any of your favourite books been challenged/banned?
Yes! As mentioned above, Harry Potter has been challenged and banned many times. Toni Morrison’s Beloved and Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, a favorite, are also banned books. Morrison’s has been banned for violence, sexual content, and discussions of bestiality and Hurston’s has been banned for language and sexual content, according to the Banned Books Week website. Both books are historical reads that focus on African-American lives. Imagine missing out on these great reads because someone was uncomfortable with the content and sought to impose their discomfort on others.
I believe high school is an appropriate level to introduce these books. By then, teens are aware of certain topics to be able to know or have some idea of what occurs in the story and discuss them. I first read Their Eyes Were Watching God in high school and immediately loved the book. Sure it has sexual content, but it’s mild and I don’t think the language was that bad.
Have you ever read a book specifically because it was challenged/banned?
Apart from Waiting to Exhale which my aunt told me not to read (because she really wanted me to read it, obviously!), no, I haven’t. I hardly read a book specifically for anything. Even the TBRs I love to make don’t influence my reading habit.
Banned Books Week is almost over but that doesn’t mean the festivities can’t continue so I’ll tag this folks:
What I’m reading this weekend:
Thunder & Lightning by Lauren Redniss (illus.) because I’m still making my way through the book. I’ll probably pick up something else as well but I don’t know what that will be at this time.
Hmm… I realize I use “they” as a singular pronoun a lot but I really hate writing he/she or using “he” when the person could be “she” and vice versa. The only solution I can think of is to use “they.” Maybe this will catch on. Back in 2015, the Washington Post updated their style guide to include using the singular “they,” among other changes. I think it works. It’s either this or invent a new singular third-person pronoun that’s gender neutral, which might confuse people. Anyways… end of random thought.