It’s Time To Read A Banned Book!

It’s Time To Read A Banned Book!

banned-books-week

There’s something you don’t know about me: I love to read banned books.  You know, those books that you were sure if you mother caught you reading them, you would be punished for the rest of your life?   Once, while sitting in the hallways of my ultra-liberal-but-still parochial-private school (Quaker), I was busted by my English teacher for reading “Emerald Ecstasy,” a fantastic, uber-romantic and sexy “pirate” book. Rather than being upset that I was reading such smut, she simply stated that she was really disappointed that I was “consuming such poorly written prose.”  Like I said, I went to a private school.

Ok, “Emerald Ecstasy” probably would be listed as “banned” for its sexual content if it was a good book, which it is not.  So I doubt that the American Library Association (ALA) would include it in its annual celebration of the freedom to read.  This week,  all over the country, libraries and bookstores are highlighting censorship by displaying books that are challenged and/or banned, and hosting events about the issue.  It’s hard to believe that over 11,300 books have been challenged in libraries and schools since 1982, when the annual celebration began.

In honor of this week and, in my opinion, the inherent right to read whatever one wants to without being censored, here’s just a short list of my favorite titles, their authors and the reasons that they were banned:

  • Bridge to Terribitha, Katherine Peterson

Reasons: Offensive language, use of the word “Lord.”

  • The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie

Reasons: Offensive language, racism, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group

  • Thirteen Reasons Why, by Jay Asher

Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, sexually explicit, suicide, unsuited for age group–An AMAZING book for teens to read!

  • The Giver, by Lois Lowry

Reasons: Lewd, twisted, sexually explicit, suicide, euthanasia

  • The Witches, by Roald Dahl

Reasons: Witchcraft

  • To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee

Reasons: Now here’s a new oneUse of the word “nigger,” offensive to African Americans, profanity, adult themes

  • Looking for Alaska, by John Green.

Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group

  • Junie B. Jones (series), by Barbara Park

Reasons: Grammer!

  • The Harry Potter Series, by J.K. Rowling

Reasons: Witchcraft, Magic

  • The Outsiders, by SE Hinton

Reasons: Violence, language (and simply one of the best books ever written)

After reading the list of titles and the reasons that specific books have been banned, I was left with the same question posed by Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense In America:

Which kills more children: the book or the gun?

Which kills more children: the book or the gun?

Bottom line: Get reading folks!  We have a lot of books to read this week.  In honor of Banned Books Week, Lulu and I are reading “The Giver.”  I’m excited to introduce her to one of my favorite novels from pre-adolescence.

Want more information on banned books and what you can do to prevent books from being banned in your community?  Check out the following sites: 

fREADom

All Hail The Mighty E-Book

Ramona Quimby, Age 8

At 9:15 p.m., along with “Mommy, I just threw up in your bed” one of the last things a mother wants to hear from her child is “Mommy, I forgot to do my homework and it’s due tomorrow!” Despite reminding her to finish the assigned reading this week, my daughter “forgot” to do it because, to be quite honest, she hates the reading assignment: Ramona Quimby, Age 8.

Most parents have been in a similar situation. Children frequently and conveniently “forget” to do their homework particularly when it is a subject that they despise, like Ramona. I can remember finishing an assignment or two at the breakfast table before school started while my mother berated me for procrastinating. So, despite the fact that she should have already been sleeping, I told my 8 year-old daughter that she had a choice: either stay up tonight and finish the assigned chapter or I would get her up early the next day. Either way, that kid was going to show up for class with the dreaded reading done.

And that’s when she hit me with the “kicker”: “But Mom, I can’t find the book!” Of course she couldn’t; she HATED the book and the assignment. Losing the book was all part of the plan, right?

While she got ready for bed, I looked frantically all over the house and in my car for her missing book. Guess what? I couldn’t find it because, my daughter sheepishly later acknowledged, that she may have left it at school. Another 15 minutes wasted.

Now I faced a real dilemma: in the Chronicles of Mommyhood (as I like to call it) this was an opportunity to teach my 8 year-old a lesson about responsibility. Despite the fact that she didn’t want to do the assignment, it was still due. We all have things that we dread doing in life. LESSON, LESSON, LESSON….bah blah, bah blah, bah blah.

If this was the early 80’s, for instance, my mother would have yelled at me for being so irresponsible and admonished that I deserved whatever punishment the teacher felt was appropriate for my misdemeanor. With that train of thought, if I was my mother, I would feed my daughter to the lions (aka her teacher.) But if this was the 80’s there would also be no such thing as a Kindle, iPad or other e-reading device.

I have a Kindle and with a flick of my magic wand (the internet, a computer and amazon.com) I could make this problem go away for my young child. As I stood at the foot of K’s bed, I thought about the swimming analogy: do I do nothing which means letting her sink and hope that she figures out how to swim (i.e. learns a lesson) or do I hold her up because I know that there is a tool available to me now that wasn’t available when I was a child?

What would you have done if you were in my place?

I suggested to K that I download the book on my e-reader and no one would be the wiser. But I also took advantage of the moment to remark that she was “Darn lucky that your mother is SO smart and willing to help you out of a jam!”

My reasons for helping K were not totally altruistic. It’s important that I reveal that there was another reason for my willingness to commit a “Mommy Crime” and possibly rob my daughter of her future integrity; I needed to observe a Bat Mitzvah on Saturday at our synagogue and I knew that if I helped K that she would be obligated to come with me. I gave her the choice: “I’ll download the book and help you out but then you have to come with me on Saturday. Or if I don’t download the book and you deal with your teacher, you’ll get to chill at Grandma’s Saturday morning.”

Guess what? She asked me to download the book. She read three pages tonight and promptly fell asleep. So much for helping her out. Note: She still has to go to the Bat Mitzvah. Before I downloaded the book, I made her “pinky swear.”

A promise is a promise after all, right? And I have integrity after all.