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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Censorship and Why It Sucks.

I have been a victim of book banning.

Just like every single one of us.

Book banning makes my skin curl, and leaves me looking for my pitch fork to go fight off this form of censorship. This week is Book Banning week and I am going to share with you a bit about my banning and censorship experiences.

My first ever experience with book banning came when I was around ten years old. I had just read the first Harry Potter book and inside I was absolutely consumed with this joy I'm still not sure I can ever feel again. Finally, something makes sense, finally life seems like more than this average world around me, and finally, I have read and loved a story. While I was on this high of greatness, something I didn't understand happened. Everyone started telling me how horrible I was for loving it.

I have a religious family, and live in a fairly conservative part of the country, and all of a sudden I am being told that this new thing that I love and never want to let go of is wrong, and that even God is angry at me for it.

This was a horrible thing for little ten year old me to accept. I never did accept it.

Instead of accepting this and raising my pitch fork towards the direction of the Harry Potter lovers, I instead thought of argument after argument that tried to prove, at least in my mind, that I was not crazy, and that this thing I adored was not bad. I thought, "How different is Harry Potter really than The Wizard of Oz? They both use magic, and if that is your argument, than lets ban that too." and, "Harry Potter is essentially Good vs. Evil. What is wrong with that?"

However many arguments I tried to come up with, I was young, and my opinion on this matter was deemed unimportant to those around me. I had parents who thankfully, did agree with me on these points, but still my resolve was essentially shattered. I didn't want to go to Hell for something I loved... and I truly was afraid that that would happen for a while.

When I was in high school I also had several experiences with banning that left me chilled on the inside by how crazy and ridiculous some of them were. At this point in time I had long since stood my ground with the Harry Potter issue and had since become extremely concerned with every type of censorship I saw. A lot of these issues were just teachers telling me things after they'd read books, sometimes these things involved sexual situations, drugs, alcohol, cussing, etc...

More times than not, once these people reached these parts they stopped reading, and then complained about how awful it was, and how teens should not be exposed to these things.

Ummm... have you been to high school?

I promise you that every single day I was exposed to every single thing that was complained about and more. These books should be given to Teens because we need them! There seems to be a misconception that within these books these authors are encouraging us to partake in these things and that is simply not the case. If they actually finished or read the books they are banning they might see that.

Teens need these books because sometimes that's the only form of encouragement we have. These books have the potential to say, "Hey, you're not alone," to every Teen across the country. Only people who have read a book and instantly felt that connection and change in themselves understand what that can mean.

My school librarian my senior year of High School used to skim books that came in for the YA fiction section. We'd had an amazing librarian the year before, so this action completely stunned me. She would look for key words, mainly cussing, drinking, drugs, etc... and I remember feeling nothing but a complete outrage at this action. She did it quietly, no one knew she did it, and she'd just take the book off the shelf.

No reading of it, no asking of opinions, nothing. If she saw words that she deemed, "Unacceptable," it was gone. I watched as Looking For Alaska by John Green, Just Listen by Sarah Dessen, Crank by Ellen Hopkins, and Forever by Judy Blume were all taken from shelves and no matter how many times I asked her about it or tried to stop it, there was absolutely nothing I could do.

I was just a Teen who's opinion didn't matter.

I just wish that these people who take books from shelves would realize that what they are doing is not changing our idea on the book. All of those people who told me all of that stuff about Harry Potter did not in any way, shape, or form make me love the book any less. All they did was outrage me and make me want to do everything I could to stop them. It changed my view of them as people, and they can't get that back. By banning a book you're not making it go away, you're just outraging the people who love it into expressing how much they love it. You just end up bringing us anti book banners together, and believe me, you don't want that to happen.

I just wish people would stop being afraid. Teens need these books because, I know my life has been influenced by a piece of fiction, and I can't imagine who I'd be now if someone had taken that book from the shelves.

No one should be able to decide what you should and shouldn't read. Think for yourself and read what YOU want, and if it's been banned, it's probably a really, really good book.

*I'm sorry this is so ridiculously long, if you read it all I applaud you!*


Lori said...

Amen! I agree with everything you said! Your old librarian makes me very angry....

Jan von Harz said...

I really despise the fact that some people have to make sure that their opinions are more important than others. This is essential what book banning is all about. I am right you are wrong and if they have more power then they win.

It is people like that HS librarian that are the worst at it. They do not read the book, they just look for certain things they teem are inappropriate. Judging a book this way is inexcusable and she should be stripped of her credentials. Great post!

April (BooksandWine) said...

Wow, a librarian of ALL people should not be removing a book based on something that is out of context. That's crazy.

I am so glad I live in NY and not the Bible belt. I have never ever had anyone tell me Harry Potter is evil. Wow.

I am sorry you had to experience book banning first hand. However, I am glad that you are fighting censorship by posting this! :-)

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