We’ve talked about our favorite banned books and why we think people want them banned, now it’s time to talk results. Does removing a book from a school or library have good results? Bad results? Ambivalent results?
Dorothy: I think a positive result could be the parent discussing a ‘controversial’ topic with their kid at an ‘appropriate’ time. I was talking to a co-worker the other day whose 10-year-old daughter reads far beyond her grade level, and the mom curiously picked up a book the girl was reading. The first sentence she read was something like “So, did you give him a blowjob to show your appreciation?” The mom discussed this with the daughter, explained why she would prefer her daughter read something different, and the daughter agreed. HOWEVER, if this book had been banned (the daughter not allowed to check it out of the library by herself) or ‘rated’ as, say, 15+, the mom and daughter could read it together and talk about relevant issues like women’s bodies and sexual services being considered currency. My co-worker was (rightfully, in my opinion) uncomfortable discussing this with a 10-year-old who hadn’t started puberty yet. So I think that not necessarily banning outright, but having age recommendations on some books, might be positive and encourage discussion rather than “you cannot read that, it is not allowed.”
Rebecca: I think we’ll see more later this week about the idea of “rating” a book, and the fact that books don’t receive ratings is one reason I’d say it can be a good thing for a book to be challenged. I don’t believe many books actually get banned nowadays, though I suppose some are removed from specific libraries, but it seems that when a book is challenged it can at least alert people to the nature of its content. I definitely read some books when I was very young that contained really heavy material (like rape), and I think if such books had been at least challenged they would have been on my parents’ radar so that my parents could have at least said, “Hey there might be some things in here that you might not be ready to encounter yet.” Banning/challenging books certainly does seem to create a space for that sort of conversation. However, at least in my experience, it also tends to make books more popular since then people talk about them and certainly wily teens (ME!) are more inclined to read them to see what the fuss is about. Overall I’d say there’s some good and some bad and probably none of those results are what the people who banned or challenged them had in mind.
Madeleine: I want to harken back to my answer from yesterday in that I don’t think removing or banning a book from an institution does any good, even if the person in power who’s doing the banning thinks they are doing it with good intentions. Removing a novel for its thematic content, doesn’t make the reality in which that content was steeped disappear. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson is a book that’s been consistently challenged since its publication…but has removing that book from various schools or libraries made date rape disappear? No. As someone who know victims of sexual assault, harassment, and has even been harassed, first experiencing the trauma of such violence in the safe space of fiction made handling the real-life situations as easier as dealing with such a thing can be; it certainly made me far more empathetic. Books should hit tough topics because the world isn’t always sunshine and rainbows — as Sherman Alexie, author of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, once said: “The best kids’ books are written in blood.” Exsanguinating young readers’ literature will lead to an anaemic genre, indeed, and that would be the true tragedy.
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