Have you ever been offended by a book, thought it wasn’t okay for you or your peers to be reading it? What book was it, why were you offended, and what did you choose to do about it?
Dorothy: When I was 11 or so, I bought American Gods by Neil Gaiman. A few chapters in, a couple starts to have sex. I was relatively okay with this because I knew sex was a thing that men and women (I had a hetero-normative upbringing) do sometimes. The woman asks the man to worship her, and he does… and he gets eaten by her vagina. I immediately put the book down with a “What the HELL did I just read” look on my face. I think I actually returned it to the bookstore. I just couldn’t deal with that imagery and didn’t know if the rest of the book would be the same. If you’d asked me then, I would NOT have recommended that book to ANYONE. But about 12 years later, I stumbled upon it again and ended up loving it, and understanding why someone got eaten by a vagina, the symbolism and religious connotations involved, etc. I just didn’t have the maturity level at that time to deal with it.
Shelly: Can we just say Fifty Shades of Grey and stop there? 😉
Madeleine: I have never encountered a book that I’ve desired to be banned — even books that I think are wretched pieces of trash, like, say, Fifty Shades of Grey. I think it’s important for even books that I think are absolutely terrible to exist, because then I have something to hold up as an example of what I personally consider a poorly-written novel, or even a novel with what I consider problematic content. Books can be horribly racist, sexist, ignorant, and every other negative thing under the sun — because if they exist, we can hold them up as examples of what they are (i.e., awful), and better understand that with which we disagree and that which we wish to change in our own lives/society. To paraphrase something Sun Tzu wrote in The Art of War, “Know thy enemy, know thyself.”
Rebecca: While I’ve read some books I wish I hadn’t read that I think everyone would be better off never reading ever, I’ve never actually read a book and thought, “This should be banned.” I do have to say though that recently Ireland banned a book called The Raped Little Runaway because it was filled with (you guessed it) loads of explicit depictions of this little girl being raped. I can’t say that I’m disappointed by the decision to ban it and when I first read about it definitely thought, “WELL YEAH THAT SHOULD NOT BE SOLD IN BOOKSTORES. NO ONE SHOULD READ THAT.” However, I do think the answer is probably not to ban books but to rather include ratings or content warnings. Like yes, probably if you picked up a book with “raped” in the title you have an idea of the content, but it still seems better to put a warning on it that says, “For mature audiences, contains graphic depictions of child rape,” rather than banning it entirely. (Please note I am still not sad that this book will never see the printing presses.)
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