What do the following books have in common?
- A Clockwork Orange
- Gone With The Wind
- Of Mice And Men
They have been banned or otherwise removed from school library shelves for a period of time due to their content.
The last week in September has been designated by the American Library Association and several advocacy groups as “Banned Books Week.” They seek to bring awareness to the intellectual freedom the Constitution’s First Amendment protects, and to call out those who challenge that intellectual freedom by seeking to remove books from school libraries or children’s section of public libraries.
I was made aware of Banned Books Week when I came across a Tweet by Laurie Anderson, who was bemoaning a challenge on her book “Twisted.” Here were her thoughts on the challenge:
“I suspect the roots of the parental concern about TWISTED are the scenes in which teenagers make stupid, dangerous, and occasionally horrifying decisions.
Why on earth would someone like me put things like that in a book?
Because readers who can experience those decisions – by reading about them – and appreciate the consequences of those actions – by seeing those consequences affect the lives of a book’s characters – are less likely to do the stupid, dangerous and occasionally horrifying things themselves.
Jesus knew this. He did not simply reiterate the Ten Commandments, or tell us to love one another and walk back into the desert. He told stories that made His listeners think. They make us think two thousand years later.
Storytelling is the traditional vehicle mankind uses to pass wisdom from one generation to the next. TWISTED contains a lot of bad decisions, hard consequences, and wisdom.”
A similar point of view was shared by Ellen Hopkins, another Young Adult author whose book “Glass” was being reviewed by a middle-school in Oklahoma.
“If you’ve never read them (what? seriously?), the books are loosely based on my daughter’s struggle with methamphetamine addiction. There is some language (not a lot, actually). Drug use? Check. Um. The books are about addiction, and they offer an honest look at that dark path. Surely, they are cautionary tales. And yes, one of the cautions is that when you live as an addict, bad things (like rape and pregnancy) can happen to you. Those scenes, while feeling very real, are most definitely written with a young adult audience in mind. They are not sensationalized nor particularly graphic.”
Put in a more philosophical way: “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”
This last week in September, then, libraries and bookstores seek to uphold the public’s right for opportunities to learn from someone’s history, be they biographical or fictionalized.